A day at the beach is anything but child’s play
THE FAMILY TOURIST
WHATdoyouactually like about summer holidays at the beach? Finally getting into that novel you’ve been meaning to read? Doing the crossword? Carving through the waves or just getting lost in thought staring at the crashing surf?
Well, good luck doing any of those with a baby in tow. My dear friend Tom has long been the subject of ridicule for his surliness about going to the beach. ‘‘There is no shade, no fridge, no stereo, no sofa, no DVD player,’’ he grumps. ‘‘Just a whole crowd of people who are better-looking than me pretending they are having a good time.’’
I have long derided Tom’s views. But now we have our first weekend away at the beach with 11-month-old Florence and the angst begins before even leaving the holiday house.
Do we take the pram to transport our non-walking tot, or carry her (12kg) for the 10-minute walk down the hill? The instructional video for our brand of pram ( yes, truly) shows a lovely Dutch couple smiling through gritted teeth as they model the ‘‘sand mode’’ (I am not making this up) of the contraption. If Aafke and Aaghie can’t drag the damned thing through soft sand, we won’t even try to.
So, with aching arms cradling Florence, three beach towels, a small tent, nappies, wipes, a sippy cup with water, hats, sunscreen, a change of clothes and determined expressions, we choose our spot on the sand and collapse in an untidy heap.
It’s hot, really hot, and high-glare here on the crowded beach. Surely this is no place for a baby.
Wedecide to pitch the shade tent for the first time. It has ‘‘cross brace construction’’ and ‘‘anti-sheer shock corded fibreglass poles’’, none of which makes it simple to pitch. As soon as we extract it from the carry bag, the ‘‘sun tough fabric with water repellent treatment’’ flaps in the wind, flicking sand over us. We lay it out. It snaps back, gathering more sand by the second. The poles are numerous and in pieces. And so are we. Soon it lays abandoned.
And so we turn to more low-tech methods of sun protection. I put a hat on Florence. She takes it off. I put it on again. And so on. I make shadow puppets with one hand and put the hat on. She hesitates, impressed, I think, by my silhouetted animals, then takes it off.
I slather sunscreen on her. She flips over and, before my hand-dog has dropped his pinky-jaw, she’s a wellcrumbed cutlet. She grins.
We resort to shifting about to keep her in the shadows of our bodies while lurching to stop her eating mouthfuls of sand, and scanning the surrounds for washed-up bluebottles and beer bot- tles. We take Florence to the shore to dip her toes in the water. She squeals with delight. Much like bath time I suppose, only with sea lice.
After 40 minutes, unable to match our daughter’s guileless embrace of Aussie beach culture, we abort the mission. Our beach equipment leaks a trail of sand as we shuffle home, arms aching, throats dry, patience tested. Back on the balcony, freshly showered, we sit in the shade catching the breeze.
Florence is eating yoghurt crosslegged on the floor. Weare sipping chilled wine on padded chairs. Gazing down at the beach I know we’ll go back. Millions of Aussie families can’t be wrong, surely. But sometimes, and especially today, I think my dear friend Tom really is on to something.