Two summer vacations down, one to go. Myrtle Beach, the second of our jaunts this season, was, like last year, alternately exhilarating and exhausting. We spent nearly every day on the beach, chasing LM around to make sure he didn’t get swept away by waves. That kid is fearless. We attended animatronic dinosaur exhibitions, zoos and pirate boat rides — enjoyable because of the fascinated look on LM’s face, but not so much fun for ourselves.
Foggy Daddy and I, though, did make it out for one wonderful date night on the last night of our trip. Two hours of kid-free bliss. Where did we go? Wicked Tuna, of course, in an effort to avenge our previous date night semi-fail there last year. If you remember, at our previous excursion to that restaurant we were seated not at the choice tables along the deck’s railing with an uncompromised view of the marina, but at the tarp-covered section generally filled with large family parties. Horror of horrors! The last thing you want to see on a date night are large family parties, am I right?
I was determined not to let that happen this year. As we drove to the restaurant, I psyched myself up to request the table I wanted. I wasn’t going to take no for an answer, dammit! And then…I chickened out and made Foggy Daddy do it as I parked the car. But, he succeeded, sending me a text that read, “You will be very happy.”
OK, so it wasn’t the best table in the house (it was still right next to the family groups) but, after making FD switch seats with me, I had my view. Success!
My drink came out on time and was yummy.
My “dragon egg” appetizer was interestingly delicious, and somehow seemed apropos. (Maybe because I secretly consider myself a mother of dragons. C’mon, LM is a bit like an unruly, fire-breathing monster, isn’t he?)
And although FD’s appetizer didn’t come out on time (which is exactly what happened last year!), it made it out with the main meal, was yummy, and ended up scoring us a discount on the bill (at the waiter’s insistence, not ours).
So, overall, Wicked Tuna has made amends for the semi-fail of last year. Lessons learned: If you want something, ask for it, instead of stewing about it and writing a blog post later. Secondarily, stop making a big deal out of nothing. Appreciate that you even were able to do a date night in the first place. (Haha, who am I kidding? I’m a perfectionist, even about date nights.)
After dinner, we again strolled along the marsh walk. It was sunset, and we lingered in the fading light. People kayaked and boated on the water. I was oddly missing my kid-free life — ironic because back then, I would have given anything to have a child.
As we took one last selfie before leaving, I realized that my only date night regret was that it couldn’t have lasted longer.
How often do you get to go on date nights? Do you miss your pre-kid days?
Ah, summer. It always goes by so fast. For the last two years, this has been compounded by taking not one, not two, but three trips (notice I did not say “vacations”), traveling with my toddler. Each trip was separated by less than two weeks, which is really too small a time to really get unpacked and settled back into a routine. This had the end result of taking up almost two months’ time — practically the whole summer.
This year, we are planning the same thing. A long July Fourth weekend at my aunt and uncle’s lake house in rural Virginia. A trip to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, where my inlaws have a condo. A week-long stay at the Jersey shore with my family.
Sounds great, doesn’t it?
And it is. But it’s also a lot of work.
I’m still getting the hang of this traveling with toddlers thing. As is most often the case as a parent, our own fun is a distant second to that of our children’s. So we are like the man behind the curtain, pulling strings to make sure that everything is magical in their eyes. All of the preparation, all of the food and entertainment, all of the concerns about safety occupy our trip, in the hope that fun is the only thing that occupies theirs.
OK, so this year I geared up for the first of the three trips. The lake house. The lake house presented a series of challenges:
- We were sharing the house with my aunt and uncle, my two cousins (one in high school and one in college), my cousin’s friend, my parents, my sister, her husband and their two kids. Including us, that’s 14 people. FOURTEEN.
- There isn’t really a yard in which the kids can run around in.
- The backyard is a series of steps leading down to a dock.
- The water off the dock is very deep.
Then I have the series of particular challenges presented by my two-year-old:
- He’s prone to tantrums because of his communication and sensory processing issues.
- Most people think sensory processing issues don’t even exist.
- He’s not a good sleeper on vacation
- He’s a picky eater. Like really picky.
- If I don’t do what he wants (like bring him in bed with us or give him the food he wants), he will throw a major tantrum.
- No one wants to hear tantrums.
So how’d I do? Well, everyone emerged from the weekend safe and sound, so that’s the most important thing. But there were tantrums, tears (on my part) and some acts of questionable parenting (you want to eat a bazillion chips that will ruin your dinner? Go ahead, as long as it keeps you quiet).
