I Went to the Beach…Alone

Twenty something years ago, long before I had kids, and even before I got married, I remember my best friend at the time telling me she had gone to the beach one afternoon by herself. I stared at her—a mixture of being appalled that she had gone by herself and hurt that she hadn’t asked me to go with her.

“Why would you do that?” I asked, hoping she would tell me she didn’t know I was available to go along. Instead, she told me she went by herself because she didn’t want to be with anyone else that day—she just wanted quiet.

I spent the rest of that night completely miffed. To me, going to the beach solo was on par with going to the movies by yourself or going to a restaurant by yourself. Wasn’t she embarrassed that she was at the beach alone? Would she rather be at the beach alone than with me…her best friend???

If I’m honest, that lone beach trip was actually the beginning of our friendship unraveling. I was hurt and confused by her actions. But now, twenty-something years, two kids, and a husband later…well now, I get it.

Now I am the one who goes to the beach alone. I’m the one who doesn’t want anyone to accompany me. I’m the one who goes for the peace and quiet.

I went to the beach alone this week and it was glorious. I drove down the way I wanted to drive, no one making faces at my inability to set the cruise control, my terrible habit of changing lanes with impatience, and my speeds ranging from snail to The Fast and the Furious. No one to complain that my radio was blasting at a volume of 25 (Yup…it does go up that high). No one to mock my ridiculous posthumous crush on Kurt Cobain and my sudden fondness for flannel whenever Nirvana comes on the radio. No one to change the radio station when I put on the 60s station and sang off key. No one to roll their eyes when I have to stop to use the bathroom before I even get to the beach. No one to make me STOP to use the bathroom before I get to the beach because they can’t hold it. No one to throw up as we exit the Parkway (EVERY. DAMN. TIME.). There was no one to complain when I turned off the air conditioner and rolled down the windows so I could smell the salty air. There was no one to complain that I went to the beach without bathrooms, the beach that’s never crowded. And there wasn’t anyone to complain that the beach I picked was too crowded. Nobody ran off as I was trying to put sunblock on them either.

There was no one to tell me that 10:45 was too early to eat lunch (so I ate my sandwich because I wanted to) and no one to complain to me that they were hungry the whole damn time. There was no one rummaging through the bag for snacks, dropping my keys and phone in the sand. Nobody begged me to go in the rough water and get knocked down by waves. Nobody told me they had to go to the bathroom RIGHT NOW and refused to go in the ocean instead. Nobody got sand on my blanket or dripped water on my towel. No one begged me to make a sand castle and then lost interest. I sat there and read my book, took a nap, and stared at the waves on MY time.

It was absolute bliss—heaven on Earth. That is…until a family of five (with four kids under the age of ten) parked down next to me on the nearly deserted beach. They could have gone anywhere on the beach but no, they picked me to torture. The kids proceeded to do EVERY LAST THING my own kids did when they would come to the beach with me…including getting way too close to my blanket and kicking sand on it.

I shot daggers at the harried mother…couldn’t she see this was MY time that her kids were interrupting? Couldn’t she see I’ve done this before? The crying, the screaming, the begging…the miserable beach trips? Couldn’t she see those days were over for me and I had no desire to partake in her miserable beach day? I scooted my beach chair farther away from them.

Then I felt bad. It wasn’t this poor mother’s fault that kids are just miserable beach-fellows. I wanted to tell her it was going to be okay…I wanted to tell her that one day, she would be me…she would be by herself on the beach, enjoying the sun on her face and the blessed quiet. I mean…that is until someone else’s kids showed up. So I didn’t tell her anything. I just packed it in for the day and headed home. After all, if anyone’s kids are gonna drive me nuts, it might as well be my own.

Call Me Uber

The picture above could be a picture of me this summer. I feel like I haven’t gotten out of the car all summer; a permanent imprint matching my butt can be found on the driver’s seat. Uber is my new name. My husband’s too…we share this awesome moniker. At least that’s what my sixteen year-old son believes. Apparently his father and I are running a car service for him. For free.

I drop him off at the baseball camp that he’s helping out at the other morning and he frowns as he glances around the parking lot.

“I’m the first one here,” he tells me.

“There’s people here, ” I point out. There are girls on the soccer field and boys on the football field.

“Not for baseball camp though. I’m the first one for baseball camp.”

