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rules of parenting

How to Survive a Day at the Beach with Kids

Snack food inequity. Things are about to go south with a quickness.
Snack food inequity. Things are about to go south with a quickness.

My family recently planned and pulled off (ish) a massive outing to our local beach — cousins, aunts, uncles, grandparents all put on their sportiest swimwear and their SPF 50 and packed their coolers for a long, hot day by the sea. Based on the crowds at the beach, it looked as if everyone was trying to squeeze in a last trip or two to the beach before school starts. The beach is my happy place. In fact, sometimes when I’m trying hard to relax and I can’t quite get there, I visualize waves crashing on a sandy beach and I feel my tension ease. But you know what I don’t picture on that peaceful, sandy beach? Children. Because a day at the beach with kids is about as far from relaxing as you can get.

We live a few miles from several beaches and have made every kind of beach trip there is – day trips, night trips, short visits, all-day visits, bike treks, hikes, swims, you name it – and we’ve done them all with our kid in tow. Along the way we’ve learned a lot about what makes the difference between a crappy day at the beach with kids and a successful one. Often, we haven’t taken our own advice and the results have been hellish. To save you from that agony, I’ve come up with a list of tips for going to the beach with kids:

Keep reading.

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Howe To…Fake It

You're about to be out-smarted, parents.
You’re about to be out-smarted, parents.

As a new mom, I have no idea what I’m doing most of the time. And Hailey’s dad, while an all around awesome daddy and hubby, admittedly, is as lost as I am. This may make you worry for our child. But don’t! We have read many parenting books. And while it’s a mystery whether these books have had any impact on our parenting skills, they are full of helpful tidbits. And our Hailey is happy and healthy and smart and wonderful (no bias here), so we’re doing something right. I think if you act like you know what you’re doing long enough, eventually it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy. So after eight months of acting like a parent, I think I’m finally starting to get the hang of it. If you want to act like a parent too, these unofficial rules to parenting may help:

1. Your child is smarter than you. Accept that now. You take charge in that I’m So On Top Of It-way that new parents are so good at and remove all poisonous, choke-y and/or suffocating materials from your baby’s path. Your baby looks at you as if she’s thinking, “You foolish woman,” and rips out a patch of the dog’s fur and stuffs it in her mouth. You see, in your haste, you forgot to shave the dog and your smart baby knew it! Curses!

2. The better your baby looks, the worse you’re allowed to look. Let’s face it, nobody looks at you anymore once you have an adorable bundle of joy in your arms. And if that bundle of joy is wearing a hot pink Adidas track suit and matching sneakers, oh boy, you can wear sweat pants and have breakfast remnants on your face and nobody would blink an eye. Trust me on this one.

3. Your child’s grandparents will not hesitate to give you feedback on your parenting. Most of the feedback will involve whether your baby is dressed appropriately for the weather and how your baby must be cold or in the direct path of a terrible draft. According to grandparents, your baby is always cold and never wearing enough clothing. Don’t fight this one. Grandparents know you’re faking this parenting thing. They’ve done it before too.

4. Times have changed. When I was little, my siblings and I would ride around in the back of my dad’s truck while he drove on the freeway and tiny little pebbles would kick up from the wheels of the car and hit us in the face. Our favorite spot for playing was on the roof and when we climbed down from the roof, we would all three pile onto the same skateboard and ride down our giant hill of a street that led directly to the main street of our Los Angeles suburb, only to bail out moments before we collided with traffic. We didn’t wear helmets or knee pads and we had lots of skinned knees and sprained wrists. This type of behavior would get parents arrested nowadays. When my daughter is in her car seat, she’s strapped in tighter than most skydivers are strapped to their parachutes. And she will remain this way every time she rides in the car for the next eight years. It’s no fun for the kids, but it’s the way the world works now. And as a parent, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

5. Your single friends with no kids will never understand that on any given day, you would much rather be at home with your kids than anywhere else in the world.

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