Today I decided to be spontaneous. Well, as spontaneous as you can be when you have to decide to do it (and when you have two kids nothing is really spontaneous). I had decided that if it was sunny this weekend, we would go to the beach. Not the crap pebbly beach five minutes walk from our front door. Oh no. The sandy beach from my childhood (ok, the pebbly beach is also from my childhood, but the sandy one always made me think I had stumbled into another country; it looked just like the beaches in the South of France which was my only other beach reference point and the sand dunes you have to climb to get to the beach put me in mind of being an Egyptian explorer). I don’t class myself as a beach person; I am definitely not a sun person. I figured if I was going to brave the beach with the kids it may as well be the nice sandy one that we could do classic things like building sandcastles on.
I kept my beach plan a secret “surprise” in case I decided that I couldn’t face it after all. I took the boys shopping this morning and M didn’t twig what the surprise was even when I bought a Minion theme bucket and spade set and two beach towels. His guess was that he was going to Grandma’s House. His second guess was that he was going for a Sleepover at Grandma’s House. He then asked if Favourite Uncle was coming with us on the surprise.
I was determined that we would have a nice day. Or more to the point that I would have a nice day. I took the boys to the swimming pool (with Favourite Uncle) yesterday and I was so wrapped up in planning, packing all the stuff, making sure that no one drowned, feeling vaguely jealous of Favourite Uncle because M wanted to play with him and not me (which was pretty obviously going to be the case; he is not Favourite Uncle for nothing), and feeling a sense of my lost childhood as I gazed wistfully at the inflatable obstacle course whilst holding onto a wriggly baby in the shallow end and figuring that even if someone held the baby while I went on it I would look like a massive freak going on the kids’ toy, that I didn’t really enjoy the pool at all.
So I got up this morning and tried to stay calm as I put together the things we would need for the beach whilst telling myself that it was okay if I chickened out as I had not actually told anyone we were going anywhere. My one bag of stuff quickly became five bags. Luckily my darling husband decided he would rather come with us than plaster L’s bedroom (or, more likely, he thought my head might actually explode if he didn’t come too). I was going to take them on my own though, honest. But I am glad he came: it was a lovely family day out.
For a bit of background, last night before bed, my telling M it was time to turn off the Wii initiated a mega-tantrum that saw him in his room screaming “I want to play on the Wii and I want Blankie!” at the top of his lungs. Repeatedly. For long enough that I felt sure someone would call the police until my husband pointed out that people only call the police if they hear the parents shouting back. I still felt like an utter failure. It is amazing how much a small child, apoplectic with technology-deprivation-induced rage, can send me into an OCD spiral: I am a loving mother, but have I really emotionally scarred him by telling him to turn it off?
Today I was determined to have a nice day, notwithstanding whatever M threw my way. We were going to the beach. What could be nicer than the beach?
I didn’t drop my
sunny less-grumpy-than-usual demeanour when M’s face fell as I told him what the surprise was (“we’re going to the beach! A nice one. With sand” *M’s face like I had just slapped him with a wet fish*)
I didn’t let it phase me (by letting Daddy deal with it) when we arrived at said beach and had to wake up a sleeping (and evidently very irritable) M who sat on the floor of the (thankfully grassy) car park screaming that he was too cold (it was a boiling hot sunny day) because his swimming trunks were a bit damp from yesterday’s trip to the pool – he stuck his hands down his trunks and tried to hold the slightly-damp material away from his skin and screamed and cried as we put his shoes and sun cream on.
It got better from there although M didn’t enjoy the beach the way I thought he would: He paddled a bit in the water. He got cold. He ate some food. He sat on the blanket and watched me make a sandcastle after losing interest in it when he discovered sweets in the picnic bag. He asked when he could have his ice cream.
L meanwhile crawled around on the sand and ate a good amount of it (the possibility of which did not occur to me and in the event there was not a lot to be done about it). He also seemed to enjoy the water. I crawled around with him for a bit, collecting pretty shells to use in a sensory toy and trying to spot shells and stones before he did lest he eat those too. I felt a strange sense of calm as I crawled on the beach with my baby, oblivious to the hundreds of people surrounding us.
I also found a zen moment when building a sandcastle. We abandoned our first attempt to the incoming tide. L crawled through my second attempt, getting grounded on top of one of the castles and flailing around like a little seal pup. M lost interest at this point and I carried on by myself and realised that I never knew how to build sandcastles as a kid. I used to just pile sand upon sand and end up with a rather wide and hill-shaped castle.
Today though, inspiration struck and I used the spade to slice straight walls down the side of my castle. I was inordinately pleased with my efforts (as well as concluding that I must have been a particularly dense child, though I was good at digging holes to bury my little brothers in) and found a great sense of peace building with sand. I had plans for crenellations and for making a whole square courtyard flanked by four towers (more prison yard than castle?) but the kids got tired and the parking was running out, so we left.
It was a lovely day, though I am tempted to return without them all to have another go at my castle.
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