Traveling with your toddler and other people, you have to pick your battles. Do you want to enforce all the rules to a T, or do you want a toddler who’s not screaming? It’s picking the lesser of two evils.
Another problem for us is that LM is all about Daddy whenever Daddy’s around. He wants nothing to do with me. So again, this meant that either Foggy Daddy had to do everything with LM, or we had to listen to him scream. After hearing FD complain about having to put LM to bed again, I told him I would do it. A half an hour of screaming toddler later while his cousins were trying to sleep in the next room, I frantically texted FD: “Please. He wants you not me.” After being relieved of my bedtime duties, I headed upstairs and promptly broke into tears.
The challenges around the water, though, terrified me the most. We came armed with the bubble LM wears for swim class, a puddle jumper, and a life jacket. LM refused the Coast Guard-approved puddle jumper and instead would only wear the bubble, which he was used to. But this unnerved me while swimming in deep water, even though of course one of us was with him at all times. His joy at jumping in and swimming around, though, tempered my fear somewhat.
Going out on the boat, however, he flat out refused the life jacket. FD and LM remained on the dock as we prepared to depart. But at the last minute, FD pinned him down on the ground, strapped the life jacket on as LM screamed, and then handed him over the side of the boat. As we motored out, LM continued to wail, and I felt the heat rise inside me again. We should have just left him home, I thought. Now he’s ruining everyone’s trip. But as soon as we got moving, he relaxed. Soon, he was asking for “more fast.”
Surprisingly, the car rides (eight hours each way) were the easiest part of traveling. LM took a long, four-hour nap, and then watched videos the rest of the time. Great parenting? Probably not, but what are the options for a kid who doesn’t like coloring or other sedentary activities that can be done in the car?
But probably the best moments of the trip occurred when I least expected them to. We decided to take LM to watch the fireworks, which would keep him out past his bedtime. I assumed they would be at nine — but it turns out they weren’t happening until 10. Whoops. But we weren’t going to miss them (great parenting again, I know). Instead, we visited the pre-show carnival. Let me tell you, a merry-go-round is actually quite scary when you realize you’re going kind of fast and the only thing keeping your toddler from flying off is your arms around his waist — and I could barely reach him when his horse’s pole rose up.
As the light faded, I realized I had forgotten the glow sticks I bought purposefully for the occasion. Instead, we let LM pick out a glow toy (a light saber — I groaned as I realized I had just bought him his first weapon), and walked back to our spot to watch the fireworks. The adults threw around a football, and LM wanted to join in too. And then as we settled into our lawn chairs, we read LM a story by the glow of the light saber. Then he drifted off to sleep — completely missing the fireworks. (Bonus to having a hard of hearing kid — loud noises aren’t as much of a problem.)
It wasn’t easy, but we made it through. It took a lot out of me, though, which is in part why this post was delayed (don’t be surprised if the same happens in the next few weeks after our next two trips). But the fun LM had made it all worth it. I guess our string-pulling worked.
Next stop: Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.
Do you find trips with your toddler difficult? Any tips you would recommend?
Every year, summer sneaks up on me. It always seems like winter lags on, reluctant to leave. We have chilly spring days, followed by one teasingly hot week, followed by the cold again. I put away our winter coats, only to have to take them out again.
Then, somehow, it’s summer again. The scorchers are here to stay, and the sweaters that have made a pile on the chair in my room need to get washed and put away until the fall. Schools let out, flooding my FB feed with last day of school and prom and graduation pics. Summer is here.
But it’s easy to remain caught up with everyday chores and routines and responsibilities. All of a sudden I realize it’s the longest day of the year. Summer is in full swing, and if I don’t stop and look around, I might miss it.
Do you always watch for the longest day of the year and then miss it?” — F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
It’s almost the end of June and we haven’t made it to the beach yet. I’m working out possible vacations in July with my fertility testing (yep, that’s starting up again). I’m working on my summer bucket list (strawberry picking: check; zoo: check) so that I won’t miss anything.
Last year I mourned the end of summer because I felt like I had let it slip by. I hadn’t fully embraced it or been present for it. I hadn’t been mindful. And before I knew it, it was gone.
When you were young, didn’t it seem like summer lasted forever? I remember being bored, as day after hot and lazy day passed by. But like everything in life, summer seems sped up now that I’m an adult.
