So, you’re dreaming about the beach?
February got you stuck in “Oh, I wish…” fantasies about warm weather, the smell of the ocean, your family frolicking while you relax and take in the sights and sounds of paradise?
I can fix that.
Prepare to love winter again.
That beach? First, you gotta get there.
And the odds are that “there” means waaayyy over there.
Hours and hours.
In an enclosed vehicle.
“We’ve traveled before,” I hear you say.
“Our kids are pretty good in the car,” someone affirms.
Someone is going to say, “I need to go to the bathroom! Now!”
And there will be no bathroom.
Someone will be fussy and upset. You will want to stop.
There will be no place to stop.
It will probably also be raining.
One kid will lash out at the other kid in a moment of cooped-up frustration.
About halfway through the trip, they master the art of being just out of reach of your swiping-in-the-backseat-to-settle-them-down arm.
You resort to threatening to take away things if they don’t start behaving back there. By the time you actually get to your vacation destination, your empty threats would have them on lockdown in the hotel room with no TV, toys, or foods other than broccoli.
But they know you’re full of it.
Anarchy reigns for the last two hours of the trip.
Once you arrive, check in, unload, and settle in the hotel, you simultaneously realize that 1) you are now exhausted, and 2) the vacation fun countdown has begun, and you now feel obligated not to waste a single second of it.
Even though you’re exhausted.
So you open suitcases and fish around for swimsuits.
You put little wriggly bodies into said swimsuits.
The boy’s is too big, and you know he’s going to end up naked in the ocean at some point.
The girl is pouting because you are making her wear swim trunks and a sun shirt instead of either some skimpy bikini that traps the sand and seashells in the most uncomfortable places possible or a who-the-hell-invented-something-a-child-can’t-go-to-the-bathroom-in one-piece suit.
The sunscreen. Oh, god, the sunscreen.
It’s normally hard to put sunscreen on little kids, but now they’re excited. They will never be less than 2 feet away. You will put the sunscreen on everyone with your arms fully extended in front of you (which counts as one last ab workout before you put on your own swimsuit), frequently having to stop to haul the slippery devils closer because they think you’re done every time you pause to get more lotion on your hands.
They are bouncing off the walls.
Boogie boards, beachy shoes, towels, water bottles, that hollowed-out sunscreen container you saw on Pinterest that you can stuff your hotel keycards, wallets, and keys in, a cooler full of snacks, towels, a beach blanket, those stadium chairs that fold up so you can throw them over your shoulder on a strap, shovels, pails, water squirter, and a lot more.
But somehow, after packing all that and trekking down to the water, you will still have forgotten at least three must-have items back in the hotel room.
Upon arrival, the boy runs screaming directly into the water. Husband has to run screaming in after him, since the boy only imagines he knows how to swim and has no fear of going too far into the crashing waves.
Husband lifts a happily spluttering boy out of the water. The swim trunks are already down.
The girl wants to look for seashells.
You sit on a beach blanket and encourage her to look for shells.
But she doesn’t want these shells.
Slowly you are dragged up and down the beach while the girl scurries around gathering only the seashells with purple polka dots.
When you return to the beach blanket, it has been invaded by a super-sandy boy and husband devouring the snacks.
You rinse the kids’ hands, but you still shudder every time they take a bite because bananas don’t make those sounds unless they’ve been given a crunchy coating of sand.
For several hours.
At some point, maybe when the kids are catching their breath from running screaming into too-deep water, swallowing it, thinking they were drowning, getting scooped up, crying and then laughing about the water that came out of their noses, you will look up and notice that the sunset is beautiful over the water.
And you will realize, “Oh yeah, I’m at the beach. On vacation.”
And you might blink a few times. And you will promise yourself that after the kids go to sleep, you and your husband will sit on the balcony and watch the ocean in the moonlight.
Which is sweet. And cute. And unlikely.
Because kids only sleep in a hotel after a lot of settling down. A lot of settling down.
And Mama is already tired. The odds are, no matter how many beds the hotel room has, everyone will end up in one of them (yours), passed out by 9 o’clock.
And you won’t dare move.
Until 5 a.m., when the kids simultaneously wake up screaming, “Let’s go back to the ocean!”
And then you get a full day of family beach fun.
At some inevitable point during these trips, you start to fantasize about downtime in your own living room. You imagine watching the kids playing in the backyard while you stretch out on the couch and channel surf.
Now that sounds like paradise.