Thursday, July 14, 2011

Life's a Beach...

Today we went to the beach, which probably sounds like the bee’s knees… not exactly. It took longer to get ready than expected and J Bean was quite impatient to leave once she learned of our destination. Finally, after changing clothes, packing a lunch, gathering our stuff and slathering down with suntan lotion we were ready to roll. We rode across town in traffic and took longer than expected to find a parking spot. J Bean grew tired of the ride about half way there and screamed for me to fix something, do something, sing something, roll windows down, don’t talk etc… etc… I had to offer what I could verbally and try to remain calm while keeping us safe on the road and wondering why I’m trying to get to the beach. Traffic caused us to arrive at about the time we should have been eating lunch which I had so cleverly planned for a beach picnic. Guess what?! Toddlers are not interested in eating when there is a lake and sand nearby. We made our way on foot across the parking lot and over the pedestrian bridge to the beach. J Bean’s flip-flops were hurting she mentioned this to me at least 50 times even after attempts to "fix" them. So we take the flip-flops off, oops, the sand is too hot. Now I’ll carry the 2 year old, the over-stuffed diaper bag, a toy shark I have for some reason, the arm of towels/blankets and… her flip flops. Lay out the blanket, and my daughter immediately gets sand all over it. I wave off some sand, empty my pockets, undress J Bean. Let’s go get in the water!! Finally! Uh-Oh… the water is pretty chilly and J Bean is screaming at the top of her lungs (because she thinks this is what toddlers are supposed to do when within sight of water outdoors). We wade in to the water where I'm on the receiving end of a tongue lashing tantrum because I forgot the #@$@%! Floaties. We wade into the waves a little more (brrrr!!!), J Bean is scared and screaming about being scared, but I think she is again shrieking with joy so I am unaware of her panic for a minute. Once I realize my mistake, I grab her up and we get out of the water and onto the sand (time elapsed… 2 and a half minutes). We try again and she had fun for a few moments before saying she was scared and cold. Out of the lake again with her in my arms… what’s that I smell? It’s terrible… really very offensive. Wait a minute... it’s coming from my child’s backside and since she is wearing a wet swim diaper and bathing suit, which is about as porous as a wet coffee filter, I am now starting to have serious concerns about the origin of the “water” dripping down my side.  OK… I’ve dealt with this type of thing before; let’s take care of this quickly and efficiently. Unfortunately, I could not lay J Bean on the blanket as it was mysteriously covered in sand so I threw down my own towel and put the crying, whining, screaming toddler on her back (she’s hungry/cranky and for some reason her heart's only desire is to go back to the water which she is deathly afraid of). I said something reassuring, took off the swim suit, deftly ripped off the sides of the diaper and found a half and half mixture of poop and sand/seawater… The sand was everywhere. Now I’m leaning over my child on the beach, a smell that was likely to cause the nearby sunbathers to retch was wafting away in the sea breeze and I’m using wipe after wipe after wipe and the poopsand is finally starting to give in. My rare, but crippling, stay-home Dad feelings of inadequacy swell up like hackles on my back. Surely every mother out here must be wondering what is wrong with me as I am wiping and wiping and I clearly didn’t bring a baggie!  J  Bean’s nose is running from the cold water now,
   See, we were at the beach and we had fun!
I literally took this picture with J Bean
  standing next to me crying. I have no idea
 why I felt the need to document the event. 
  so I’m also second-guessing my decision to bring her to the beach when she was still recovering from a cold and I imagine her snot glistens like a scarlet letter in the midday sun to those around who must be judging me by now. Alright, the gritty mess has been tamed, but our blanket, my shirt and my towel have fallen victim to the toxic spill. I set them to the side and we worked through the remainder of dressing and cleaning up. A few minutes later, I decide J Bean’s sour temperament is related to her lack of food, so I push the eating again and we get a little food down in her with plenty of protests. All the while, I’m thinking "did I clean her well enough? Should I use more wipes and hand sanitizer?" (the answer is no… had I used any more my offspring may have evaporated with it). Now I’m obsessing over the fact that a nearby Mom has almost surely been watching this whole scene and is now probably calling Family and Children’s services with concerns about water cruelty, bacteria exposure and a father who wipes his daughter with a half pack of wipes for one diaper. Oh well, put that aside... we came here to have fun dammit!

Again, we go in to the lake and again we have similar results (am I crazy?). Well, we had similar shivering and fear; thankfully there were no more dirty diapers. We came out of the water and I started drying off J Bean with our one remaining towel and put her in a cover-up. I’m packing up to leave, after all we’ve been at the beach for about 45 minutes and had a grand total of 3 minutes of fun with no crying or pooping. What else could I ask for, right? Together J Bean and I weather one more tantrum as she realizes we didn’t make any sand castles and I realize we can’t play in the sand and clean off in the water again without more shivering and fear and we have no more dry towels. In the car, it dawns on me I should start packing extra clothes for myself and not just the little one. "Whatever", I think and I ride shirtless across Chicago just like I used to do in my south Georgia hometown. And you know what? With the windows down, I could hardly hear the fussing from the back seat.  We made it home without further incident (other than traffic) and hopped in the shower together and got a load of laundry going. Now, I'm clean and relaxed for a few minutes (and I even got some writing in!), but J Bean is waking after a short nap and she sounds none too happy about it. Here we go again. I love my life as a stay home Dad and I'm happy to say that hearing J Bean exclaim from the backseat when we arrived home, “Daddy, the beach was fun, the lake was fun, I Loooove sand!” basically erased the bad parts of the day and writing about it has helped mellow me out so I can tackle the job again. No matter if J Bean is cranky for the rest of the day or if this is just her usual wake up grouchiness, I'll greet her with a smile and love her as far as the moon and back. I think we'll keep it simple tomorrow, though.