Let’s go back to a simpler time. A time of sleep and of going out. A time of waking up when I damn well pleased and drinking still-warm coffee. A time of popping into coffee shops and bookstores on a whim.
Let’s go back to the summer of 2006. I wanted to go to the beach. I would decide that day. I’d pack a bag with a towel, a book and some beer…maybe a few paddles and a ball if I was feeling fancy. I’d put on a suit and get in my car. I’d drive, windows down, music up. I’d get there, lay out my towel, crack open my book and enjoy the sea breeze, the people watching and the calm tranquility of a day off well spent. At the end of the day, I’d pack up my meager belongings, rinse off my feet, and head home.
Let’s go back to yesterday. We wanted to go to the beach. We decided on Friday. That morning, I hurriedly fed the babies. I put their bathing suits on them, and mine on me. I packed a bag for us: two changes of baby clothes, diapers (just in case), sunscreen, snacks like grapes, cheese, juice, graham crackers and goldfish, beach toys like shovels, pails and balls, baby sunhats and sunglasses, three towels, a beach blanket. I put sneakers and socks on the babies (there’s a playground there, lined with splintery wood chips), threw on their hats (which they insisted they needed to wear in the car on the way there) and got us all to the door.
Potty time first. There’s no way I’m going to the beach an hour away only to have my kids tell me they have to go to the bathroom and then not be able to go in a strange place. One had already gone, so we only needed to wait for the other. Ten minutes, fifteen, twenty five…a half an hour later she finally went. Cue tantrum from the one who didn’t go over the fact that she didn’t have to go. Okay, pack everyone back up, toss them in the car. We’re off!
Windows up, AC on. About 30 minutes into the trip, I start hearing a trademark whine from the back. “Bear? Bear! Bear bear bear bear bear bearbearbearbearbearbearbear bearbearbearbearbearbearbear bearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbearbear.”
“AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH! WE DO NOT HAVE YOUR BEAR, OKAY?!”
(Remember, kids, pack loveys if it’s going to be a long trip.)
That’s like music, right?
We had decided not to pack sandwiches, I can only assume because we hate ourselves, and once we got to the beach (it’s nap time by now, by the way), we had to find food instead of going to the beach right away. We took a long walk, trying to find a quick restaurant to eat at. None. We settled for a sandwich place with outdoor seating. The walk was peppered with glorious and insightful conversation.
“Mama! Water! Ocean! My water! Beach! Beach!”
“Yes, but we have to eat first, right? Put food in our tummies so we’re nice and strong for the beach?”
“Yum yum yum, but mama! Beach now? Beach now! Beeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaacccccccccccchhhhhh.”
“Yes, baby, but first food, okay? We’re just going to eat first.”
“Don’t step on the poop.”
Anyway, three crappy meals, $32, and an hour later, we’re headed, finally, to the beach. I lay out the beach blanket. But the kids have seen the playground.
“Mama! Swings! Slides! Playground! Come on, come on!”
“Not yet. Beach first, look! Water! This is all you’ve talked about for the last hour, are you serious with me?”
Tantrum over not going to the playground first. I leave the one tossing herself around in the sand, and unsneaker and unsock the other. I put sunscreen all over her, arm her with a shovel and pail and send her on her way. Thankfully, the tantrumer has come over at this point. I grab her and do the same. Then I take a small towel with me down to the water’s edge and sit in the scorching sun for about an hour, watching the babies, making sure that kid who just pushed them isn’t going to do it again, making sure they share their toys with passing children and play nicely with them, making sure they don’t go to deep into the water or chase the seagulls too far, breaking up fights about everything and nothing. At least there’s still a slight sea breeze, right?
Okay, they’re done with the beach. Playground time. Cue a tantrum about having to rinse, dry off and change into clothes and sneakers for the playground. Again, I leave one flopping in the sand and bring the other to the outdoor showers. I rinse and dry her throroughly. This takes a long time. I wrangle her clothes on her and explain to her about twenty times why she has to wear her sneakers. By the time I’m done with her, the other has come traipsing up. I grab her and toss her under the water to repeat the half-hour process of changing a baby at the beach with her. Finally, we’re all dressed and ready. To the playground. My husband and I chase them around and watch them to make sure they don’t get hurt on the equipment that’s too big or dangerous for them. We make sure they take turns on the slides and push them on the swings. Graham cracker and water break! More super relaxing play in the sun. As it’s time to leave, we bribe them with ice cream promises.
Two cones and two destroyed outfits later we’re ready for home. But the babies want more ice cream! The tantrumer has streamlined her process at this point. She already knows she’s going to ask and we’re going to say no, so instead of wasting time, she gets to her last bite and tosses herself on the floor. I’m kind of proud, actually. Way to understand cause and effect, kiddo. We wrestle them back in the car, suffer through a bit of crying over the end of this uber fun and relaxing day, and then they are blissfully asleep.
Until we arrive home, when they awaken and are shocked and appalled we are not at an ice cream place. Tantrums over whether or not we’re taking a bath (which we are), then I cook a quick dinner while my husband showers. We eat and get the babies in bed.
At 9:15 p.m. I hop in the shower because I smell like a rank sailor at this point. I smile at my reflection, thinking that if this had been a beach day in 2006, I’d be showering to go out and make the most of my night. Now I’m showering to fall into bed, exhausted.
Who says you can’t do the same things you did before you had kids? Clearly, you can. The exact same things.