A day at the beach…

When we were kids, and my family went to Disney World, we’d always take one day in the middle of the trip and dedicate it “water park day”. We’d take a break from the chaos of the theme parks, the crowds, the lines, the expensive food and souvenirs, and instead, spend a day in our bathing suites, with the chaos, surrounded by crowds, lines and expensive food and souvenirs.

I remember my mom was always a big fan of one of the Water Parks named “River Country”. River Country was a nod to the “ol’ swimmin’ hole” from frontier days, days of yore, or — as my 4-year-old currently refers to events from 2014-“back in the olden days”. The gist was simple enough. The thought was back then, people didn’t need much to cool off. Just some water, preferably a small patch of sandy shoreline, and maybe something else to jump off of, or float on if available.

Not having been alive during frontier days (and although I would have never admitted this to my mom) I never really appreciated River Country. The truth is, I was nearly born in the 21st century, in good old, landlocked suburbia. We had ample public pools to choose from, where the chlorine was thick enough to cut with a knife. One had a high dive, one actually would manufacture waves on the hour ever hour, and the other had two giant water slides, AND a concession stand where you could buy the nachos that came in those little square, plastic trays with the piping hot, bright orange cheese. (This was perfect during those 15 minute rest periods, where anyone under 18 had to vacate the pool so the senior citizens could bob around on display like old, wrinkly ice cubes.)

I digress, but my point was that an “old swimmin’ hole” almost repulsed me. Why would I want to jump lake? Or risk getting sand in my swimsuit? The public pools were sand free, and the aforementioned chlorine would take care of the rest. It wasn’t like swimming in the ocean. Where at least there were waves, and seashells, and you could act all tough around your sisters, claiming to have no fear of jellyfish, and occasionally tell people you were 99% sure you spotted a dorsal fin. (When in actuality it was just a fat kid on a boogie board).

To this day, swimming in a lake still doesn’t appeal to me. But I’d venture to guess most adults probably share my “meh” attitude toward the topic. Yes, I know I live in Minnesota, and saying I don’t like swimming in the lake is right up there with saying I don’t enjoy watching hockey (which I don’t) or fishing (nope) or ice-fishing (hell nope) or tater tot hot dish (ok, this one I’m actually ok with, but c’mon, it’s main ingredients are tater tots, and I’m pretty sure the same bright orange cheese that came with my nachos at the public pool.)

But, as an adult, the lake is “meh”. It’s pretty. I love having it practically in my backyard. I love running by it, walking the dog around it at sunset. I’m even ok with the occasional picnic. But actually sitting on the sand? And going in the water? No thanks. I’m too civilized. I’ll just sit here (on a bench, thank you very much), fully dressed, and get swamp ass while sipping my frappucino.

Enter kids, particularly kids who were born with the lake right in their backyard. And the whole “swimmin’ hole” magic presents itself. And, oh by the way, it’s awesome.

We took the kids to the beach today. Packed more sand toys and sunscreen than Moses would have required to entertain the masses, but we made it. About a 15 minute walk from our front door is a public beach, about half the size of a football field, on a lake, about the size of a Costco parking lot, but in their eyes, it might as well have been Waikiki.

A bit of background: Our offspring come in 3 flavors. There’s Ben (4), Charlie (2, but who will tell you he’s 4) and Megan (9 months, but who my wife will tell you won’t be 9 months until next week).

These ages are what I’d call the “Swimmin’ Hole Sweetspot.” The beach is an outside space, where it is considered socially acceptable to walk around half naked, splash your brother until your arms get tired, and dig a hole pretty much anywhere you want. Win-win-win. They would otherwise attempt this in our front yard (or living room), and not understand our opposition to the idea.

Kids don’t care if they get dirty. Who cares if it’s only May and the water is cold enough to turn their toes blue? To them, the beach is like the place where parents have given up. For the most part they’re happy to obide by the few lingering rules that remain.

True story: Ben, the 4-year-old, has complained about a hangnail all week. The only solace has been a Ninja Turle band-aid, to keep the suffering at bay. Well, at the beach, as a result of digging his hole to China, said band-aid fell off and disappeared into the sand. It was a few minutes (maybe even hours) later when he realized it was gone. Within the confines of home, this would have resulted in an Amber-Alert, search and rescue operation. Stop the presses, find that specific band aid! (Nevermind the fact there’s a box of brand new ones 50 feet away in the medicine cabinet)

And yet, at the beach, no where around back-up band-aids, and with fingers caked in sand so thick they looked like powdered-sugar donuts, his reaction was “Hey Daddy, my band-aid fell off… but check out this rock I found!”

And if you’re like me (and what I would venture to guess is true for most parents) whatever your kids find so incredibly awesome, you tend to get just as excited about. Example: I about lost my shit at the grocery store the other day because there was a picture of Snoopy on a box of Nutter Butters, and Charlie (the 2/4 year-old loves anything to do with the Peanuts gang).

So the swimmin’ hole is awesome when you look at it through the eyes of kids. You get dirty and splash around with them, and instead of being grossed out by the experience you embrace it. Change from thinking “ugh, do i really have to play in the sand?” to “really? do i really get to play in the sand?” and see how different it makes you feel.

Kids are great at turning anything mundane into something amazing. Couches become trampolines. Blankets become super hero capes. Dads turn into horses. Etc.

And of course, you will come home with half the sand in your swimsuit. You’ll notice the lawn still needs mowing, and your angel-children have become sunburned terrors. But then again, life as a parent is no day at the beach.