What comes to mind when you think of a beach vacation? Miles of white sand, a sparkling blue sea, a warm breeze ruffling your hair? Maybe you think about relaxation, spreading a sun-warmed fluffy towel onto a lounge chair, stretching out with a cool drink in your hand while the soothing hiss of the waves whispers in your ears.
How about a beach vacation with kids? That probably brings to mind happy children splashing in the surf, building towering sand castles and picking up dozens of pretty seashells to take home.
Well, we just got back from the beach and I’m here to tell you—this Mama didn’t have any of that!
We did have the sand, the sea, the wind and the kids. But the lazy, idyllic days I envisioned on that long drive down to West Palm Beach didn’t quite materialize. I blame my husband, of course. He had to stay home due to work commitments, which I understood. But I also now understand that my key to enjoying any vacation is my husband. Trust me—it is a very bad idea indeed to take a toddler to the beach without parental backup.
My sisters and my parents were there, so it wasn’t like I was totally alone. However, they were understandably busy achieving the scenario outlined in paragraph one, and who can blame them? All I heard from the older two boys was how much they missed their dad, whining that they’d have enjoyed more beach time had he been there.
We might’ve all enjoyed the beach more if we’d been a little farther north. Around Cocoa Beach, the sand is level, well-packed and firm, the waves generally mild, and you can walk out for ages and still only have the water come up to your knees.
Where we were, the sand is soft and deep, the beach slopes sharply to the sea, and there are gazillions of crushed shells to step over. The water’s depth rises fairly quickly and your footing isn’t steady because of the squishy sand and strong waves. Granted, it’s absolutely gorgeous—the water is clear turquoise and the sand a peachy-white—but I’ll take practicality over beauty any day.
We stuck to the pool initially, where I was amazed to find little Jonah happily leaving my arms and swimming with his arm floats like a big boy. The second day, I took the older boys to the beach while Jonah napped. Though trudging through the sand was every bit as difficult as I’d remembered, the boys had a blast. I thought maybe taking Jonah to the beach wouldn’t be so bad after all.
So the next day, I gathered my courage, my kids and my sister, and went for it. Zach had to carry Jonah because he couldn’t walk easily in the deep sand. The moment Zach sat him down, Jonah flung giant handfuls of sand into the air and then he gleefully ran for the sea. I stumbled after him, swooping in to catch him by the arm as the first big wave toppled him over. Instead of being frightened, he pushed past me, as I clung to my sister’s shoulder to keep from falling on top of him.
Jonah’s entire ocean time lasted approximately 60 seconds, as I realized that even with his floating device, he couldn’t keep his face above the waves. And oh, how he kicked and screamed as I half-dragged, half-carried his sand-coated self back up the beach, where I tried to amuse him with sand castles and seashells.
Alas, he was having none of that, and kept scurrying around me, attempting to join his brothers and aunt in the ocean. I gave up, yelled that we were going to the pool, and then nearly died of exhaustion lugging our gear, 36 screeching pounds of toddler and myself up that sandy hill to the resort.
By the time I reached the gate, I was red-faced, sweaty, huffing and puffing like the little old train that couldn’t, and it was all I could do to hose the sand off before he jumped into the pool. And that was the end of our beach-going.
Kari Apted is a writer and speaker residing in Georgia with her husband, three sons, and an ever-changing menagerie of pets. She writes a humorous weekly parenting column for The Covington News and freelances for various publications.more»