All right, kids! Here we are at the beach! Who’s excit… no, four-year-old. This is not the beach. This is a parking lot next to the beach. The beach is just a short walk away. Please stop crying. We have not driven 45 minutes to hang out in a hot parking lot…I promise.

Okay! Let daddy and me just pile up our IKEA bag full of towels and toys, our cooler of snacks and drinks, this huge sun-shelter, the over-sized shovel, net, and water-squirter trifecta, and the nine-month-old in a very warm Ergo carrier and make our way to the water with only six-eight stops to beg the four-year-old to get out of the way of other people, admire interesting rocks he’s found, and pick up the over-sized shovel, net and water-squirter that fall out of the IKEA bag with every other step.

Here it is! The glittering ocean and the warm, sandy beach. We are finally here and…

Yes, stranger lady, I have put sunblock on my incredibly fair children. Thank you for asking/suggesting that I am a negligent mother. Yes, my son should be wearing a hat. I’d like to see you try to make that happen. 

Okay, let’s find a good spot to set this stuff dow…

What’s that, four-year-old, you want your sandals off? Are you sure? The sand is very hot. Okay. Let me just put the overstuffed IKEA bag down and bend over while wearing a 20-pound baby on my chest to get those off for you.

Now let’s find a good spo…oh, is the sand too hot and you want your sandals back on? Let me just put the overstuffed IKEA bag down and bend over while wearing a 20-pound baby on my chest to get those on for you.

You know what? This spot five feet from the boardwalk seems perfect.

Time to get that sun-shelter up and put sunblock on the kiddies. No, four-year-old, don’t fight against the sunblock application and go shooting like a greased pig into your father who is struggling to put up the sun-shelter. No, nine-month-old, don’t repeat the same move as your big brother. Husband, forget the sun-shelter! Can’t you see this is war?

Let’s just go down to the water, okay?

Four-year-old, you want your floaties on? Sure!

Four-year-old, you want your goggles on? Sure!

Now, how about a quick dip in the…

Four-year-old, you want your floaties off? Sure!

Four-year-old, you want your goggles off? Sure!

Yes, four-year-old, you have run very deep into the water. Yes, it is up to your neck. No, I’m not panicking. I am just talking in a high-pitched, loud voice and asking you to please not go any further. Why? Because you can’t swim. Why? Because you won’t let us teach you to swim. Why? Only you know the answer to that. Some combo of actual fear and detecting my own completely irrational fear of the ocean would be my guess?

Yes, nine-month old, sand is very fun.

No, nine-month-old, you shouldn’t eat sand.

Yes, nine-month-old, shells are very fun.

No, nine-month-old, you shouldn’t eat shells.

Yes, nine-month-old, the water is very fun.

No, nine-month-old, you cannot crawl face first into the water and live amongst the crustaceans. Please stop screaming and struggling as I hold you back from crawling face first into the water to live amongst the crustaceans. Wow, you are strong.

Hey, let’s go back to eating sand. That was a good idea.

Sure husband, go get something from the car and ditch me with the baby at the edge of the water and our four-year-old wading, exposing me to the mercy of the following: tides, waves, sharks, things I imagine to be sharks but turn out to the seaweed, and/or that sunblock lady shaking her head at my negligence. Please leave me poised to live out my worst case scenario nightmare where the four-year-old is in peril and I can’t get to him because I am tending to the baby who can and will crawl face first into the surf. Go get that thing from the car. That sounds great.

Four-year-old, you’re freezing. Your lips are blue, your teeth are chattering, and you’re trembling all over. Come warm up on the sand.

No, don’t start wailing that you don’t want to warm up.

No, don’t keep wailing.

No, don’t fall down on your face into the sand wailing.

Please stand up.

Please stand up.

Please stand up.

The sunblock lady is looking at me again.

No, nine-month-old, please don’t start crying out of empathy for your brother.

Could I interest you both in eating some sand?

Sure, husband I would love for you to take the children so I can jump into the water for a second.

Goddamn this water is cold. But it’s okay. This is “me” time. I am alone in nature, communing, meditating, retreating into a quiet space and recharging…eeeeeahhhhhhh!!!!!! No, four-year-old, I didn’t like being shot in the face with the water-squirter from hell. How could you tell?

No mommy isn’t crying. I just have salt water in my eyes.

Well, the baby is hot and wailing, the boy is freezing cold and blue, and the husband is turning that parental frustration color of purple that suggests our time at the beach is nearing its end.

Let’s just take a moment to neatly pick up the towels, toys, drinks…fuck it! Husband, toss everything into the sun-shelter and throw it over your shoulder like a defeated, purple-faced summer Santa and flee with me to the parking lot.

Sure, four-year-old, I can carry you and the 20-pound nine-month-old all the way to the car. After all, who needs a spine?

The parking lot is hot! Quick, open the car! No time to change the baby out of her swim diaper! Just let her pee in her seat! I’ll buy a new one! Throw the sun-shelter in the back! Strap the kids in! Blast the AC!

Woof. It’s all over. How long were we there? Oh, a whole 20 minutes. New record.