Paradise and Parenting: Teens at the Beach

I never thought I’d look back on the days when my children were small fry and actually say “Wow did I ever have it easy!”
I mean, if anyone would have attempted let me know how simple my life was, I probably would have abandoned my pacifistic principles. Because, let’s face it, little kids are complex, sleepless, exhausting people who think it’s great to flush special keepsakes down the toilet. They are often disrespectful, mostly loud, and have an unrelenting fashion sense that involves rubber boots, crinoline, a Tigger bath cape, and a whole lotta attitude. Certainly it’s all very cute, but that’s pretty much because evolution intuited that the survival of the species depended on cuteness.
But the thing is, they are up for family time ALL the time. If you tell them they are going to the beach for the day, they really want to go. They want to swim with you, have a picnic with you, and even lay on the towel (very briefly) with you. Sure, you go home completely wiped out, but so do they. They will even fall asleep in the car so you can talk to your spouse.
Teenagers are different. If it’s your idea to go to the beach, there has never been a worse or more tiresome proposal. Suddenly they have Other Plans which they cannot specify. They may even admit to having homework, which seems unfathomable. However, when faced with an entire afternoon WITH THEIR PARENTS, what choice do they have?
Today my husband and I decided that we needed a bit of time together as a family. The high season is drawing to a close, so my husband had the entire day free for us. We hadn’t been to a beach in awhile, and this seemed really silly when you think about the fact that we live in Puerto Vallarta. Apparently we were the only ones to think this might be a fun Sunday activity. But we managed to get everyone in the car with only a few eye rolls and longsuffering sighs.
The car ride was very quiet, which I admit can be nice when you are a parent, but this quiet was a bit ominous. It was a bit grumpy. It was a quiet born of TV shows left behind and abandoned Playstation controllers. My husband and I pretended not to notice and chatted each other up, wondering if we had made an error in judgment.
When we got to the beach, we all sat huddled under the umbrella and pretended to nap (pretty sure Gilberto wasn’t pretending). But then a few things happened to turn the day around, and I will list them here for you in case you have your own teen and, like us, you are as uncool as the Macarena (the good news is that the Macarena has been in style at least twice in the last twenty-five years).
1) The henna tattoo guy, once considered part of the beach backdrop, is now a great person to turn to when everyone keeps asking to go home and finish their geography projects. The tattoo subject (aka your child) has to sit still for at least thirty minutes for the drawing and the drying. After that, you can count on another twenty minutes for selfies with the new henna dragon tattoo before they ask to go home again.
2) The dogs – it’s hard to be mad when the beloved family pet keeps scampering around wanting to chase birds, save random people from drowning, and to steal other beach-goers’ snacks. It’s cute, it’s fun, it’s distracting.
3) The snacks – There are always vendors coming by with bags of chips and other goodies that are doused in fiery hot sauce, which your teen now enjoys (and your surprised face as they munch on spicy chips is very satisfying for them).

So get out there and enjoy the beach with your teen! We all went home sandy and giggly and actually REALLY liking each other again. The dogs were the only ones who fell asleep on the way home. With all the joking and laughing it wasn’t quiet at all. It was wonderful.