In the midst of everything I have going on right now (writing, fertility treatments, preschool evaluations, LM’s hearing stuff), I’m going to try my hardest to be present. I’m going to try to take the time to enjoy the season.
Every time of year has its traditions, but summer seems the most timeless of all. I’m not sure why this is; maybe it has something to do with the natural, organic way it seems to affect people. Christmas is wonderful, but let’s face it, grownups made up the traditions of trimming trees and opening presents. But let kids loose in summer, and they do what kids have been doing forever: running in the grass, digging in the sand, catching lightning bugs, playing outside late into the dusk, swimming in lakes and the ocean. There’s a natural inevitability to it that the rest of the year doesn’t possess.
I love the way the summer encourages us to relax and take it easy. I need that, because I can get a bit caught up in all the to-do’s of life. Summer reminds us to let them go, to sit back and relax. And as LM grows older, I can’t wait to see him more fully enjoy the summer.
So welcome back, summer. I promise to try to be present while you are with us. I promise to take advantage of your sunshine and your long days. I promise to realize how lucky I am to be able to watch my son discover your charms. I promise to fully embrace you, and to encourage my child to do the same.
Do you love summer? What’s on your bucket list this year?
I love fall: autumn leaves, warm sweaters, apple picking, football, pumpkin everything, the coziness leading up to the holidays… But this year, as summer melts away, I’m struck with a greater sadness than in years past.
First of all, I don’t believe summer should end until after Labor Day. I hate that some schools start at the end of August, thereby cutting short the natural end of the season. It’s weird to me to start school, then have one long last weekend at the shore. It’s like when it’s 60 degrees in January — it just feels wrong. So seeing all the back-to-school pictures on Facebook is making me say, “Hold on! It’s not over yet!”
But, LM isn’t in school, so this shouldn’t really apply to us. So what’s really making me depressed? I think it’s because this summer was, in many ways, even better than last. Last summer LM couldn’t walk. He liked the beach, but I didn’t get to watch him run toward the waves with reckless abandon. I didn’t get to stroll along the shore hand-in-hand. He can now dig with his shovel and dump buckets of water in the hole (and over himself). He knows a little bit about swimming, so he can scoop-and-kick his way around the pool in my arms — and even jump in.
We made so many great memories this summer. I am so glad we spent time with our family in Long Beach Island, Smith Mountain Lake and Myrtle Beach. We had great days at water parks and pools with friends. We spent lots of time on our back deck as LM splashed in his baby pool. By turning from a little baby into a little boy, I can see his personality coming through. I can see him learning and growing so much. It really is amazing to watch.
Older parents with grown children will often say to me, “This is a fun age” — but they say it at every stage, no matter how old LM is. I suppose that’s because each part of your child’s life brings its own special brand of fun. Babies are cute and snuggly, and I miss that; but little kids have so much energy and spirit. It makes it even more enjoyable for me as a parent to interact with him. I know as he grows each subsequent summer will be filled with additional joys — when we can go bike riding or kayaking together; when we can dig for clams; when we can roast marshmallows over a campfire — but since I’m a person who often looks back when I should be looking forward, I still mourn the season that’s past.
I should be anticipating our fall activities with joy, and I am. But there is that bittersweet farewell to the magic of summer: long days and lingering twilight, the sound of kids’ laughter and crashing waves while walking along the beach, the permission you give yourself (and your child) to relax, take things slow, and enjoy life. The fall often feels like a return to the real world. I welcome it, but I miss what’s gone by as well.
Will you miss summer or are you ready for it to end? Soak up all that’s left and have a great Labor Day weekend!
Our week in Myrtle Beach was alternately terrific and terrible. Days at the beach were beautiful and calm, with LM playing in the sand or running into the waves. He enjoyed the pool, perhaps a little too much – trying to keep him from jumping in and drowning turned a relaxing swim into a stressful situation. But the worst of it was the sleeping – or lack thereof. Every night, without fail, he’d wake up, get out of his blow-up toddler bed and shake the gate in the doorway to his little room off the master bedroom where we were sleeping (OK, OK, it was a walk-in closet. What’s wrong with that? We kept the door open. No judging, please). Lest he wake up my in-laws in the next room, or the entire condo complex, we’d take him into bed with us. This led to him nursing all night long, and me not getting any shut-eye until my mother-in-law took him at 6 am. Then I’d sleep until 10 and bemoan the fact that half the day was wasted. All because of a little monster who normally sleeps through the night with no problem at home.
