Sun, sand, ocean. The perfect emotional cocktail for stressed out moms. Whether on the rocks, straight up, neat or dirty, any busy, exhausted, mentally drained mom would love to consume this healing toddy in a glass.
Like for real. God bottling up His sand, surf, and rays creation would revolutionize the Zen market and be ama-za-zing.
Let’s face it, as moms we rarely experience the actual beach. We typically have to settle for daydreaming about a day spent basking in golden sunshine with our un-pedicured feet nestled in the shore. The imagining is enough to pulse peacefulness through our varicose veins.
When God blesses us with priceless opportunities to leave our minds eye at the door and venture off to the real deal seashore; we best leave the idea of relaxation inside our dreamy heads. As a mom with small kids in tow, our seaside fantasies are usually missing a large dose of reality when it comes to down time.
The Good, the Bad & the Beautiful of Beaching It With Kiddos
The Good: Hours of Natural Entertainment
God created the largest sandbox on earth including a super cool swimming pool right next to the grainy stuff. When you add sea shells, sea life, sea weed, and seagull feathers to the mix, there’s no stopping a sea of creativity from crashing on the shores of Funville.
Sand captivates and waves fascinate. Tiny tots marvel as water disappears into the strand and then spend hours digging to try to find it. Jellyfish, sand dollars, and horseshoe crabs ignite a sense of wonder in little minds.
This ultimate playground for kids is replete with built-in toys and equipment. So, why do all of us parents insist on lugging to the shore boatloads of additional accessories for our kids? Especially when they can’t help shoulder the load?
The Bad: Beach Day Pre-Gaming
If we are left dumbstruck by the previous question, perhaps this scenario which we are all too familiar with will prompt us to do some soul-searching when it comes to sun surfing.
A typical pre-beach morning includes the following energy-sapping tasks for many ocean loving families with small children:
Feed kids breakfast, find and put on swimsuits and sandals. Instruct them to use the bathroom which includes five minutes of arguing with preschooler on why he does actually have to go to the bathroom even though he insists he doesn’t while bobbing up and down and holding himself during argument. Pack cooler, snack bag, toy bag, diaper bag, beach bag. Load car with all things beach, i.e. chairs, tent, buckets, shovels, sports equipment, beach buggy, wagon, fishing rods, plus all the various packed bags. Spend a few minutes praying only minor items break upon slamming trunk to force everything to fit. Time elapsed: 2 hours.
Drive to beach which includes a stop to buy more sunblock which we realized we needed when packing the beach bag. Time elapsed: 30 minutes.
Unpack car and lug giant caravan of beachy stuff 200 yards to the sand. Detours include stubbed toes, potty breaks (we lost the argument at home or our kid only pretended to go), fascination stops to look at bugs on boardwalk, dropped items, shifting of items hanging on shoulder to other shoulder after losing feeling in first shoulder. Time elapsed: 20 minutes.
When finally at the beach,
Unpack toys, set up tent which will be used for all of ten minutes, and apply sunscreen to wiggling arms and legs itching to get down to business. Time elapsed: 20 minutes.
Plop down in a beach chair, inhale a giant breath of salty ocean breeze, and embrace the blazing sun. Ah. Bliss. Carefree timelessness.
Feel stress slowly seep out of bones and tune ears to the ambient sound of surf lapping against the shore. Sip the emotional cocktail which goes down smooth and warms from head to toe.
Then hear a tiny voice say, “Mommy, I’m hungry.” Time elapsed: 2 minutes.
Feel stress seep back into bones while looking at watch and realizing three and a half hours have already passed since breakfast. Seriously? Yes, seriously.
Search all the bags because we forgot where food was packed. Feed hungry child and plop down in our beach chair a second time.
Dig our toes in the sand, take a deep breath, reach into beach bag and pull out
a book. Read two sentences and then hear this from another child, “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” Time elapsed: 5 minutes.
For half a lunatic second consider telling junior to make his way to the sea and gulp down some Alka-Seltzer and bring back a bucket for our acid stomach. Instead, talk our self down and get juice box out of cooler. Press little straw in tiny hole, and give drink to our zinc nosed angel.
Forget the book and appreciate God’s wonder. Allow our mind to escape into the magnificent landscape. Then hear crying child say, “Mommy, I dopped da straw in da sand an now it’s yucky.” Time elapsed: 1 minute.
The Beautiful: Priceless Memories & Exhausted Kids
As realist mothers, we have no choice but to give in to our reality. A day at the beach with youngsters equals beautiful chaos. We merely transfer our busyness from the confines of our home to the refreshing open air of the sea.
Not one of us would trade sand covered fingers, crushed dreams from crushed castles, beach tool bickering, and burning salt-water eyes for a day of endless laundry, cleaning dishes, and stepping on Legos.
We’ll choose time free carelessness every time.
And although bringing a thousand unnecessary items to the beach is asinine, we do it anyway. Whether hereditary or caving to the social norm, we can’t help ourselves from joining the Parents Do Ridiculous Things out of Pure Love Club.
Experiencing the coast with our kids exposes the natural paradox that life’s a beach, which seems ridiculous. How can a place which offers rest, relaxation, warmth, fun, soothing water, shoreline walks, and beautiful views be analogous to long days, sleepless nights, exhausting chores, endless activities, and unpredictability?
Simple, really. The ocean never rests but rather constantly changes tide, much like the highs and lows of mothering. Sudden storms can whip up; causing large waves to crash onto shore and alter the shoreline, akin to sudden illnesses and accidents which redirect our best laid plans.
The beach is brimming with the hustle and bustle of daily visitors boogie boarding, digging in the sand, frolicking on the shoreline, riding bikes, running around playing paddle ball and Frisbee. God’s playground endures long days indeed.
Life’s a beach because beach time creates priceless memories with every visit. And if we view every day we are able to wake up healthy and mother our children as a gift from God, then each moment, good and bad, transcends valuation as well.
Last week I spent four days visiting my brother and his beautiful family with four kids under seven years old (plus baby on the way!). We spent two days at the beach which unlocked a flood of memories around trips to the beach when my kids were the same age. I even rummaged around to find pics of my family to share alongside my brother’s kids.
Now an empty nester, my perspective on life has changed drastically. When motherhood was choking the life out of me in the early years of having three kids in three and a half years I thought I’d never survive the exhaustion. But I did.
When my little ones became teenagers I thought I’d never survive the heartburn, ulcers, and panic attacks. But I did.
Then my teenagers became young adults. I’m currently debating with God on whether I will survive the worry, fears, and anxieties surrounding my kids embarking on a life of independence. But I’m doing my best. And with God’s grace, I know I will.
What I’d like to say to all young moms out there sleepwalking through minefields and wondering if the mania ever ends is this:
Yes, the days of being on call 24/7 subside eventually. But the greatest wisdom I’ve gleaned over twenty-two years? Small kids, small problems. Big kids, big problems.
Be thankful even in your frustration for the small stresses now because some day you will look back and laugh at how ridiculous you were in coming uncorked over mostly inconsequential matters. Trust me.
And keep taking those kiddos of yours to the beach even if you spend four hours getting ready and only two hours in the sandbox. Because we all know the fresh air, crashing waves, perpetual digging, and sunshine is a perfect recipe for cooking up exhausted kids.
Exhausted kiddos means early bedtime. Early bedtime means mom time. And mom time means sanity repletion. When you think about it, I guess God really does bottle up His sand, surf, and rays creation. And when it comes to this cocktail, no moderation necessary.
Drink up, crazy Mommas!