We’re lucky enough to have three or four great beaches nearby us here in Marin, but I sometimes holding back from visiting the wilder beaches during the week when I’m solo parenting due to fear of losing a babe or two to steep dunes, surf sized waves, rip tides. (Or simply having to lug a 40lb toddler across soft sand.)
We have a lovely ‘baby beach’ at the end of our street which is a mecca for toddlers, paddle board yoga enthusiasts and coffee drinkers. This is my usual go-to and we save the big beaches for weekends with daddy. However, a few weekends ago the other half disappeared for three full days on a bachelor party in Tahoe, leaving me with three long summer days to fill with the kids. I decided it was time to brace the beaches on my own…
Of course we were all up at 5.30am come Saturday morning (kids know when you’re alone with no back up!) so by 8am we were packed and on our way to Stinson Beach.
First rule of solo beach-parenting on a holiday weekend – get in and out early. We missed all the usual bay area tourist traffic and were able to park close to the sand. (Second rule; quit while you’re ahead. We were done by 12.30).
WHAT COULD POSSIBLY…
I’d come prepared with baby carrier and multiple sand toys. But I’m not going to lie, there was a large portion of the morning spent pounding manically across acres of sand, unfortunate infant swinging from my neck while our blanket, diaper bag… wallet, car keys… sat invitingly alone half a mile away. There was absolutely no way to negotiate all three of us in the beachside restrooms so I seriously regretted my early morning coffee hit. And an unfortunately sandy diaper change in the parking lot nearly drowned out the noise of the random tsunami alarm system test.
There was also a long period of time when I was nervous we would simply have to live on the beach forever, unable as I was to lift my big boy across the sand with beach bags plus baby. I can only thank god cookies and ice cream worked third time round as a negotiating tool.
All that said, there were far more magical moments than I expected. The early morning surf was calm and golden and held both kids mesmerized for at least 20 minutes. Soft warm sand allowed for an hour of castle building and toe wriggling before we headed for the surf – here it got a bit hairy to be fair and I distracted my son with wet sand drawings rather than risk the solo management of toddler V. waves with a 10 month old in tow.
After we finally got off the beach we found a lovely little playground to chill out in for a while and Archer scoffed his first ever ‘grown up’ chocolate ice cream cone while I mainlined another coffee and Margot finally snoozed in the sun.
Ok it was a far cry from emulating the hippy Cali family of my imaginings. Y’know the ones, the 4 year old surfs and plays guitar while mum and dad meditate. But after all we are pasty Brits, and I’m marking the whole excursion up as a serious mama win.