Our Boys' First Beach Trip
Being parents with young children, New Year's Eve (and Christmas eve, too) isn't what we grew up with, or what we're used to.
Instead of midnight salubongs and Noche Buenas and Media Noches, we have typical 6-pm dinners and 8-pm bedtimes. Sleeping, rested babies are the priority. Parents of two are too tired to deal with cranky babies and tantrum-throwing toddlers.
So, last year, during a locked-down New Year's Eve, we spent the typically loud, noisy evening at home with an almost-two-year-old in bed. We weren't so happy though, because while we craved peace and quiet, the world was screaming and shouting, welcoming 2021. It was resolved then, on the first of January, 2021, that our little family would spend succeeding New Year Eves quietly elsewhere, away from torotots and fireworks.
So a few months later, we checked out AirBnb and found a simple beach accommodation in Batangas to host our little family. It was perfect, too, as the boys had never been to the beach! These poor pandemic babies!!!
We were so excited for the trip, especially for Inio! See, one of the best things about having kids is experiencing everything for the first time again. And what a way to experience the magic of the ocean -- through the eyes of our toddlers.
Like any other 2-year old, Inio has an obsession. Some are obsessed with dinosaurs, others with outer space, others yet with farm animals or My Little Pony. This toddler is part of the construction vehicles club! So preparing for this trip, we made sure to pack construction vehicles, perfect for the sand. His excavator and his digger proved to be his best buds during this trip. The moment we parked the car, Inio squealed with delight to see one huge sandbox right at his toes.
Nicollo and I loved watching Inio play, and how his play changed with the changed environment. At home, he would typically reach for the smaller toys and vehicles, a perfect fit for his small hands, and would watch the movement of the axes and wheels. In the beach, the priority of his play was transporting the sand from Point A to Point B, the bigger toys made better sense.
Our theories at home, explaining how the vehicles work and how they'd transport cargo all made sense to Inio at the beach. A EUREKA moment for him! What a learning experience. Then the play progressed, from transporting the sand, to building sand castles and structures with the sand.
Bianco was also fascinated with the feeling of the sand. He kept throwing the sand on top of his head, and enjoyed feeling the grains slipping through his shirt. Over, and over he did this, so much so that the sand stuck on his head became difficult to scrub off, come shower time. I then appreciated our "relaxed" parenting style -- just making sure that they are safe, but allowing them to be free and explore. Nicollo and I agreed to making our home a "yes space" to allow for creativity and freedom in our kids, as opposed to a "no space" -- NO! Don't touch that! Don't play with that! You shouldn't do that!
Exposing them, as early as possible to the textures of the (sometimes dirty) floor or of the rug beneath their bare feet and hands; the feeling of grass on their soft heels; their baby-soft hands on real food have made the kids welcome this brand new sensation, and allowed them to enjoy and explore this new environment with no qualms.
And, good news for these parents, the beach became "NATURE NANNY" -- we found ourselves just mostly watching them play and explore, without needing to police their moves. They were safe, and they were absolutely entranced with the sand and the water! Yes, yes yes, welcome rest for their tired parents! Hahaha
A boat ride and thoughts on growing up
It was also so fascinating to watch Inio overcome the fear of the unknown so quickly. On Day 2, we scheduled a boat ride to a nearby beach that offered better sand, and clearer water. We took most of Day 1 trying to excite him for the boat ride, so it wouldn't be difficult getting him to join us. NO! Was his usual answer to both Mom and Dad.
After breakfast on Day 2, we got the kids ready and loaded up the boat. Inio was hesitant, and was clearly afraid, but he went with the group anyway. His fear quickly changed to wonder, as the boat sped on over the shiny blue waters. We pointed out the wonderful underwater world -- inadequately explaining that the big rocks he saw underneath were actually corals, home to the beautiful fishes of the ocean. We talked about how the motor of the boat starts up the propellers underwater that push the boat forward. We made sure to talk him through the whole experience, so that even if he didn't understand it at that moment, he'd have real life experiences to take home and we'd be able to unpack it and connect the dots when we got to our encyclopedia at home.
We spent the rest of the morning in that nearby beach, with Inio completely amused by the sandbar, and the rising tide that quickly swallowed up the volcano he built, and Bianco who took to my breast and fell asleep, with my back against the hot sun.
Nicollo and I didn't get to enjoy the beach as we typically would growing up -- with that freedom to run out on our own and swim in the open waters, or that freedom to rent out a kayak or a surfboard and spend the whole afternoon for ourselves. This is growing up, I guess. Nicollo and I are almost thirty, but being just young parents, we still feel like we are just in the cusp of adulthood, with one foot at the door of adolescence, memories of it still so new and fresh, and the other foot entering a lifetime ahead of work, raising kids and bills. Adulthood seems less and less like a number that grows, and more and more like a shift of responsibilities -- from a self-focused, and just me mindset, to a family-focused, other-centric perspective. And this isn't just about how we enjoyed our holiday, it's our life now. It's washing a disgusting, shit-filled ass instead of finishing that Netflix episode. It's putting down your phone when your toddler calls for your attention. It's burning the midnight oil to finish that report instead of playing online chess. It's putting away what you've saved for the electricity bill instead of pining over a new computer. It's going to bed with your kids at 8PM on New Year's Eve instead of watching the fireworks at midnight. It's being stuck breastfeeding your baby to sleep on the beach instead of enjoying the water.
Only a fool would give up the comforts of single life for the responsibilities and hardships of family life. But the joy and fulfillment of raising kids and of independence? Deep and lasting. At the risk of sounding cheesy, for this deep and lasting joy, these fools in love carry on in washing asses and in burning the midnight oil for our two beloveds -- if only to watch them enjoy the beach for the first time again, and again, and again.