I am a lifelong beach lover. By which I mean, I don't go for a couple of hours; I get there early and stay late. This summer I've been doing my best to train the Grape to be the same way. So far, so good. He LOVES going in the water and he seems inclined to limit his ingestion of sand to reasonable levels.
I consider this a huge win.
Still, the business of relaxing on the sand has become an exhausting endeavor. R. and I spent five hours on Saturday working feverishly to make sure the Grape thoroughly enjoyed his beach outing. We got home so spent that we were both asleep for the night before 8:30 p.m.
When we take the Grape to the beach, we have so much luggage that R. usually has to make two trips to unload it all. The Grape requires a tent, an umbrella, a blanket, several toys, a huge beach ball, a back up outfit and a small paddling pool (in addition to the cooler, towels and other minor provisions we'd bring for any beach outing). I used to openly mock the people who dragged a garage load of gear over the dunes in little metal carts. No more. Now I don't even question those funny folks who set up camp stoves on the sand. Maybe their kids truly need spaghetti to get through a beach day, and if so, who am I to judge?
Bottom line: If we need to be pack mules to make a day at the shore possible, then so be it. Load us up.
On Saturday, I was eager to get an early start, so we arrived at the beach with an overtired baby. I set up his tent and deposited him inside, then explained in my best bright and cheerful mommy voice that he was to take a nap in his "fort."
The Grape considered for half a second, then let me know that we had a serious difference of opinion. He proceeded to howl, thrash and capsize the tent several times in the span of the next half hour. I gamely reinserted the pacifier about a hundred times and sang my full repertoire of sleepy time songs. Our beach neighbors eased their encampments away from ours until we had an empty circle of sand the size of a smallish city block around us. R. paced the perimeter of our blanket and stole apologetic glances towards the people unfortunate enough to remain in earshot of our kid.
But I wasn't giving up. I paid eighty bucks for that stupid UV protection tent (complete with air mattress!) and the Grape was going to sleep in the damned thing.
R. asked if we should give up and go home. Before I could formulate a response, the Grape finally sacked out like only babies can, mid-yell.
He snoozed for almost an hour. I made excellent use of that time. By which I mean, I spent most of it lamenting that I forgot my book. I was also secretly thinking that we should have gone to the playground instead, but you couldn't have paid me to admit it at the time.
When the Grape woke from his nap with a properly adjusted attitude, we spent some serious time splashing in the water. He smiled and laughed and generally had the time of his little life. The nasty business with the pre-nap meltdown was all but forgotten. The beach with the Grape was a blast! We should do this every weekend! R. and I congratulated ourselves on being such fun-loving parents. Our kid was the happiest person for miles around. The schlepping was oh so worth it.
He pouted a little when we dragged him back to the blanket because he was looking a bit chilled (by which I mean R. remarked that his face was turning bluish). But then he ate like a champ. He flirted with our new blanket neighbors. He babbled at the seagulls who were casing his lunch. He WILLINGLY crawled into his tent to play for a bit. We went back into the water for another dip.
Then the Grape started rubbing his eyes and yawning. I considered for a moment. We'd had a good run. I wasn't mentally ready to start another epic battle of wills over napping in the tent. We decided to wrap it up and dash home so the Grape could snooze in his crib. We loaded up the car, and sped home with the windows down so he wouldn't botch his nap by nodding off en route.
I didn't get my full day in the sun, but we had a happy baby who rallied for a long walk and a dinner out. Sure, it kicked our butts. But ultimately, it was fun. We're going to do it again next weekend. I should probably start packing the car now.