Daddy Talk: Beach Week
Even though September still feels every bit like summer in Mississippi, over a month has passed since my family took our end-of-the-summer beach trip. As I reflect on that trip now in the midst of September busy-ness, I’m struck by the “I don’t care” attitude that captured me for most of that week.
When we planned our trip to the Gulf Coast for the final week of July, we didn’t realize that 80% of Mississippians would have the exact same idea. On the Saturday of our departure, I left the Jackson area south on Highway 49, merged into traffic, and stayed in traffic until I got to the beach.
Simply resigning myself to the idea that I would not be “making good time” on this drive made my mood much more satisfactory. If a kid had to stop to go to the bathroom—which happened by the time we had been driving for 30 minutes—I didn’t complain. I figured that we weren’t moving that much on the highway anyway. So we took our time, made casual stops, and purchased a surprising array of souvenirs along the journey. For example, we went into one gas station for a quick restroom break and came out with four bags full of Chester’s chicken. And it wasn’t even meal time. Our van smelled like a frat party for the rest of the drive. But I didn’t care. We were driving to the beach.
We also tried a new experiment where we let our kids buy whatever they wanted at gas stations. It’s just that they had to use their own money. When they get a wallet in their hands, it’s as if the money MUST be used. Right now. Even though we had a huge bag of snacks from home—chips, suckers, granola bars—they preferred to spend $3.99 of their hard-earned allowance on some neon colored, super sour flavored sucker. I just let them do it.
My laissez-faire mood continued when we reached the beach. Upon checking into the hotel, we learned that our room was on the first floor, with the back balcony exactly at the swimming pool. We were a little bit annoyed at this because the kids like to be on a “high floor.” Plus, I feared that all the noise from the pool would be a constant interruption in our room. But, in the end, we said, “What the heck. We’re at the beach.”
And it turns out that this was precisely the attitude we needed because we quickly learned that since our kids are older now and are capable swimmers, we did not have to stay right by their side during every moment of this trip. In fact, that first floor room meant that I didn’t actually have to go down to the pool to “watch” my kids. I sent them down by themselves and then took a mug of coffee out on the balcony to observe. There were a few times when they needed correcting, and I didn’t mind shouting at them over the balcony railing. Had I wanted to, I could have resurrected my mother’s old trick of vacationing at the beach without ever going to the beach. I could have just stayed on the balcony.
But, obviously, my kids did want to go down to the beach, and I wasn’t quite permissive enough to let them into that water without closer supervision. This was particularly true because it was hard to see things in the water that week. In addition to it being “Mississippi week” at the Gulf, it was also “seaweed week.” After spending ten minutes in the water, I returned to shore with enough seaweed in my pockets to make a dozen sushi rolls.
My wife refused to get into the water with all that plant life lurking about. I thought that was a pretty closeminded viewpoint since, after all, we were at the beach. But after about five large fish rammed into my chest, evidently attracted by all the plant life, I too exited the water. The “come what may attitude” can only go so far.