So often, I feel like I figure out the right way to do something or have some great epiphany about what my perspective ought to be — right AFTER an experience is over. (My hope is that I eventually start to realize these things while — or even before — they would be useful, as I go through my years of parenting.)
We did petty well with our family beach trip last week — we arrived on Saturday, and we started to figure things out around Thursday.
Partly as an attempt to help others, and partly because I’m hoping it helps me keep these things in mind for the future, I’ve collected some of the things we realized while we were having our fun in the sun.
Gone are the days of going down to the beach first thing in the morning and coming back in time for dinner. We knew the kids wouldn’t make it all day, but we were surprised at how quickly they were worn out and ready to go in. (We only lasted for about 2 hours each day.) We we’re also very surprised that (with one exception) we only got down to the beach once during prime beach hours each day. We’d been planning to do a morning session and an afternoon session (each a couple of hours long) and then maybe head back down to the beach to fly kites or go for a walk each evening. We only went out one afternoon, and only 3 days in the evening.
It’s a long walk down to the water. Longer when you’re carrying a toddler, a preschooler, or both. It’s also longer in the afternoon than in the morning (especially because now the kids are either screaming or half asleep). Take as little as you can manage to get by with for a few hours. The kids aren’t going to last all day, anyway. Rent whatever you can — it is so worth it to not have to worry about another “thing” when you’re carrying a limp, screaming toddler across scorching sand in the heat of the day.
The right stuff is essential. Even though we quickly learned not to bring too much stuff down to the water each day, it’s also important not to sacrifice safety or basic comfort to reduce the load. Bring sunscreen, towels, hats, snacks and water. Bring a few toys. Bring a shirt or coverup for adults and kids if you need extra sun protection. Rent or bring an umbrella or tent. Bring a blanket or towels to sit on. We didn’t use chairs at all, though, and we didn’t each need our own towels. We also didn’t need a great variety of snacks.
Let “nothing” be on the agenda (even if the weather is good). I come from a die hard beach family. All weather (other than lightning) is beach weather. We go to the beach to go sit on the beach — not to shop, sightsee or go to the movies. Every day at the beach that isn’t a monsoon should include time sitting on the sand and playing in the waves. So, it was really hard for me to accept the one day B declared he didn’t want to go to the beach … and we didn’t go. We watched a DVD, played, and rested. It was so weird. But, he needed a break, and, by that evening, both kids were back to full energy and enthusiasm. It was a day well spent.
Don’t let anything get in the way of having a fantastic time. Vacations are supposed to be fun, but they’re also tiring, complicated and stressful (especially with kids). It’s easy to let fussy kids, long days, long nights, cabin fever and messed up schedules turn into to irritation, grumpiness or disappointment. But these are times when memories are made, and it’s so important that we, as parents, don’t let anything take priority over making our vacation a peaceful, pleasant time for the kids — or, at least, being peaceful and pleasant parents.
Go with family. If it is at all conceivably possible, take a vacation with family. Our family helped us so much — with managing the kids, carrying stuff, making meals — all while they were bonding with the kids and sharing great experiences with them. That was the best part of our trip — being all together. And I’m hoping we’ll be able to return all of the favors they did for us if and when my siblings have kids one day, too.