Things I learned on my trip to the beach with my three kids:
1. Old school is best. We have been blessed with a DVD player in our car. On previous trips, we have turned on the movie of choice before we even made it out of the driveway. This time, I decided to wait until it was requested. Guess what? They never asked for it. Shocking, really. This may stem from the fact that the kids had just finished up a week's worth of grounding which included no "screens" (television, computers, wii, psp, etc.) But I think it really was the result of letting the kids pick out a coloring book and markers of choice as well as pack hefty amounts of books. They were focused on the books the entire way. Not one squabble, not one screeching, not one issue. Clearly, old school is the way.
2. Once they have completed a "job," learned to behave in a positive way, that should be the only expectation. The kids made a 4 hour journey and the atmosphere was calm, peaceful, delightful. Though the bar has been set high, they will be expected to achieve it each and every time. It is like once your child dresses himself, he has mastered that skill. The expectation is that he will now do this every morning. And, really, if you begin to help him again, then you are not allowing him to become independent in an area that he has already mastered. Now, I know that failure is going to happen, and it will be forgiven, but this is an example of the kind of behavior that I will point to when the going gets rough.
3. It really, really bothers Ethan when Sadie disobeys me. I haven't seen this as clearly as I did this morning at breakfast. Sadie could not leave her silverware alone. First, clinking it against her glass, then beating it loudly on the table, then slightly tapping it on the table, then using them to scrape along the placemats. Each time, I asked that she stop what she was doing and then she would find a way around what I had just requested. It really bothered Ethan and he finally told her so. "Sadie, you are really being disobedient to Mommy and you need to stop." I solved the entire issue by taking her utensils until breakfast arrived.
4. Ethan is keenly aware of what I might do to embarrass him. Alert at all times. Ready to rebuff my advances of a kiss or hug. Always ready to preempt a comment he thinks I am going to make in public with a verbal warning made by him. "Mom, don't think about bringing up..."
5. My children are much more persnickety about the temperature of a body of water than either my sister or me were when we were their age. My family religiously traveled to the beach every Easter. I remember always swimming in the outdoor pool in April, no matter the weather. Purple lip-inducing water was the norm. Yet, my kids complain about the indoor pool water, remaining only in the small hot tub generally reserved for adults.
6. Sadie is my evangelist. She was expounding on the gospel in a very simple, loving way to an Indian girl in the pool. She wasn't forceful, she wasn't ugly, she wasn't condemning. She just asked some questions and then said, "You should think about Jesus. He is real and the bible is real." The girl told her she believed in something else (a king that is their god? or something like that). And Sadie said, "Ok, but think about it. " Later while we were eating breakfast, this same family came into the restaurant and were seated at a table next to us. Sadie broke out in an impromptu prayer.
Note: As the days passed by at the beach, you can tell my tone in this post changes from sweet and peaceful to slightly aggravated and irritated.
7. Hooters t-shirts on men. Ridiculous. I have never been a fan of this establishment. The premise of this restaurant is appalling and for men to tell me they, "go there for the food," begs me to ask them this question, "Do I look like a fool to you?" The particular t-shirt in question said, "Hooter Girls Love Me." Of course they do, you ding dong, they are paid to do that and their tips depend on their ability to lavish this fake attention on you! Why would you a) advertise you have been there and b) show how gullible you are?
8. No matter what system is established, arguments will always abound on who's turn it is to press the elevator buttons or open the hotel room with the room card. I am too old to remember who did it last, too old to referee and too old to care. Trust me, we had several systems to keep this straight. All failed. The only one that worked is when I didn't allow anyone to do it except me.
9. Lily has learned that if she wants to get my attention right away, she must firmly plant her lips on mine for a kiss. It doesn't matter if I am talking to a waitress, my high school friend we met on the way home from the beach, or trying to eat my own food. She will try to force my face in her direction, kiss me (even if slightly more on the cheek) and then say, "Mommy, I need you." It doesn't matter if it is an emergency or if it is just to tell me that her food is good. She has clearly lost the art of patience. And, though it seems really cute at first, after about the 50th time, it gets old. The kisses are not from the heart and she could just be hitting me in the arm to get my attention. It is just mechanical.
10. A trip with your kids is just what you need to remind you how blessed you are. Blessed to have them and blessed that they go to school for several hours each day to give you some "alone" time. Seriously, you often lose sight of how much they are growing and changing during the daily grind. It is when you take these journeys absent of breaks that you see just how quickly time is passing and how the days of these trips are numbered.