What a Beach Day with Toddlers is Really Like

It’s not quite fun in the sun.

My husband is a beach guy. He has olive-colored skin that never seems to burn and runs into the waves without any hesitation. He grew up a block away from the ocean, and his childhood memories include endless summer days of body surfing and playing beach volleyball with his cousins.

My memories of the beach include long treks from the blazing hot parking lot to the actual sand, and my mom never bringing enough sunscreen or enough potato chips. I always, without fail, ended up with a massive sunburn and three pounds of sand in the crotch of my bathing suit that I’d have to sit with the entire hot car ride home.

Still, I cannot escape a whole summer without at least one trip to my husband’s Happy Place and so, we are embarking on the dreaded Beach Trip. Here is my diary:

5:20 am: Toddler wakes up, asks if it is time to go swimming. We tell him no, it is not even time to be awake. Big brother wakes up. Wants us to know he hates the beach and does not want to go.

7 am: Breakfast. Husband makes the boys pancakes, and I lie in bed planning the logistics of taking my children to the beach. My dear friend K texts to say that she and her family are also headed to the same beach. They are already packing up the car.

8:30 am: We still have not left the house. Also, I have run out of the sunscreen with the picture of the sun on it, so I must bribe Big Brother with Hershey’s Kisses so I can lather the “yucky” sunscreen on his precious epidermis.

8:45 am: Finally in the car, and there’s an accident on the BQE because FUCK ME. Both kids want snacks. I remind them they’ve just had breakfast. Big Brother reminds us that he hates the beach. Toddler asks if we are swimming yet. Big Brother would like the radio to play “Hello” by Adele RIGHT NOW and refuses to believe that the radio does not take requests.

9:50 am: We have arrived at my husband’s aunt’s house by the beach. It has been only ten minutes, but I am already building up resentment that my husband gets to enjoy some alone time on the beach while setting up the umbrellas and chairs.

10:20 am: Text from husband saying that he’s just about ready for us. Both children proclaim an inability to use their legs, so I am stuck carrying one 2 year old and one nearly 5 year old in each arm, plus a diaper bag and my own beach bag all the way to the beach.

10:35 am: I’m sweaty, and the kids are slipping out of my arms. My husband – who has already taken a refreshing dip like it ain’t no thang – has set us up with a small village of sorts.

10:50 am: Big Brother has to poop and only wants me to take him.

11:20 am: Rosé time and early lunch. Hooray! We’ve brought tuna sandwiches and many kid-friendly foods that my children are now refusing to eat. My friend and I settle into a nice conversation, and I start to get a buzz. I wonder if maybe the beach isn’t so bad after all.

12 pm: Hot as blazes now. Big Brother decides he is interested in looking at the ocean a little more closely, insists that I come with him. I’m annoyed because I was enjoying convo with my friend and also that rosé. Meanwhile, Toddler has been throwing himself kamikaze like into the water since we got there, giving me a heart attack every 30 seconds. Ocean is still far too cold for my liking.

12:10 pm: Big Brother has change of heart with regard to ocean, wants to go all in. Wants Mommy to come in too. Why don’t my children enjoy other kinds of beach activities, like building sand castles, or digging for crabs or condoms? My friend’s kids are engaged in burying each other up to their necks, while my son says he likes the water, but he still “hates the sand.” Everything my kids are interested in doing here requires adult participation.

12:30 pm: Ah! The clarion sound of the ice cream man! A late lunch for my boys since they didn’t eat any of the food I’d brought.

1:15 pm: Everyone is hungry, and all we have are some warm grapes. Somehow all the towels we brought are already soaked through and heavy with wet sand.

1:30 pm: Toddler refuses to nap like the other children around us who are now snoozing in little tents or on their parent’s stomachs. Instead, he is pouring sand on his head and crying because it keeps getting in his eye. I hint at my husband that maybe it is time to think about heading back. He hands me another Solo cup of rosé.

2 pm: Toddler meltdown, and also a poop diaper. There is nothing worse than changing a poopy, sandy swim diaper in the heat of the day with only ocean water with which to clean your hands. Nothing.

2:20 pm: Oh thank heavens – a few dark clouds are rolling in. Husband says that it will probably blow through. I give him a look like, ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME. My skin stings, my hand smells vaguely of poop masked slightly by baby wipe smell. Big Brother is working on a sunburn that’s getting worse by the minute, and Toddler is going to spontaneously combust if he doesn’t get into his car seat to nap stat.

3:30 pm: Husband disassembles all the beach stuff while I shower the kids and steel myself for another long drive.

4:30 pm: BQE traffic due to the fact that this is the BQE on a Sunday and also just because. Big Brother is definitely sunburned. Everyone is hungry.

7 pm: I shower for the second time and find sand in crevices I didn’t know existed in my body. I decide that first thing tomorrow, I will be on the hunt for a club in the city that has a rooftop pool.

Original illustration by Shanequa Simpson for Well Rounded NY. 

Alexis Barad-Cutler

Alexis Barad-Cutler

Alexis Barad-Cutler is a children's book author and regular contributor to WellRoundedNY. She writes all about "the stuff no one talks about in Mom Group" for various other online outlets and on her blog. You can follow this Brooklyn mama of two on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

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