It’s 6 AM, and my husband, my five-year-old twins and I are in the car on the way to Narragansett, Rhode Island, where we’ll board the Block Island ferry, spend the day, and then drive to Newport to spend the night. We’ve packed up the car with beach towels, sand toys, cover-ups, changes of clothes, coloring stuff, overnight bags and dreams of beating the brutal New England heat wave with the cool island breeze. We’ll spend a few hours splashing in the waves, building Ariel’s beach castle, and drinking Del’s frozen lemonade. We’ll eat lobster rolls and Point Judith calamari, shop along Thames Street tomorrow, and take it easy.
Or, something like that. While H counts her crayons and organizes her sand castle molds, and S shows off that she can count to 267, I lose track of how many times my head is about to explode…
1 mile traveled from home before one asks, “Are we there yet?” and the other drops all of her crayons in between her car seat and the door.
2 hours wasted missing the high-speed ferry by one space in line, waiting for the painfully-slow ferry, and finally docking in Block Island to wait for all the cars, trucks, motorcycles and bikes to get off first.
3 times H walks right out of her flip-flops – and doesn’t notice – on the half-mile walk from the ferry to Ballard’s Beach. (One of these days we’ll make it to the town beach instead.)
4 ounces of clam chowder H wears after somehow landing her elbow in her bowl, sending it flying everywhere, leaving me to explain to people that, no, she didn’t throw up all over herself; she just spilled her soup.
5 people staring when S runs through the puddle of water left after rinsing sand off her feet, falls out of her flip-flops, lands on her bottom and screams her head off. One guy laughs. Jerk.
6 mouthfuls of lobster roll S spits into her napkin while complaining there are shells in it, before we realize the crunchy stuff is supposed to be in there: it’s freaking celery.
Even though we’ve been traveling with kids for five-and-a-half years now, sometimes I still shake my head, throw my hands up in the air, and wonder why we bother leaving the house. And sometimes, I do this out loud. What fun is it being out and about, stopping every ten seconds to redirect the girls to keep them from walking into a herd of people coming off an elevator, or to keep myself from tripping over them? Zipping up my bag and walking five steps before somebody Needs Something Now, that amazingly, I don’t have? Mediating arguments over where to eat, which chair who wants to – and doesn’t want to – sit in at a restaurant? Who’s hot. Who’s cold. Whose feet hurt because there are rocks in the water. Who’s itchy from the sand. (We’re at the BEACH, for goodness sake!)
Our only real moments of peace included shady spots overlooking the ocean, cool enough breezes to make us snuggle up together, and Del’s frozen lemonade. And you know what? That’s all we really needed to make the craziness worthwhile.
Beach days are a little different than they used to be, but at least we’re getting there. And somehow, when they come to an end, the mishaps become adventures in the safety and comfort of my memory, and I realize that it’s actually pretty cool we can take “day trips” like this with our kids at all. They’re five, I have to remind myself. They fight me on what to wear, and why I must apply their sunscreen AGAIN, and they squawk at and tell on each other all the way through, but they jump in the car and buckle up enthusiastically, ready to go and see and do anything. Considering I’m their mother, I’m surprised they can go with the flow at all. Even if the “flow” feels more like a roller-coaster ride.