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Parenting and Families: Toddler Beach Day Meltdown

Updated on April 14, 2013

Kids at the Beach in the Sun

Toddler Beach Day Meltdown

This morning my two year-old awakens elated: today we are going to the beach!!!

“To the beach, to the beach, to the beach beach beach!” we sing as I pull up the blinds in his room.

The air is sunny, Southern California fresh, and the birds are Disney-chirping. Both son and mom are excited to play in the waves, build castles, and gorge on a picnic slightly grainy with sand.


Toddler Tantrum

Grumpy Children

Already clearly not a morning person, my child flails against being dressed. He flutter-kicks like an Olympic swimmer as I struggle to pull on his Spidey socks and sneakers. Those scrumptious, arch-less chubby feet lose their charm. Now they are little demon war clubs.

Soon my son is twisting in his high chair at breakfast. I place his favorite blueberry yogurt and a spoon in front of him and dash off to continue packing our bags for our beach day.

When I return to the kitchen, my little one is smoothly smeared with purple. I ask, “Bumble Bee...what happened?”

He is churlish: “Mommy, you didn’t give me enough napkins!”

Children Playing Nice at the Seashore

Stubborn, Willful Kids

Back to his bedroom we tromp to find another Superhero T-shirt and pull-up jeans.

Then we return to the kitchen where I begin spreading apricot preserves and almond butter on whole-wheat pitas.

My son throws up his arms: “I--WANT--To--GO--To--The--BEEEEEACH!”

I stop.

I kneel down.

I say, “Sweetie, I know. What we are doing now is taking all the steps necessary in order to go to the beach.”

Little Girl Finds a Starfish at Beach

I am exasperated, but I understand where he is coming from. Sometimes I become impatient with the endless tasks of daily life. It would be great to just skip to the fun parts. “Cut to the chase,” movie people say when they are getting bored with a dull narrative.

I remember my divorced mom, raising us twins and frequently imploring the gods: “Why must everything be such a big PRODUCTION?” It’s funny that she used a Hollywood term, since we were in Boston and she worked at MIT.

Ballerina: Tutu Tantrum

Hollywood Metaphor

Now that I have lived and worked in Hollywood, I understand how apt my mom's cry was. Just a small film production, for example, involves thousands of complex, time-consuming tasks -- millions really. If filmmakers fully considered in advance how many of tasks it will take to create one movie, they would never get out of bed.

Children Playing In the Sand at the Beach

Your Child's Future

So there are some obvious metaphors in this beach-day story.

Could someone please explain them to me?

Oh, OK: the film production metaphor can be likened to the immense task of raising kids -- or even of just getting one child ready for a beach day.

But if we can see the task all the way through to completion, the rewards are great.

I sense I should learn something about accepting the many steps we must take to accomplish each task in life and in parenting. I should also focus more on enjoying the process rather than on the completed task. I’ll need to model that for my kid.

And I’ll need to Sharpie that message onto my forehead to make it through the years to come.

This morning as I accept not only that there is a process in order to get my child ready, but that that process might involve his impatience as well as my own, he and I both calm down and take the process (more) in stride.

Meanwhile...do you think my kid will grow up to be a producer?

Hollywood Kids, Child Stars, Future Moguls?

Best Foods for Beach Picnic Lunches

What are your favorite foods for a beach picnic lunch?

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Beach Safety for Kids and Family

Must Have's for Beach Day

  • Children's Waterproof Sunblock
  • Picnic Lunch
  • Drinking Water
  • Towels
  • Sun Umbrella
  • Sunglasses / Shades
  • Bathing Suits
  • Sneakers / Sandals
  • Sun Hats
  • Bucket, Shovel, other Beach Toys
  • Insect Repellent

Best Way to End a Toddler Tantrum?

What is the best way to end a toddler tantrum?

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Toddler Beach Dance Party

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