I recently spent a week at the beach and did so for the very first time under the status of a Grown-Up. We hit the beach every year, but trips in the ’80s and ’90s I was still a kid, so my responsibilities back then were limited to doing whatever I wanted until being told to stop by an adult. Recent annual beach trips have been as an adult with friends or with my family, which - immediate or extended - no longer contains toddlers. Yet after my recent week hanging out with a group of small children, I have come to believe that a toddler’s ultimate goal is to try to get away with killing itself before a grown-up can stop them from doing so.
Without grown-ups present, a beach house on the coast of North Carolina in late July would have witnessed multiple child drownings, stabbings, heat strokes, one fork to the temple, a glass table to the face, and at least one three-story fall onto concrete.
This year’s beach trip was with my wife’s side of the family, which contains six kids and a seven-month-old. As a childless man with what I would like to believe is an above-average muscle tone (not to mention a naturally olive skin complexion and taut legs, but that’s beside the point), I stepped up to the plate and took on a much different role than normal: one of hauling a majority of the beach gear to the sand, keeping an eye on small children, and carrying sometimes-screaming children to the sand. Frequently I did all three at once: hauled gear, carried kids, and kept an eye on other small kids, most of which were screaming or inexplicably walking in the opposite direction of the ocean. “Ax man, we’re going this way,” I shouted at the 3-year-old, walking westward. I should also note that most if not all of this activity took place under the influence of alcohol, or the remnants of it.
While swimming in the pool one day, my 9-year-old niece asked if she could massage my back. “Maybe later, but not right now,” I explained, knowing there would never be a “later,” ever, based on rules that I just assume are in place these days regarding giving wet uncles back massages. Which sucks, because I was told she’s quite good at massages, and I’d kinda thrown my back out hauling kids and all their shit to the beach.
Terminator 2 just happened to be on Netflix one evening because I knowingly put it on TV, so - since it was on - I let the 10-year-old in the house watch it with me. “It’s a soft R,” I explained to another adult, who questioned whether the kid should watch it. She left the room moments before a liquid metal spike impaled a character’s head as he drank from a milk carton, a scene that quite frankly still scares me. I mentioned to the kid that if he told anyone that I let him watch T2, a robot from the future would go back in time and try to kill him.
I let two nieces - nine and six - who had never lit a match before fire up a charcoal grill. They didn’t ask to do so or anything; it was more of a situation where I said, “Psst. Hey girls. You two ever lit a match before?”
Mornings are louder in a beach house with six kids. Stomping begins at 6 a.m., with the first crying wails of the day rumbling forth two minutes later. These tears are followed by a crescendo of sound that continues in what seems like a game of which the objective is to yell and shriek louder than the other children. Still in bed, childless grown-ups try to ignore the sound until we are ultimately forced to give in and just go ahead and get out of bed Entering the kitchen a few minutes later for coffee, we are greeted by parents who have been awake for an hour. “Boy, you are a late riser,” they’ll say, with a straight face, as the sun crests over the horizon.
One evening there was a fight between two cats in the front yard of our beach house, and one cat killed the other. My sister-in-law, acting swiftly as to not let the children see a dead kitten, put the feline into a nearby trash can that rested alongside the house’s driveway. We worked hard not to mention the “dead cat” in the children’s presence for the rest of the week, but sometimes it slipped. We’d cover ourselves with lines such as, “No, I said your ‘mom’s fat,’” or “No, I said ‘How ‘bout that?’” or “Yeah, there’s a dead cat in the garbage can. Be a man about it and finish eating your lasagna.”
Now is also a good time to also mention that my 31-year run as a childless man is expected to come to an end on December 28. I’m cool with it, so long as having a child doesn’t interrupt my current way of life whatsoever, increase my expenses, or prevent me from doing whatever I want whenever I want. If that’s the case, being a grown-up will continue to be awesome.