Ah, summer is here. Long days sitting in the park watching the children play football, climb trees and making new friends, having picnics in the garden and lots of day trips to the seaside to eat ice-cream, paddle in the sea and endless sunglasses clad selfies to post on Facebook. Perfect!
Okay parents, time to get those rose tinted specs off.
Let’s start with those days in the garden. You finally get that longed for, first sunny weekend of the year and you think, “Yes! This is it! We will now be an outdoor family! The garden shall be an extension of our home. The children will pick flowers, have picnics and play nicely in the sandpit while I lay back on the sun lounger with a good book. We’ll be like the Walton’s (if they had lived in a semi in Kingston)”.
So the first sunny, Saturday morning arrives and you are rudely awoken by the children who are clamoring to get out of the back door at 6.30am, long before you have been to Waitrose to stock up on carrot sticks and hummus for your lovingly planned, wholesome picnic lunch.
At approximately 6.45am you discover that the local cats have been using the sandpit as a free for all litter box all winter, the children have woken up the neighbors by shrieking as if they are being murdered when they found the playhouse is full snails and the toddler is crying, covered head to toe in green slime because you abandoned the Little Tikes car on the patio since last November and the frogs claimed it as their home.
At 7am screams of “I hate you!” from the trampoline indicate that the children have no intention of sharing and you have that heart stopping moment of assessing if you need to take the youngest to A&E as the eldest has jumped on their arm with all the force of a Sumo wrestler.
At 8am you start to wonder if you should apply sunscreen. You whip yourself up onto a frenzy of worrying that your children will develop skin cancer at age 40, and decide to slap it on. Cue more screaming from all the children and sticky hands for you and you end up getting more sunscreen in their eyes and hair than on any actual skin.
At this point, you pray for rain until you realise they are more of a pain indoors.
This is when plan B is called for – a trip to the seaside. “Yes!” you think, “we’ll go to the beach! We’ll be one of those adventurous families and I will put it all on Instagram! The children can paddle in the sea, build sandcastles, run down the dunes and have an amazing picnic, while I lay on a towel with a good book”.
After packing up the car more clothes, towels, toys and snacks than you would take on a week-long holiday to Spain, you set off. Ever taken a car ride on a hot day with children? It’s exactly what driving through the gates of hell would be like. The arguments about who is sitting where, who has the iPad, who has the snacks begin before you even leave the driveway. The age old chorus of “are we there yet?” is far outdated for today’s tech savvy children and has been replaced by the eldest giving you stern instructions on how avoid traffic on the A30 as he follows your progress on his iPhone.
Things slightly improve for about twenty minuets when you actually reach the seaside, as the children are giddy with excitement when they see the ice-cream vans and get settled in to building a sandcastle. Finally, a few minuets peace (after once again torturing your children with the sunscreen) as you unfurl your towel and get out that book you have been waiting to read since last Christmas!
Just as you finish the first page and finally start to relax, the chaos begins. Your eldest has paddled in the sea and got some seaweed on his foot. This is the Worst. Thing. Ever. All the other families look as he has a complete meltdown, shrieking as you remove the offending article from between his toes. Then your middle child starts to cry that the sea is too cold and demands that you make it warm. As you are gently reminding your offspring that you are not the Master of the Universe, the toddler gets knocked over by a small wave and an earsplitting tantrum ensues because Mummy can’t make the sea stay still.
What always saves the day with children? Food! Yes, the picnic! You drag your miserable children back to your spot on the beach and unpack the picnic. Exhausted by their own tantrums, the children start to tuck into their sandwiches. All is well until the gentle breeze starts to blow stand to stick on the Dairylea. Ah, now you remember why picnics on the beach are a terrible idea. As sandwiches get thrown on the towel in order to take a sip of juice, the sand just keeps coming and the children are not happy, Shrieks of “YUK” fill the air and food is flung in all directions as the seagulls start to swoop. Terrified children start to flap just as much as the birds and as the rest of the picnic is trampled beneath their tiny flip flops you remember why beaches and children do not a relaxing day make.
A trip to the seaside is also the trip that keeps on giving: you will still be finding sand in the house and car come October.
Don’t worry though. Only a few more months of this until we are back in glorious winter.