The plan, or rather my plan, was simple. Drive around till our son falls asleep. Then, park by the beach and enjoy some quiet time while he naps his usual two hours. After the nap, walk to the beach, spend time there and head back for dinner.
It seemed like it could work. But it did not.
First, my husband parked at the wrong location. It was not a bad spot for a nap, but it was not what I had in mind. We were in a parking lot, the ocean was far away, and there was no view. Then a dog came by that would not stop barking. We were only 45 minutes into the nap. But the dog did not care — it barked and barked and barked. Our son woke up cranky. And our (my) plan drowned at sea.
We left the beach and went to a neighborhood park. I did not want him to experience the sand, the salty, grimy air, and the cold, aggressive waters in a cranky mood. It was not his first time at a beach. But it was his first time in a long enough time that I wanted the experience to be a special one. I wanted him to love the beach.
We were on vacation in a coastal town. We were there to relax and refresh our tired selves. We were in the middle of a pandemic and had spent precious hours planning the trip. We had made lists of places to visit and things to do while accommodating nap times and mealtimes. We had packed more than usual. We had taken our InstantPot and a section of our pantry. All this so we could remain safe, socially distant, and still have a good time.
In a town with gorgeous beaches, a historic downtown, scenic hikes, and coastal drives, we were at an obscure neighborhood park, not very different from the parks in our neighborhood back home.
I could feel the thoughts rising.
Maybe if you had parked in a better spot…
Maybe if you had helped with the plan…
It’s not that I wanted to be at a beach.
But I wanted to be someplace that screamed ‘vacation’ — someplace that was not routine, someplace that was not an ordinary park.
We could have picked one of the spots on our list. We did not have to go to a park. I wonder why we did. Maybe we thought that the familiarity of a park would soothe whatever discomfort he felt from waking up in a car seat to the sound of a barking dog. Maybe we knew that our son would enjoy this better than our grand plans.
Despite everything, we were having a good time.
A two-year-old’s laughter is infectious. It will draw you in, forcing you to leave your troubles aside, forcing you to participate, forcing you to enjoy yourself. We laughed, jumped, and played. My husband and I were both with him, present, sans headphones, sans one eye on the clock. And wasn’t that the purpose of the trip? Wasn’t that all we wanted to do?
In my attempt to make the vacation “successful” I had, for a moment there, forgotten why we had taken a vacation in the first place. All we wanted was to be outside the walls of our home. We wanted to be together without worrying or being interrupted by work and meetings. We wanted to watch our son take in new sights and scenes. We wanted to take it easy and to have a good time. Even though our day did not go as planned, we were doing all that we had set out to do.
We did stop at a beach later that evening. Our moods had softened by then. In the orange glow of the setting sun, the sand felt like a cushion, the water was calming, and the beach felt like a warm embrace.
We did not spend as much time as I had hoped. But we could try again. Maybe next time we will spend as much time as planned. Maybe next time we will have a better plan. Maybe next time, the three of us will nap at home before heading out to the beach.