“Yeah, okay, that’s good, right?” I say, really confused. Usually he is rushing me out of the house because he’s paranoid about being late. Even though he’s never been late in his entire life. Okay, maybe once he was late when his sister threw herself on the floor and refused to move unless we gave her a cookie or something, but generally, he is never late.

“No. I don’t want to be this early.”

I look at the clock and see that it’s 8:15. He needs to be at the field by 8:30. He’s not ridiculously early. And I have a doctor’s appointment 20 miles away at 9:00. An appointment I may not make it to if I allow him to stay in the car for another minute. “Oh well. Sorry,” I said, practically shoving him out of the car. The coach is there and besides, he’s sixteen, not six. He has a cell phone and the campus is crawling with students from other camps and sports teams. He’s not getting abducted—he just has to spend 15 minutes alone…the horror.

He grudgingly gets out of the car, but not before mentioning for the bazillionth time that the camp is over at 2:00 and there’s no need to wait for him to call to say the camp is over and I should be there at 2:00 because he was the last one picked up yesterday. I grip the steering wheel because I’m contemplating “bumping” him with the car and that would be bad. Beyond Bad Mommy Diaries bad. I drive away muttering under my breath, cursing him and his ungrateful teenage ‘tude.

It absolutely amazes me that not only are we bending over backwards to get him to where he needs to go (and ON TIME), he’s got the nerve to tell us how were supposed to be doing it. Instead of thanking us, he’s critiquing us. I remember walking home from track practice in high school or walking to work…MANY TIMES. Not once would I have berated my parents for not giving me a ride if it wasn’t convenient. I would be missing teeth right now if I had complained.

But not my spoiled boy…he seems to think rides to wherever he wants to go is his God given right as our offspring. In fact, for someone with no license or car, he makes an awful lot of plans, plans he expects us to partake in. He doesn’t seem to get that there are 3 other people in the house—3 other people that often have to change their schedules or not go out in order to accommodate his schedule.

“I’m hanging out with my friends tonight,” he says to me in the car as I pick him up from his umpiring job later on. I glance at the dashboard clock. It’s after 8:00 in the evening.

“Um, you are, are you?” This doesn’t bode well for me. Not one of his friends live in walking distance. In fact, his circle of friends literally extends the entire width of our township. It takes a good hour to collect or drop off the entire lot of them anywhere. Not that that stops them from actually walking here there and everywhere once they’re together. In fact, once when he was at one friend’s house (who lives 3 miles away), they walked as far as the McDonald’s that is a half a mile from our house—and then turned back to walk to the friend’s house to ask me to come pick him up!

“Yeah, we’re gonna go to the fair,” he tells me. I groan. The fair is on the other side of the world. Or at least, the other side of the township.

“How are you getting there?” I ask with a sinking feeling that I already know the answer to this question. This is the fourth night he’s been to the fair—I’m pretty sure this is going to go down a lot like the other nights.

“Can you take us?”

I sigh. I have no desire to play chauffeur tonight. I’m tired and cranky and there’s a glass of sangria in the fridge screaming out my name. A glass that I will have to neglect if I’m the uber of the evening. I’ve juggled multiple schedules to get him everywhere he needs to go several times this week already. I’m going to follow Nancy Reagan’s advice and just say no, I decide. After all, who’s the parent?

“Nope,” I tell him with conviction that I don’t feel at all. I really have no reason to refuse to let him go other than the fact that I am feeling lazy and I would like to have an adult beverage. So yeah, worst bad mommy ever.

“What?!?!” he is appalled at my selfishness.

“No,” I repeat.

He then proceeds to confirm the fact that I am the worst mom ever by telling me so. I then tell him that he’s grounded and he can kiss my butt if he thinks I’m ever going to take him anywhere again. There are tears and threats and pissed off faces when we pull into the driveway.

“What’s his problem?” my twelve year old asks as her brother storms past her to throw himself down on his bed, face in his disgusting-probably-hasn’t-been-washed-since-I-stopped-doing-his-laundry-two-years-ago pillow. This is her signature sulking method and she wants to know if he’s justified in ripping off her practically trademarked move.

I explain to her that he expects me to be his servant and shuttle him all over God’s creation at the drop of the hat. I mutter that I am counting down the days till his seventeenth birthday (367…) My daughter shrugs as she watches me angrily pour my drink and then says, “Why don’t you just get him an uber?”

I stare at her for a second, considering her suggestion. She may actually be on to something. His birthday is coming up…does uber have gift cards?