A Beach Guide for the Pale Family

Pasty people visiting the Florida panhandle is a recipe for a roasted epidermis. My pale family burns when we cross the state line. So why do we go? We want to swim in the ocean, play on the beach, and sleep in sand-filled hotel beds like any other family. We wanna make memories by dressing in all white for family photos so we look like creepy cult members.

If pale families are gonna survive the burning ball of light in the sky, we need a strategy or we’re gonna char like chicken on a kabob. Here are a few tips for your peaked pigmentation:

  1. Being a pale family at the beach means starting the day at sunrise to avoid the strongest UV rays. Of course, you should probably begin sunscreen application with small children before dawn. I suggest drinking a few sips of coffee before chasing your greased three-year-old around the hotel room. Go ahead and count this as cardiovascular exercise.
  2. Ideal beach time is between dawn and 9 a.m. The rest of the day I suggest watching Lego Batman in the hotel room and jumping on the beds until someone calls the front desk to complain. If there is an overcast, go to the beach; otherwise, take a trip to the grocery and do not return to beach until the sun sets.
  3. The perfect activity for pale families is crab hunting at night. You will find us walking at dusk in small groups with flashlights. What do we plan to do with caught crabs? Your guess is as good as mine.
  4. A healthy balance of time for a pale family is to spend 20% discussing dinner plans, 20% regretting not getting takeout, 20% at the beach, and 40% applying sunscreen.

Let’s be honest. Pale families belong in the mountains under a thick canopy of trees where risk of sunburn is minimal. We will never be the family on the beach basking in the blistering sun with their head tilted back as if they are having a spiritual experience. Sure, we enjoy looking at the beautiful ocean and building sandcastles but we get along with the sun like gummy worms left in a hot car.

FAQ: How To Survive A Three-year-old

“This is the best age,” said an elderly woman at the park, smiling at my three-year-old son. I exchanged a polite smile. But what I really wanted to say is “Are you kidding me? This creature is a monster.”

When my son turned three, bad behavior escalated to a miserable level. I was caught off guard because I bought into the myth of the “terrible twos” and thought I was doing well enduring toddlerhood until BAM! my son turned three and things got real. I found myself missing my tantrum-throwing two-year-old who was mostly cute and a source of laughter. I was stuck with a threenager (now I fully understand why this term is used) and wished to thump on the forehead those who claimed two was the the worst age. They were full of it.

If you are like me, you will need help surviving this trying age. So, I’ve collected frequently-asked-questions and done my best to answer them as truthfully as possible. I hope they prove helpful. Remember, it’s not too late to consider adoption.

Q:  Why are three-year-olds so awful?

A:  Why is the grass green? The sky blue? I don’t know. I’m sure a children’s psychologist could offer an answer to why Mother Nature requires this developmental stage but all I can do is open your eyes to the fresh hell you are entering. Prepare yourself for chaos. A few weeks ago, I sat on my comfy couch reading the New York Times, sipping fresh coffee, engrossed in a story. In the middle of the article, a thirty-five pound force busted through the paper like a high school football player running through a banner. I jumped out of my skin. Coffee spilled on my lap. I uttered a unmentionable word. And you know what the lil’ jerk did. Laughed. He laughed at my scalded crotch. Despite my best efforts to deter this behavior, the kid does it to me every Sunday morning and laughs in my face. I don’t drink coffee while reading the newspaper anymore.

Q:  What motivates the three-year-old?

A:  A three-year-old has one goal: the decimation of your psychological well being. They are experts at pushing your limits until your mental health dangles by a thread and then, sensing weakness, press harder. In their gleeful eyes, you can see their calculations to undo you.

I typed on my laptop at the kitchen table. My son leaned against my shoulder trying different tactics to divert my attention. Banging on keyboard. Yelling. Sticking fingers in my mouth. When his efforts failed he dug in his nose and wiped the largest booger/snot rocket combo to come out of a little person’s nose across my computer screen. I looked at him startled. “How about that?” he said, giggling, proud of his handwork. The snot ran down the screen and forced me to stop and clean it. Did he get my attention? Yes, he did.

Q:  How bad can it get?

A:  The month my son turned three his ability to listen shut off and his goal to undermine my sanity rose to the top of his toddler bucket list, right above visiting LegoLand. Damn kid doesn’t hear a word coming out of my mouth unless it involves gummi worms, monster trucks, or watching Paw Patrol. Typical toddler behaviors like screaming, kicking, and throwing escalate but I believe the psychological warfare waged by three-year-olds is an act of evil.

The most effective tactic of the three-year-old is taking a simple activity/interaction and making it as difficult as possible. For instance, exiting the car so we don’t miss our doctor’s appointment turns into a ten minute negotiation/wrestling match. Here is my son’s latest trick:  he will beg forever to do something like go outside or to the playground and as soon as I give in and fully prepare us for agreed upon activity he will reverse his decision, refusing to participate. It sounds benign, but when a child does it 300 hundred times a day it qualifies as torture.

Q:  What to do if you snap?

A:  Throw them in the woods.

Q:  Is it possible to survive them?

