Beach Days: A Love-Hate Relationship

Beach days — I love them. I hate them.

Overall, beach or not, I would say about half of our adventures go well. And that’s totally because of my kids’ ages! #MOMTRUTH: Some adventures just aren’t fun with a 1 and 3-year-old. Or, part of the adventure is fun until then the end goes downhill so fast the whole thing is basically just a big tumble and fall.

A sampling:

But tiny human beach days? Well, those are just a whole other ballgame. 

With two kids under 4, it’s basically actual physical labor to take them to the beach.

First, we have our cool beach cart for all the stuff we bring  (so. much. stuff). Second, I don’t have to tell you that it sure ain’t easy holding a squirming 1-year-old in one arm while pushing that heavy fricken cart with the other all while panic yelling to remind your 3-year-old to stop running so far ahead. 


Baby in a beach cart

Third, that scenario is playing out after a morning of darting around your house packing lunches, dousing babies in sunscreen, strapping on swim diapers and pushing big ‘ol toddler heads through rashguards with too-tiny neck holes. And, of course, tossing every beach-related thing we own in the car. Anyone else have a “let’s throw all our stuff in the trunk and we’ll figure it out when we get there” approach to beach trip packing? Yup, that’s us.

Packing the car for a beach trip with kids

Fourth, there’s, you know, the drive to get to the actual beach.  Which, for us, is about 40 minutes one way from Paso Robles, depending on which beach we pick. The ride only really goes well if the baby sleeps. Because car kids get bored. So then they whine. And moms have to repeat the chorus of “Mommy can’t help you when she’s driving” at least 200 times. Give or take.

Once you finally get to the beach, there’s the effort of … being at the actual beach with kids. Meaning, there’s basically no sitting for mom.

Taking a baby to Cayucos State Beach in California.

But the beach is pretty.

And the kids love it.

And it gets us out of the house.

So we keep going.

Kids at Cayucos Beach in California

And we can usually sneak in a few pretty pictures.

Plus, the last time we went to Cayucos State Beach we saw whales! It was amazing. They were SO CLOSE. We saw them rising out of the water and then splashing back into the sea. And then everyone in the crowd was like “oohhh, ahhh” in unison and it was our own little perfect whale-watching world.

Beach trips like that make it us forget all the craziness. Kind of.

Because then there are those OTHER times. Like the time when we went to beautiful Morro Bay but it turned out to be super cloudy and cold.

And then once we got settled, we found a dead squirrel petrified in the sand.

Like, you know Flattened Banana at Trader Joe’s? It was like that. BUT A SQUIRREL.

Complete with scratchy black claws pointing to the sky and a no-eyed little face. And my 1 year old ACTUALLY PICKED IT UP with his precious baby hands!! YOU BET I screamed legit little girl screams, flung that smooshed shell of a rodent across the water and doused his hands in sanitizer in a hot second.

I don’t have a picture of that. #noregrets.

Foggy day in Morro Bay

In fact, I was so grossed out, that night I couldn’t eat the meat we had at dinner.

Moving on.

So, that beach trip sucked. Of course, we can’t forget how it ended. To cap off the ridiculousness of the day, when it was finally time to go home, my 3-year-old fell on the gravel while she was running back to the car.

And naturally she FLIPPED OUT because she now had an ouchie on her knee which I had to clean sand out of, all from the trunk of the car. 

Then I had to pee. But the restroom was a trek to get to. And my bigger kid wouldn’t walk. And the smaller one was crying in his car seat. I briefly entertained the idea of picking them both up and hauling them over to the restrooms in one power-mom bicep swoop. But … it was really far. And they were sandy. And wet. And crying. Which meant they’d be extra-extra hard to hold and my super mom strength would give out midway and we’d be even more of a mess. Somehow.

And  it’s not like you can just leave kids in the car and say, ‘Be good, tiny helpless children, Mommy will be right back!”

My second option was to buckle them in the car seats, and drive to the restrooms only to get them out 10 seconds later and really piss them off.

But, alas, there weren’t any more parking spots by the door. I really thought of all the options.  So I did what any other desperate mom (who seriously can’t hold in pee for the life of her after birthing babies) would do.

I chose the forbidden third option no one talks about. I peed in their trunk potty.

You know, hover-squatting over a pint-sized plastic seat while simultaneously trying to hide from all the gloriously normal, kid-free people roaming the parking lot and appreciating the nice views of the bay. The ones who *hopefully* were not totally perplexed by the crazy woman squatting in the trunk of her Honda CR-V.  All I can say is, I wish we had splurged on some window tinting. But NOPE. We opted for the crystal clear glass.

And that, my friends, is motherhood.

Plus the cranky drive home, ALL the unpacking, the sandy bathtime wars, the leftover sand ev.eryyyy.where … Yep, beach days — I love them. I hate them.

And you bet I never ate a Flattened Banana again.



About Tonya Strickland

Tonya Strickland is a journalist and Instagram influencer in the family and travel niche. A former newspaper reporter, Tonya shares unfiltered #momlife content about places to go with kids. Her family moved from California's Central Coast to Washington state in August 2020. Their adventures now continue in the Pacific Northwest.

4 thoughts on “Beach Days: A Love-Hate Relationship

  1. Tonya ~ I just about fell off my chair laughing. Every momma should have a trunk potty (and tinted windows). Thank you for that image. And I love all of the cranky kid photos. I don’t take enough of those. I guess I’m trying to block out those memories … but they are priceless.

    1. Lol! Thanks, girlie. My kids are always acting crazy, and I’m always taking pictures of them so we’re a shoe-in for the cranky kid photo award.

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