Spending three hours with my sons on the Boardwalk during a gorgeous Sunday was a lot of fun but not without its ups and downs.
To me, I like to think of parenting in general as an emotional roller coaster. The tremendous highs and bright moments are usually equally counterbalanced by anxious and stressful instances.
Our male journey to the Boardwalk epitomized that.
When I took Beckett and Carson to the Boardwalk on Sunday, they were clean and tidy and all their clothes were intact. That all changed within a couple minutes of arriving when Carson took a header on the Boardwalk and ripped a hole in his pants. His head was fine, but he did snag his pants.
It was a small hole at first that managed to get larger and larger throughout the day, thanks largely to the fact he kept trying to wiggle as many fingers into the tiny hole as possible for the entire three hours we were there.
Even when I got desperate and put the 55-pounder on my shoulders to keep him from digging at the hole, or sprinting away from me, he managed to figure out a way to get a hold of it. To him, it was now a game, and I was not a willing competitor.
By the time we got home later, he could get a whole fist in the hole. In a fit of anxiety and to prove a point, I threw the pants, which also had ice cream, mustard and ketchup on them, in the trash soon after we arrived home.
Seemingly jealous, Beckett took his pants off as well and threw his in the garbage. When I asked why, he said he got ice cream all over them and thus were making him cold.
A key to taking Beckett to high-volume places like the Boardwalk is accepting the fact he is going to chat up strangers.
The kid does not have a shy bone in his body and he craves social interaction. He particularly likes meeting new people and almost always starts the conversation with a litany of biographical-type questions, such as full name, age, favored color, favorite football team and home location, followed by a brief introduction about himself.
This always involves his age, where he goes to school, the sports he plays and a brief synopsis of what he is up to currently. Sometimes this delves into his parents’ age and weight, our livelihoods and present feelings about our kids’ actions.
Of late, he has appeared to be embracing the big brother role. For example, when he met a friend his age on the Boardwalk who happened to have an infant little sibling, he was quick to bring Carson over to introduce him.
“Oh this is my little brother. He doesn’t talk, though, so he will just wave hello. Wave Carson,” he said.
Before I could let him know he handled that well, he ran off toward the nearby arcade. All of a sudden, he stopped in mid-sprint and shouted back, “Oh wait, it’s because he’s special, blah, blah, blah.”
Rather than make a big deal about it, since Carson was laughing and pulling me to chase after his big brother, I made a point to later recap how that conversation was an example of talking just a little too much.
Rarely do I eat out with my kids at their current ages of 5 and 4 when they hold the double-team advantage, but for some reason I was feeling brave on this day.
They both wanted Atlantic Stand hot dogs so we sat down at an inside table. Within a minute, I realized what a regrettable decision it was. The food came out within a few minutes but it felt like an eternity.
Within that time warp, Carson had managed to squeeze mustard all over himself and the table. Of course, thinking that was cool, Beckett added some Splenda as well as salt and pepper to the table to give it “some more color” in his words.
After that was cleaned up, Carson tossed my phone on the floor and took advantage of my distracted state by opening a water bottle and pouring it on the table and all over the place. Beckett thought that was an amazing thing.
When the food arrived, some peace settled around the table, although both boys continued their silly antics, which largely involved French fries being placed in odd places. At that point, most of the fight I had in me had been drained.
By the end of lunch, I was so harried and frustrated that I gave the three-minute countdown to our departure that ended up being 30 seconds.
Before we left, I had to fulfill a promise I had made earlier in our journey — to play the water gun game at the pier.
Beckett, Carson and I were the only competitors fortunately, and Beckett managed to squeak out a narrow win over his little brother.
What happened next touched my heart. Beckett won a dinosaur stuffed animal, sending his little brother into a fit of jealous rage and tears. Immediately, Beckett handed over his prize, saying something along the lines of, “here you go, Carson, you can have it, it means more to you.”
By the time we got back to the vehicle and the kids were loaded, I needed a couple minutes of peace to regroup. That didn’t happen as within a few seconds Beckett said, “Um, Daddy, why are we just sitting here in complete silence?”