A:  Yes. It is possible but you will need to learn coping skills. Here are a few of mine:  king size Kit-Kats, Cokes, Cajun Filet Chicken Biscuits, and potato wedges from the grocery deli.

This age sucks. But I’m trying to keep in mind it is a phase like all other phases of a child’s development. It shall pass. Maybe not as soon as I would like but it will pass. It always does. A veteran parent once told me, “if he is still acting like this when he is sixteen let me know and we’ll take him to a psychologist, otherwise just let it be.”

So, my only advice is laugh when you get the chance. Take breaks. Laugh at the absurdity of it all. Take more breaks. Laugh so you don’t toss your child in the woods.

Thanks For The Unsolicited Parenting Advice, Seriously

Thank you for the advice. You have obviously picked me out as a parent in need of caregiving tips. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy, demanding cashier job to offer me parenting wisdom. I know you didn’t have to do this. I expected to pass unnoticed throughout the 15 items or less line but you took the time to inquire about my parenting abilities. Thank you.

Your questioning moved beyond the surface level, beyond “how are you today” and “how old is he” to real talk. I knew from the look in your eye I was going to get more from you than I asked for. You are clearly a generous person.

“Here is my best advice for you,” you said, unprompted. Somehow you knew I was looking for a wise soul to drop parenting insights on me. My lucky day. There are so few people willing to speak to complete strangers about childrearing practices. But you stepped up to the plate. And you delivered. You payed it forward.

I was distracted trying to keep my two-year-old son from doing a nosedive from the shopping cart, while flipping through my keyring for my Kroger card, but you intuited what I needed, advice on swim lessons. “Start them early,” you said, “get them in the water now so they will not be scared later.” You proceeded to go on a lengthy lecture, including your experience in the water with children. It was TED Talk caliber. I kept waiting for a screen to drop from the ceiling and an elaborate slide presentation. You were that convincing.

Despite the fact my child already attended multiple swim lessons last summer, I did not interrupt you because you were so eloquent. Perhaps, insightful is a better word. You dug deep into your mastery and helped me to better understand the psychology of small children and swimming pools. Your analysis of the relationship between toddlers and water explained things in a way that, finally, made sense. Again, thank you.

I should note that I couldn’t help but notice the antsy customers lining up behind me as you shared your wisdom. Yet, you put them aside and focused on what really mattered: giving swimming advice to a parent who already suffered through a water gurgling nightmare at the local YMCA. Despite the people behind me fidgeting and clearing their throats, you maintained eye contact. YOU put your job on the line to help a parent. Where are all the wise elders like you in the world? The committed souls who choose to step forward and give unsolicited parenting advice in difficult circumstances. We need more people like you.

When I got home I shared our exchange with my wife at the dinner table. She too gained from your knowledge. She too realized your genius. We are now considering switching grocery stores. Once again, thank you.

Here Is What This Dad Learned Marching with His Son Last Saturday

Last Saturday, resisting the urge to remain in my warm bed, I attended the Women’s March in Nashville. Along with my wife, toddler, and mother-in-law, I gathered with thousands of Nashvillians marching through the streets, waving signs, chanting, cheering. I marched not because I am a model citizen; rather, a tiny voice inside me said either get your ass out of bed or stop complaining about the election results.

Initially, I felt uncomfortable in the the large, diverse crowd (an introvert’s nightmare) but the vibrating energy was contagious and reminded me why I was there in the first place–my son. I want him to learn to appreciate women and treat them as equals. I want him to witness strong, committed women in action. I want him to do a better job of treating women with respect than I did as a boy.

Marching through the streets not only felt good it also opened my eyes. Here is what this daddy learned at the Women’s March:

We need to trust women. I know this is not an earth shattering insight, but we really suck at it, especially when it comes to decisions related to a woman’s body. Reproductive issues are complicated and involve varied circumstances, so let’s not pretend we know what is best for a woman in every situation. We live in a nation that prides itself on giving people choices; therefore, I don’t understand why we have such a hard time allowing women to decide what is in their best interests regarding health care. At the end of the day, women deserve the right to make the final decision about what will be done or not done to their body. It’s THEIR body. So, back off and let their conscience guide them.

Our children deserve better. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or Independent or apolitical, I hope we can agree the lack of decency this past year was disturbing. I’m bothered by the barrage of name calling, mocking, shaming, and bullying our kids witnessed from adults. Our sense of decency swirled down the toilet bowl. Now, parents are navigating through a hostile climate where hate groups feel comfortable crawling out of their dark corners, spewing their warped ideology. It would be foolish to pretend our children do not hear them. If we don’t reject hateful behavior, then what does that say about us as parents?

We need each other. The Women’s March reminded me how much parents need each other to get through the next four years. It will be so easy to wallow in cynicism, isolate ourselves, and quit caring about what our children are absorbing. But if we make an effort to stay connected we can lean on one another and share our collective energy to keep spirits high. Resisting the hatred, bigotry, and ignorance is going to require a community of like-minded people who share the burden. If I don’t find it, I will buckle under my despair. I’m reaching out. Are you with me?

Oh, on a lighter note, below is my favorite sign from Saturday’s march.