We were vacationing there at the same time as Foggy Daddy’s best friend and his family, so the four adults were supposed to have a double-date night with grandparents watching the kids. But due to unforeseen circumstances, FD’s friend and his wife couldn’t make it, so we decided to have a date night of our own. And I knew just the spot. On our first evening, we had gone to Wicked Tuna, a restaurant in my one of my favorite spots anywhere on earth, Murrell’s Inlet. It’s a collection of bars and restaurants along a walkway over the marsh, with live music, arts and crafts displays and general merriment. Somehow I had never been to Wicked Tuna, and when we were seated at a table along the restaurant’s outside deck railing, it was heaven – except for the fact that we had LM with us (in fact, we spent most of the night alternating taking him outside). The atmosphere was elegant and relaxed. Live music wafted up from the reggae band below. Our waitress brought out our oysters from the raw bar right away “so they would be really fresh.” It was a perfect spot to be sans kids. So for date night, I wanted to go back alone.
Well, let me give you some advice if you ever go to Wicked Tuna. Make sure you get a seat along the outer edge of the deck. The inner portion of the deck, while still outside, is under a covered tarp, and, as I learned when we were seated there for our date night, has a completely different atmosphere. It felt like a family joint, busy and loud and not elegant at all. Why oh why didn’t I say anything when the hostess showed me the way to our table while FD was parking the car? I had gone in before him to make sure we were on time for our reservation, but if I had just waited and parked with him, someone else would have gotten the table under the tarp and we would have gotten the table along the deck’s edge that opened up minutes later.
This is not a life-or-death problem. This is what they call a first-world problem. In fact it’s probably not even a real problem. Yet it continued to bother me all night. It bothered me that we were the only couple seated in that section – all the other tables were loud, big family groups. There were dirty napkins on the floor. The waiters rushed by, oblivious to the dirty napkins. Instead of the live band, all we could hear was pumped in crap from the restaurant’s sound system. I still had a sort-of view of the marsh, if I looked out over the heads of the noisy families and the lucky couples seated at the choice tables. Didn’t the restaurant know we we were on date night? Didn’t they know that we, as a party of two, would not want to sit among the crowd but rather where we could feel like adults in an adult world again? Why couldn’t I have just opened my mouth and said something while I had the chance?
Another person might have said, Screw it, I’m enjoying date night no matter where I am, because wherever that is, it’s away from my kids. But I see date night as once-in-a-blue-moon-so-it-better-be-perfect-dammit kind of thing. I tried to relax and forget about where we were seated. I tried to look on the bright side, that at least we got to experience the outer deck once on the trip, even if it was with LM. I tried not to chide myself for not speaking up. But the fact that our water took awhile to get our drinks, and then forgot our appetizer, didn’t make things any better.
I started to feel like Alexander from one of LM’s current favorite books, Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day: “My drink was too strong and my risotto was too dense. There were dirty napkins on the floor and I hate dirty napkins. Foggy Daddy’s entree was better than mine and I didn’t like the music and the kids from the next table were too loud and it was a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad table.”
FD thinks I’m crazy when it comes to tables in restaurants. If I don’t like where I’m seated, the whole meal is ruined for me. I considered it a huge achievement when, on vacation in Anguilla, we scored the best, literally, the best, table in the house at the famous restaurant Blanchards.
I think I have a problem.
After our appetizer came out at the same time as our entrees and I finished my dense risotto (I didn’t understand it – I had gotten a different risotto when we had been there before and it was perfectly creamy) and my strong drink (which likewise had been perfect before) we left our not-so-great table and walked along the marsh. People were listening to live music, wandering around with their drinks, playing corn hole, fishing and watching the boats come in. I finally began to relax and enjoyed the last minutes of our date night. It wasn’t a total fail. Just a semi-fail.
Are you chill during date nights or do you feel like everything has to be perfect? Do you just feel lucky to be out of the house without your kids?
“Down the shore everything’s alright”
— “Jersey Girl,” performed by Bruce Springsteen
There is something magical about summer at the shore. That sounds super cheesy, but as with most cliches, it’s also true. I love the beach. I grew up vacationing with my family down the shore, so I feel like it’s part of who I am. Honestly, I’m glad Foggy Daddy likes the beach because that might have been a deal breaker for us if he didn’t (just kidding…sort of).
