It’s entirely possible that I have been baby-less for so long that I’ve blocked out the memories of taking any of them to the beach. This is the only explanation I can come up with as to why I have booked two separate seaside holidays this summer – either that or I just forgot I would have a baby. This happened often during the pregnancy. I found myself either forgetting it would somehow actually happen and a baby would emerge and then I’d have to do stuff with the baby and, you know, take his existence into consideration. Along with the possibility of forgetting either the difficulties of having a baby or having a baby altogether, I possibly had a distinctly rose tinted view of life with a baby. A bit like that one you have before your first baby, when you don’t realise that they are actually quite a lot of work.
This weekend is a trial run for my two summer holidays – both of which are husband-less. Fortunately this weekend he was with us, and I feel like making a spreadsheet of all the many, many ways I may not cope that well without him on our two weeks in the summer.
Our time at the beach went like this:
I’m excited! Everyone’s excited! We’re at the seaside for the weekend, the sun is shining brightly in a distinctly unBritish fashion, and the buckets and spades have been bought. The baby will love the beach! How can he not? All that sand….and sea….and sand. Babies love that! Let’s go!
I start getting together all the things that we’ll need. This takes approximately four hours. I’m interrupted continually by the older two screeching about how the other one won’t play the game they want/ has stepped on their toe/ isn’t obeying the pretend rules of their pretend game, and by the baby wanting food/ company/ sleep. (He doesn’t fall asleep by himself. He didn’t read that chapter in the baby manual) Foolishly and optimistically, I have allowed the husband to go for a run. ‘Of course you can go for a run,’ I had trilled cheerily. ‘I’ll just get everything ready for the beach.’ Thinking dark thoughts about the running, and my own stupid use of the word ‘just’, I achieve almost nothing.
The husband returns, mediates and soothes. I have a cup of tea on the decking to recover – it being a little early for vodka – while looking sadly at the clouds that have gathered in the intervening period.
We pack the car. This takes some time. It’s as full as it was when we drove down, with a weekend’s worth of crap that babies seem to accumulate. I worry briefly about how we will get it all onto the beach and push that thought aside. These are just details.
We drive to the beach, trying not to look at the black clouds, and pay the equivalent of a second mortgage for parking. But that’s OK, because we’re working on holiday money, which everyone knows doesn’t count.
Even with the marvellous invention of what the Americans call a ‘sand cart’, it takes three trips to get everything we need onto the sand. The older two, temporarily friends again with the appearance of some sand and sea, disappear into the sand dunes before we’ve left the car park and are no help whatsoever. Other holiday makers assume we have made this trip just for an oblivious sleeping baby and give us indulgent oh-you’ll-soon-learn-and-spend-your-holiday-in-the-pub type looks.
The older two return and ask for an ice cream, seemingly oblivious to the fact that WE HAVE PROVIDED THEM WITH AN ENTIRE BEACH TO PLAY WITH. I foolishly make vague promises about later, which guarantees they will return approximately every three minutes to find out if it’s ‘later’ yet.
The baby wakes up and, unsurprisingly, finding himself in the middle of gusting wind and bright sunshine, neither of which are particularly favourable conditions for a baby, screams. Dark memories of the older two’s first trips to the beach are starting to creep in over my consciousness, but I briskly banish them. We feed the baby, attempting to keep sand out of his eyes, mouth, and the bottle, and the sun off any uncovered patches of skin. This is equally as difficult as it sounds. He is not impressed.
We set up the baby tent, bought at vast expense for just such an auspicious first-trip-to-the-beach occasion, and put him in it. The wind threatens to blow it and its precious cargo away. We frantically read the instructions and hurl sand into the side pockets while shouting at each other. A sizeable percentage of it blows into the tent and into his face. The older children appear and ask if it’s later yet.
He doesn’t seem to mind the sand still blowing over himand lies in the tent cooing happily at the patterns the sun is making on the inside. The other two are throwing themselves off sand dunes. All is calm. We sit back down in our chairs and congratulate ourselves. The worst is over. We love each other again. Now we will reap the rewards of our hard work and can scroll through Facebook and not talk to each other unimpeded by needy children. I take a picture of child 2 doing gymnastics in front of a sunlit sea and post it on Facebook with appropriate #soblissful type hashtag. To be fair, for those thirty seconds, it was.
The baby starts to cry. I can’t blame him really. So far he’s had sand thrown over him, a rushed and wholly covered up feed, and almost been carried off by the wind in his little tent. I feel like crying too. We tell the other kids we’re going home. There’s hysteria over the lack of ice cream.
We send them for ice cream and attempt to cram the baby tent back into its unfeasibly tiny bag. I understand precisely none of what seem to me to be overly complicated instructions. The tent refuses to collapse. The baby screams. We hiss at each other over his outraged head. The tent is no closer to collapsing.
The husband, who is good at these things, finally manages to stuff it into the bag. I have no idea how I’m going to do this by myself in August. We trudge off the beach, trailed by children with ice creams dripping down their legs, carrying the eight million bags and the still-screaming baby. As soon as he is in the car seat and off the terribleness of the beach, he reverts to his smiling, charming self.
We go home and sit on the decking in the sun. With vodka. The day takes on a much rosier hue. (Alcohol does that I’ve found)
Say it after me, I say to myself – beaches and babies do not mix. Don’t let this be like birth – time needs to not dull this. Beaches. And. Babies. Do. Not. Mix.