beach

Whatever happened to the good old beach going with nothing in my bag but a towel and a pack of cards or backgammon (iPad/Kindle if it was available then, for sure)?

I took my kids to the beach today – been braving to do that on my own lately.
What else could you do while you’re in the frying pan but hang out at the remaining morsel of melting butter in it.
There I noticed this guy (picture below).
I felt sorry for him.

missed a spot…(with due apologies for the candid camera)

Not as much for him I was sorry, as for those who weren’t as plastered as him and were baking to a crust.

Then I looked at my own kids.
They weren’t any different.
Well, less chubby and…cuter.
But it also struck me – my kids, kids in general, are worse off than this guy.
Than what I had in my time of beaching and fun.

Today, we gear up our kids for the beach like they’re going to an out-of-space trip.
Special UV-protected T-shirts, sunblock, armbands, bikini tops (to a 4-year-old girl???), bikini bottoms, special shoes, inflatable suits, snorkels, goggles, fins, caps, wetsuits, ear plugs, nose clips – yeah, how about nose clips! – did I miss on anything?
Then, towels, plain diapers, diapers special for water, diaper rash creams, change of clothes, food, sweets (for desperate measures), water, water cooler, more sunblock.
TOYS!
All that to stay for an hour tops.

This is crazy.
My time, it was a bikini bottom – usually an ugly one – lots of kids and all day in the water until my skin looks like a rotten mushroom and my lips – blue.
I’m kidding about the nose clips and the ear plugs, of course, but there is just way too much we’re loading on our kids who, no wonder aren’t as fascinated with the beach as I would have expected.

I wondered if it is the weather causing all our overprotectiveness when we take our kids to the beach.
But it’s not just that.
It also has to do with the helicopter parenting and the constant peer pressure (from other parents), media, culture (4-year-olds with bikini tops!).
Why are we limiting ourselves with all this nonsense gear?
I don’t renounce the sunblock.
In fact, I don’t renounce any of the extra fun stuff – fins, goggles and snorkels.
I just object to the idea of all this imposing threat to our own freedoms and, ultimately, raising our kids as constricted and wimpy.

I know bringing the ‘good old days’ is a sign of ageing, but when I was between 3-10, I never had anything with me but a towel when I went to the beach.
And my parents carried it at that.
Me – free as a bird, happy as a clam.
That was that.
We played with the sand – no toys, buckets, and all that I’m carrying today, for my kids (to ignore).
We dissected jelly fish.
We dived for shells which (later in my teens) we’d grill.
We rode the waves.
Jumped off cliffs.
Swam at night.
Ran butt-naked.
Undisturbed by parents – because they were too busy drinking their beer and playing cards.
Unrestricted by UV/moon gear.

It’s not just the weather that we’re protecting our kids from now.
Some books call it ‘helicopter parenting’, ‘over protectionism’, ‘obsession’.
That media depicts a much gloomier world in our heads than it actually is, as research has copiously shown, also contributes to our irrational fear for everything unknown.

I wish I could take my kids to run around for hours on end along the sandy beach, butt-naked, shrieking with joy, with nothing on them, and no toys to play with, just their imagination.
Because that’s pretty much their only chance for such untamed, innocent freedom.

Unless nude comes into fashion one day.

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