I’ve been in recovery this week. From a vacation. With toddlers.
Ok, all you young moms are laughing at me because you know exactly what I’m talking about. A vacation with toddlers is not really a vacation. It’s just a change of scenery. If anything it’s actually a little harder than being at home because a toddler out of his routine becomes….a tyrant. I spent a week at the beach near Charleston with my daughter and two grandboys, ages 3 1/2 and 15 months, and lived to tell about it. I feel like I need a t-shirt.
I should stop here and say we had a blast! My daughter had planned everything that could delight a little one. We started the trip in the city with lunch by the water, followed by a carriage ride through historic Charleston, ending the day by letting them frolic in the fountain at Waterfront Park. Our first lesson learned was that these two boys and restaurants just don’t play well together. (This did not stop us from trying several more times during the week. It never improved. Maybe next year?) They loved the horses….actually they were mules, but that’s a minor detail…..for about 5 minutes. The rest of the HOUR was spent trying to keep the little one from jumping out of the carriage, and from touching his brother, who feels violently offended when his sibling invades his space. I felt very sorry for all the paying customers who thought they might actually learn something from our guide. I averted my eyes as I tipped him generously for tolerating the spectacle that was our little army.
Of course part of the problem was the heat. Charleston in August is like the breath of Satan, about 185 degrees and stinky. Manhandling two wiggly little boys leaves everyone dripping, wringing wet sweaty, and faint. Yes, we had a double-stroller (akin to steering a tank), but only the baby would ride. DO NOT, under any circumstances, try to force a three year old to get in a stroller. Oh no, he wants to stagger every blistering step. The fountain was a welcome relief…until the bloody incident. I had managed to find a shady spot to sit and watch the boys splashing in the water. Suddenly my daughter was in front of me with Owen, the baby, gushing blood from his mouth after face-planting on the pavement. SO. MUCH. BLOOD. Ashlee was covered, Owen was covered, and it was dripping everywhere. It was hard to tell exactly where it was coming from. But after mopping him up with a beach towel and making as thorough inspection as he would allow, we decided it was not life-threatening. And though Owen was quickly ready to frolic some more, Ashlee and I were DONE. Time to check into our condo, put these boys to bed, and pour ourselves an adult beverage.
Our condo in Wild Dines on the Isle of Palms was perfect for our needs. Roomy, with a great view of the beach, and a pool just steps away. (We decided to overlook the fruit flies that seemed to be everywhere.) Ashlee had arranged for an umbrella and beach chairs. We had every sand toy ever made. We were set. But you forget the ordeal it is to get two little ones prepared for the beach every morning. First of all, there is NO sleeping in. Vacation be damned, these boys are up at 6AM. So by the time we’ve fed them, chugged our coffee, got everyone in a swimsuit, covered them with sunscreen (God bless the inventor of spray-on sunscreen!) and wrangled them into their life-jacket thingies, it’s almost nap time for me, I mean them. And though our beach was gorgeous, it was veeerrryyy wide, like 3 miles, to the water. And the baby thought it was his responsibility to pull the wagon full of gear. Needless to say, I was so looking forward to getting in my beach chair.
But wait, silly me, there would be NO sitting in beach chairs. You do not relax in a chair with two toddlers at the beach. You chase. Or sit in the sand. Or hold one in the surf. (And you try to control that overwhelming fear that someone will get washed away!) Those two beach chairs were a complete waste of money, accept for the fact they kept our towels off the sand. That was the only thing not sandy because with toddlers there is a LOT of sand contact…..on them, on you, in all the places under your bathing suit that you absolutely don’t want sand. It’s been a few years since I’ve enjoyed that particular beach pleasure of sitting at the edge of the water while the entire Atlantic Ocean washes through my swimsuit bottoms. Have I mentioned how much I longed to sit in my chair…..
We found that the pool was slightly easier to manage. And Caiden was happier jumping in and out, in and out, in and out. Still no chair sitting for NeaNea, but the sand situation was a little better. That first day I kept thinking what bliss it would be when we all went in, cleaned up, and took a nap. Alas, as I mentioned earlier, with everyone out of their routine these two boys just couldn’t get on the same nap schedule. By the end of the week I would have payed good money to go off to someone else’s quiet condo and take a nap.
We spent another day in Charleston visiting the South Carolina Aquarium, a wonderful place to take the littles. We started with a water taxi ride across the bay, with a fabulous view of the Ravenal Bridge and the USS Yorktown battleship. This after breaking for donuts at Fractured Prune in Mt. Pleasant. (Oh yeah, starting the day sticky was a great idea.) The museum kept our boys happy for almost 3 hours! Lots of interactive exhibits, and fabulous LEGO sculptures of sea life. We ended the outing in a restaurant on Shem’s Creek where our tired soldiers proved once again that they are not yet ready for fine dining, or even not-so-fine dining. And then as we were driving back to the “water house” we were caught in a ferocious thunderstorm that brought limbs down everywhere and left our beach a disaster area of broken umbrellas and tumbled chairs. But….there was a lovely silver lining.
The “muddy puddles” left behind on the beach between us and the surf were a Godsend. The boys loved the huge shallow pools of water, full of shells of all kinds. Our sweet monsters ran and splashed and plopped down in them with their buckets. We spent hours collecting shells, many beautiful, perfectly intact varieties, and also many handfuls of shell crumbs, so to speak, scooped up by small grubby hands. What pure joy to see a grandchild discover nature’s magic.
I am so proud of my daughter. She’s a single mom raising two extremely energetic little boys. She is not daunted by the challenge. Ashlee wants her boys to experience all the childhood adventures she can dream up. She is patient, gentle, yet firm when necessary. She lets these boys be boys….within limits. When I’m exhausted and ready to use a little old-school swat on the backside, she steps in with new-school words to diffuse the situation. Her little troop adores her. And I am humbled by the circle of life that allows me to see all this play out. (Thank you, thank you, thank you my heavenly father!)
Grandpa Billy showed up on Friday to spend the last couple of days with us, and what a relief to have another set of hands to manage the little rascals. By then the boys were getting tired of us girls, too, so they were thrilled to have a different playmate. His first comment when he came through the door was something along the line of “Did you leave the doors open during the storm and the wind blew through?” Ok, yes, our condo was a bit messy with toys and towels and swimsuits and water bottles and snacks and shoes and shells and sand and fruit flies. But, after all GB, we were on vacation.