A Beach Guide for the Pale Family

Pasty people visiting the Florida panhandle is a recipe for a roasted epidermis. My pale family burns when we cross the state line. So why do we go? We want to swim in the ocean, play on the beach, and sleep in sand-filled hotel beds like any other family. We wanna make memories by dressing in all white for family photos so we look like creepy cult members.

If pale families are gonna survive the burning ball of light in the sky, we need a strategy or we’re gonna char like chicken on a kabob. Here are a few tips for your peaked pigmentation:

  1. Being a pale family at the beach means starting the day at sunrise to avoid the strongest UV rays. Of course, you should probably begin sunscreen application with small children before dawn. I suggest drinking a few sips of coffee before chasing your greased three-year-old around the hotel room. Go ahead and count this as cardiovascular exercise.
  2. Ideal beach time is between dawn and 9 a.m. The rest of the day I suggest watching Lego Batman in the hotel room and jumping on the beds until someone calls the front desk to complain. If there is an overcast, go to the beach; otherwise, take a trip to the grocery and do not return to beach until the sun sets.
  3. The perfect activity for pale families is crab hunting at night. You will find us walking at dusk in small groups with flashlights. What do we plan to do with caught crabs? Your guess is as good as mine.
  4. A healthy balance of time for a pale family is to spend 20% discussing dinner plans, 20% regretting not getting takeout, 20% at the beach, and 40% applying sunscreen.

Let’s be honest. Pale families belong in the mountains under a thick canopy of trees where risk of sunburn is minimal. We will never be the family on the beach basking in the blistering sun with their head tilted back as if they are having a spiritual experience. Sure, we enjoy looking at the beautiful ocean and building sandcastles but we get along with the sun like gummy worms left in a hot car.

Thanks For The Unsolicited Parenting Advice, Seriously

Thank you for the advice. You have obviously picked me out as a parent in need of caregiving tips. I appreciate you taking the time out of your busy, demanding cashier job to offer me parenting wisdom. I know you didn’t have to do this. I expected to pass unnoticed throughout the 15 items or less line but you took the time to inquire about my parenting abilities. Thank you.

Your questioning moved beyond the surface level, beyond “how are you today” and “how old is he” to real talk. I knew from the look in your eye I was going to get more from you than I asked for. You are clearly a generous person.

“Here is my best advice for you,” you said, unprompted. Somehow you knew I was looking for a wise soul to drop parenting insights on me. My lucky day. There are so few people willing to speak to complete strangers about childrearing practices. But you stepped up to the plate. And you delivered. You payed it forward.

I was distracted trying to keep my two-year-old son from doing a nosedive from the shopping cart, while flipping through my keyring for my Kroger card, but you intuited what I needed, advice on swim lessons. “Start them early,” you said, “get them in the water now so they will not be scared later.” You proceeded to go on a lengthy lecture, including your experience in the water with children. It was TED Talk caliber. I kept waiting for a screen to drop from the ceiling and an elaborate slide presentation. You were that convincing.

Despite the fact my child already attended multiple swim lessons last summer, I did not interrupt you because you were so eloquent. Perhaps, insightful is a better word. You dug deep into your mastery and helped me to better understand the psychology of small children and swimming pools. Your analysis of the relationship between toddlers and water explained things in a way that, finally, made sense. Again, thank you.

I should note that I couldn’t help but notice the antsy customers lining up behind me as you shared your wisdom. Yet, you put them aside and focused on what really mattered: giving swimming advice to a parent who already suffered through a water gurgling nightmare at the local YMCA. Despite the people behind me fidgeting and clearing their throats, you maintained eye contact. YOU put your job on the line to help a parent. Where are all the wise elders like you in the world? The committed souls who choose to step forward and give unsolicited parenting advice in difficult circumstances. We need more people like you.

When I got home I shared our exchange with my wife at the dinner table. She too gained from your knowledge. She too realized your genius. We are now considering switching grocery stores. Once again, thank you.

Here Is What This Dad Learned Marching with His Son Last Saturday

Last Saturday, resisting the urge to remain in my warm bed, I attended the Women’s March in Nashville. Along with my wife, toddler, and mother-in-law, I gathered with thousands of Nashvillians marching through the streets, waving signs, chanting, cheering. I marched not because I am a model citizen; rather, a tiny voice inside me said either get your ass out of bed or stop complaining about the election results.

Initially, I felt uncomfortable in the the large, diverse crowd (an introvert’s nightmare) but the vibrating energy was contagious and reminded me why I was there in the first place–my son. I want him to learn to appreciate women and treat them as equals. I want him to witness strong, committed women in action. I want him to do a better job of treating women with respect than I did as a boy.

