Fatherhood Adventures

Hitting the beach once meant grabbing a towel and off I went. To say that’s not the case any longer, with a 16-week-old baby, is a major understatement.

It used to be so simple to just grab and go to the beach. I have found myself reflecting on those days lately because they seem like a lifetime ago. Of course, it goes without saying I would have it no other way, but grabbing and going anywhere is not a part of my life any longer, especially when it comes to spending a day on the beach with a newborn.

When it was decided we would join some family on the beach in Ocean City a couple weekends ago, I could not help but note how funny it was that my wife and I each went in our different directions on our individual missions. We went off to get everything ready while the baby was entertained by one of his many toys on his big “rug” in the living room.

It’s interesting to me the difference between mothers and fathers. There’s many different ways to explore this, and I am sure I will tiptoe through that in this space in the future, but the example to look at today is the beach trip. Dads, meaning me, think big things, like the umbrella, beach chairs, cooler, baby’s beach crib, towels, etc. Most of the dad’s work is done outside. While the dad is putting the items in the car strategically in the order of importance, moms, meaning my wife, are thinking about the smaller items that if forgotten could be huge things. The baby sunscreen (this stuff repels the sun) is one example. Toys, a pacifier and a blanket are some of the other items mom was all over and dad would have probably forgotten. Combined our system works out well, except, of course, when this dad grabs a dirty towel accidentally.

To be certain, long gone are those days of heading to the beach with simply a towel, fresh or grimy. It used to be my biggest decision was whether to take the surfboard along. If an Internet check found the ocean looked more like a lake, then maybe a chair and a bottle of water to do some reading. Most of the time I simply left the house with a towel and was content for hours on the beach people watching and napping.

Before going to the beach the other day, I checked the Internet as well, but the surf was not even a consideration. I just wanted to see about the temperature, if there was a chance for rain and whether it would be windy.

Leaving the house and packing up the family roadster is certainly an ordeal, but getting it all out to the beach is another matter. On the trip into Ocean City the other day, it took my wife and I three trips each to get all our gear to the beach. We were lucky this time because we had family already on the beach, and they could watch the baby while we did the hot sand dance back and forth. If they were not there, my wife would stay with Beckett, while I got a workout making the various jaunts to and from.

On the occasions we have gone to the beach since our son was born in May, there has been one common occurrence. We always seem to find ourselves having to change a diaper in the car as soon as we get to the beach. Worse things can happen, but, in case you have not noticed, there’s not exactly Baby Koala changing stations at street ends in Ocean City or in the restrooms on Assateague Island. Taking the baby out of the car seat in a crowded parking lot or street and showing off his goods for all to see always stresses me out. I think it bothers me more than him. That’s why my wife usually handles this situation, while I start the process of unloading the vehicle. Again I think of the differences between moms and dads.

Then there’s the disposing of the diaper because that’s not exactly something you want to leave in a hot car for hours at a time. If there’s a trashcan nearby, we are golden, but oftentimes there is not. We have those baby-powder scented trash bag things and that helps, but it’s never ideal to carry a soiled diaper around all day, especially when it’s 90 degrees out and you are heading to a crowded beach.

Once all is out to the beach, the set up takes a few minutes. The umbrella needs to be positioned just perfectly so the sun will be blocked. Of course, he’s got the “Sunscreen 50” already applied, thanks to his prepared mom. We next strategically set up our chairs and towels around his “pod”, which will be his home for the day. This thing is perfect for the beach. It’s shaped like a clam, sits off the ground and features a flat bottom with vented sides that can be zipped up. Toys can be hung from the top while he lies on the bottom. It’s perfect for babies and we are so thankful to have it for the beach, park, backyard, etc.

At this time, the little guy does not seem to have much interest in the water or sand. It’s understandable. His attention is more focused on his fingers and feet. It’s probably best that he’s a little indifferent to the sand and ocean because everything is inevitably going to the mouth at this stage and things could get messy.

One thing is for sure – when we take our little one to the beach, we stay a lot longer than we once did. There’s way too much work involved to simply stay for a couple hours and then pack up and go home. We now come out for the entire day and outlast just about everyone around us. We stay long after most folks have packed up and start heading out to dinner. This time around dusk is the best time of day on the beach anyway, especially if we are lucky enough to get our son down for a good nap and a little peace in quiet before we start packing everything up, load the truck and head back home too exhausted to unpack the truck until the next morning.

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