So yesterday I took my three boys to the beach for the first time and afterwards we went to play at a nearby park. This got me thinking about sayings like, “it was a walk in the park,” meaning something is easy, or references to, “a day at the beach,” meaning relaxing and peaceful, (which probably initially helped prompt my desire to make this trip). But as I experienced this day at the beach and walk in the park, it occurred to me that the people who came up with these saying, obviously did not have kids with them at the time.
I vaguely remember a time when parks where things I strolled through leisurely and beaches were places where I relaxed in the sand with a trashy magazine while working on my tan. Maybe that’s why I still had this misconceived idea that spending a day at the beach with my kids would mean blissful hours of sand castle building while I sipped an ice tea and caught up on celebrity gossip, then joyfully splashing in the waves to cool off, followed by relaxing on a bench while the kids went down slides, swung on swings, and frolicked at the park. That wasn’t the case though. Once you have children, outings that you once found enjoyable morph into soul crushing battles of the will and wits.
First off, just to get ready to go on any kind of outing with three kids is a process. My husband often times laments the days when, if we wanted to go somewhere, we just got up and went. Now, I must pack for any possible situation and even for ones that might not be possible (because with three boys, anything really is possible). To go to the beach yesterday, I began packing the night before and was still packing things right up until the moment I walked out the door. In total I brought four different bags (one with bags within the bag), a sleeping bag, a stroller, and one more bag of things I picked up at the store last minute. The drive there wasn’t too bad (thanks the inventor of portable DVD player and wireless headsets). Once we arrived, I had to change the boys in the van, since we came straight from camp, and then the unloading of all the previous mentioned things began. Being the only adult, I couldn’t possibly carry all those things alone, so I had to load the stroller as full as possible, which really didn’t leave room for kids. We had to park up the street from the beach, so I had to wrangle the two kids, who didn’t fit into the stroller, and the two bags, that didn’t fit, and the stroller, about two blocks to the beach. Of course, once we reached the actual beach, the stroller had to be abandoned and I had to drag everything across the hot sand to the location in which we were going to set up camp. The kids, of course, wanted to immediately run into the water, but we still had to squeeze water shoes on and lather our bodies in sun screen. Once that was done, we were ready to joyfully splash in the water. Well, the was definitely splashing, but it was less than joyful. They were splashing each other, they were splashing others, at one point my oldest dumped a bucket of water on some poor, unsuspecting boy whom he thought was his brother. Then there was the rock, sand, and seaweed throwing. Oh and did I mention that watching small children around water, especially wavy water, is far from relaxing or fun? When we were done in the water and ready for a break, it was time for a snack, which consisted of a little of everything that I’d packed mixed with fistfuls of sand, and then a reapplying of sun screen, which felt more like a sand scrub thanks to the copious amounts of sand stuck to our bodies. Then there were the multiple trips to the bathroom in which all four of us trekked across the sand carrying anything of valuable with us, only to make the trek again ten minutes later when someone else now needed to use the bathroom. At this point, it was time for some blissful sand castle making. Yes, this was my moment to really relax and read a magazine or newspaper; right after I settled the fight over who got to use which pail (after all, we only had four pails and three boys, so why would it work out that everyone got a bucket?). I managed to make it to the third page of my paper before I had to talk to the boys about flinging sand. After the tenth time I talked to them about this, I managed to return to my paper and get a few more pages in before I had to tell them to dig separate holes since they were fighting over it. I was so close to finishing my short, local paper, when the screams began, the shovels full of sand flew at faces, and one of the boys ended up pushed down into the sand. Eh, there really wasn’t anything all that interesting in the paper anyway, time to pack up all this crap and hit the showers. So, I pack up everything, I drag it across the sand to the stroller, and then I push three boys and all our stuff, now hap-hazardly thrown onto the stroller, over to the showers were it becomes a full on wrestling match to get the boys to rinse off the sand from their bodies and to keep them from going back into the sand.
At this point, it was time to grab some dinner and call it a day. Aside from my middle child deciding to lay on the floor and throw a fit every chance he got, dinner went rather smoothly (I’m sure the promise of ice cream to anyone who was good had nothing to do with it). In fact, dinner went so well that I decided to venture to the park around the corner to burn off any left over energy they had before we started the drive home. I figured, a frolic in the park would be the perfect way to end the day, which was already beginning to have a nostalgic haze, thanks to the ice cream comma I was slipping into. Unfortunately, frolic seems to have a totally different meaning for boys. Apparently frolic means, running around like crazy, climbing up slides, jumping off things way too high, charging head first at moving swings, and trying to kill yourself and/or give your mother even more grey hairs. I knew it was time to call it a day when my not-quite-two year old got plowed over by his swinging oldest brother and took a fall that would make his chiropractor cringe, coming up with a face (and mouth) full of wood chips. Oh yes, it was now time to head home and watch as these tired little guys passed out, leaving me with the easy bedtime of carrying them and all the wet, sandy bags in from the car. Ha, ha, ha, like it would be that easy! Only the youngest fell asleep on the way hope and he promptly woke up the second the car pulled into the driveway. The older two, who were so close to snoozeville, quickly perked up as soon as they walked into the house and saw that their dad was home. So much for that plan.
Of course, despite all that didn’t go the way I intended, and my dreamy little picture of that day being smashed, I must be a glutton for punishment, because on the ride home, I asked my two older boys if they had had fun and wanted to do it again another day. Of course they’d had fun and wanted to do it again! After all, they’d just had a day at the beach and a walk in the park. And you know what, I had too.