Marching through the streets not only felt good it also opened my eyes. Here is what this daddy learned at the Women’s March:

We need to trust women. I know this is not an earth shattering insight, but we really suck at it, especially when it comes to decisions related to a woman’s body. Reproductive issues are complicated and involve varied circumstances, so let’s not pretend we know what is best for a woman in every situation. We live in a nation that prides itself on giving people choices; therefore, I don’t understand why we have such a hard time allowing women to decide what is in their best interests regarding health care. At the end of the day, women deserve the right to make the final decision about what will be done or not done to their body. It’s THEIR body. So, back off and let their conscience guide them.

Our children deserve better. Whether you are a Democrat or Republican or Independent or apolitical, I hope we can agree the lack of decency this past year was disturbing. I’m bothered by the barrage of name calling, mocking, shaming, and bullying our kids witnessed from adults. Our sense of decency swirled down the toilet bowl. Now, parents are navigating through a hostile climate where hate groups feel comfortable crawling out of their dark corners, spewing their warped ideology. It would be foolish to pretend our children do not hear them. If we don’t reject hateful behavior, then what does that say about us as parents?

We need each other. The Women’s March reminded me how much parents need each other to get through the next four years. It will be so easy to wallow in cynicism, isolate ourselves, and quit caring about what our children are absorbing. But if we make an effort to stay connected we can lean on one another and share our collective energy to keep spirits high. Resisting the hatred, bigotry, and ignorance is going to require a community of like-minded people who share the burden. If I don’t find it, I will buckle under my despair. I’m reaching out. Are you with me?

Oh, on a lighter note, below is my favorite sign from Saturday’s march.

What I Need To Say To My Dog Following The Birth Of My Son

People often talk about second children receiving less attention than first children, but in my family our first child is more neglected than our second. Our first child, a fluffy thirty-pound Sheltie mix, arrived in our home five years ago. She became our precious pup and was treated like canine royalty. We bought her premium bones, organic treats, and chewable toothbrushes. We took her to the dog park several times a week. She went on doggie playdates and attended doggy easter egg hunts. (I’m fully aware of how crazy that last one sounds.)

Our spoiled pooch slept in our bed, laid with us on the couch, and received endless belly rubs. But then life changed. A whopping ten pound baby boy entered our lives and our first child was bumped off her throne. Now, the treats are limited, dog park trips rare, and belly rubs have decreased. Our family dog went from the center of our world to the periphery. It’s not that we love her any less; she will always be our first baby.

I feel guilty for the lack of attention we give her, but I don’t know of anything we can do to makes amends for the radical changes. All I know to do is to apologize. So, here are a few regrets I should express to her after the birth of her brother. I hope she will forgive me.

5. For starters, I’m sorry. I know you didn’t see this coming. You probably thought you would always be the center of our attention. Maybe I should have showed you Lady and the Tramp. This is a natural change in the life of a family. Regardless, you will always be our first child, even though we just can’t afford to buy you fancy dog bones from the boutique dog shop anymore. I hope you will understand.

4. I know you have been neglected the last two and a half years. Your ball tosses and walks around the neighborhood have decreased. You get less toys. Oh, and I’m deeply ashamed of the time we forgot to let you outside for twelve hours and you got a bladder infection. I feel terrible about that. To be fair, your brother was a month old and I was so sleep deprived I couldn’t remember my name, much less your bathroom schedule. I know there are no excuses. Sorry.

3. I appreciate you practicing non-violent resistance in the face of your brother’s aggression. I know this takes the patience of a saint and you have proven you are a flexible pup. In the face of hostile hair pulling and eye gouging, you don’t even growl. Intuitively, you seem to understand this smelly ball of flesh is your sibling and important to us. This is pretty amazing. Much gratitude.

2. Thanks for the cute photo-ops with the the baby. They are appreciated and your cooperation does not go unrecognized. Resting your head on our son’s back was a nice touch. I know many of the shots were demeaning, so thanks for begin a good sport. Your participation goes a long way towards good family moral. If I can remember, I will get you a juicy bone next time I’m out, but let’s be honest. I will probably forget. I can barely remember to restock the diaper bag with wipes before I leave the house.

1. Most importantly, thanks for welcoming your brother (my son) into the family and making him feel welcome. You didn’t have to do that. Actually, you probably did. Living with a toddler is still better than the Humane Society. Here is the best I can do: I promise you shelter, food, and (inconsistent) belly rubs.