We just got back from a “magical” (yes, here’s that cheese again) week in Long Beach Island, NJ. I love LBI – it’s less tacky that the boardwalks of Seaside and Point Pleasant (sorry), but still has a small amusement park and arcade (tactfully situated away from the beach). There are mini golf and shops and restaurants. Yet it maintains a quiet, laid-back, residential feel. The beaches are wide and uncrowded. The pace of life is slow. People ride barefoot on bikes without helmets (yes, I know it’s not safe, but c’mon, it’s so breezy, isn’t it?). I witnessed some great free-range parenting as we waited in line for ice cream at 9:30 pm behind a group of five or so kids probably around nine or ten years old; and then walking home we saw many other kids strolling about, parent-less, too.
Rules are relaxed at the beach. Kids out late alone? No problem – they’re just getting ice cream. No helmets? Meh. I barely put on shoes all week, thanks to an oceanfront house with private access (courtesy of Mom and Dad). I scoffed every time FD dragged me off the beach at 6 o’clock with a “Don’t you think we need to feed our son?” reproof. “What a killjoy,” I mumbled. LM was fine — he’d had some pretzels an hour ago. It’s the beach, man. Relax.
This shift in attitude is huge for me. I’m normally quite, well, a bit
neurotic anal uptight. So for me to be the one to say, “What’s the big deal?” is a big deal. I’m not sure if it’s the salty air or the fact that no one else seems to care that they’re still sitting on the beach and their kids won’t eat until late and then they’ll get to bed even later. Time doesn’t matter. Looking out from the deck at night, we’d see little pings of light here and there – people on the beach, reveling in a night walk. Maybe it’s kids looking for lightening bugs with their dad. Maybe it’s husbands and wives sneaking out after their children are asleep to sit on the lifeguard stand like teenagers, as FD and I did.
Normally night is a scary time, as we fear the boogeymen who lurk around corners, bad people who are going to break into our houses or kidnap our children or rob us at gunpoint (or wait, is it just me who has an overactive imagination?). But at the shore, we hear peals of laughter caught on the wind as we walk down the darkened beach or on the street. We hear people in the shadows, talking, giggling, sitting on decks or patios or walking too, and we can’t see them but we know they’re there. Instead of being frightening, they make us feel like we’re not alone. Everyone is enjoying the same thing, this freedom from everyday fears and worries and just, well, life.
I think LM benefitted from a less stressed-out mom. I took an early-morning beach yoga class, and it was amazingly soul-cleansing to hear the waves in the background and feel the sand beneath my feet as we stretched into poses. One of the other women in the class, who owns a house there, said she never locks her doors, and that half of the island has a key to her house anyway. That’s the kind of no-worries life she leads down the shore.
Sometimes I think I should move somewhere where it’s warm all year-round, like southern California or the Florida Keys or even an island in the Caribbean. Maybe I would miss the seasons – as August ends I almost long for that gradual slip from the excitement of summer to the coziness of fall. But maybe I could do without it; maybe it would be worth it to have this type of peace all the time. OK, OK, yes you can never really escape from life; but I’m not even really talking about an escape — I’m talking about a different way of life, a different way of looking at life. One in which we savor moments and experiences and other people. One in which we aren’t so bogged down in the clutter of our lives. Maybe it’s idealistic, but I do believe that the beach culture is a valid permanent lifestyle.
At the very least I want to continue this yearly down-the-shore vacation for LM. But I think a week isn’t really long enough — I’m trying to convince my family to do a whole summer, or maybe at least a month. I could work from the beach house and my retired parents could watch LM… Or, I wonder how people afford a second home at the beach – how much money do you need? Could that be a possibility? Maybe we could all chip in. Hmm…
Maybe I’m getting ahead of myself.
LM is still getting used to the water and the feeling of sand on his feet. He did enjoy pouring water out of buckets and climbing in and out of holes dug in the sand. He loved spending time with his cousins. We walked him through the arcade, watching his amazed face as he took in the sensory-overloaded atmosphere. He took naps in the tent on the beach. I hope he’s learning to love it the same way I did when I was a kid. I want those good old-fashioned, timeless memories for him, of hanging out at the ice cream parlor with friends, of looking for treasure in the sand, of having barbecues and going kayaking or maybe even sailing. I want him to have that “magical” experience, that kind of summer that seems removed from reality, an alternate universe where everything is good and easy and relaxed.
Even for just one week a year.
Do you love beach vacations, too? Tell me about yours!