About a year ago, my wife and I moved from Waltham to Salem. While my GPS still struggles with the area, always believing that my car is driving through water on the way to neighboring Beverly, I’ve adjusted fairly well.
One of the upsides is being near the ocean. Our son, Milo, was born in November and this year’s non-winter made nearby Lynn Shore Drive the perfect everyday gift for us first-time parents. It’s scenic. It’s a long path perfect for building up some soothing momentum, and it’s safe.
At least it was.
Last month, as Jenny was pushing Milo for an afternoon stroll, things couldn’t have been better. He was happy; more importantly, he was asleep. And then he was almost hit by a boomerang.
First off, who still plays with a boomerang? Apparently, I live close to the loneliest man on the North Shore, who also owns a time machine set to 1977, when the world was testing out if those things were cool. I believe it was discovered after five weeks that they were not.
I don’t blame the guy. It was a nice day, and the beach wouldn’t always be so empty that he didn’t have to worry about annoying everyone and not impressing women. Still, there were some people in the vicinity trying to enjoy their time as well, and my son was one of them.
We try to not be overly protective parents, although we do have our sensitive points. For Jenny, I pity the well-intentioned grandmother-type who tries to touch Milo without first putting on hand sanitizer. For me, I’d rather not have things hit my boy in the face.
We’re also not looking for special treatment. We decided to have a child, and all the work that comes with it. We don’t expect people to whisper in restaurants to avoid waking a sleeping baby. Holding a door open for us when we’re more than 10 feet away is seen as a bonus. But there’s only so much we can do. The childless public needs to take some responsibility and at least understand how much preparation goes into going out for a simple walk, let alone doing it at the beach.
Carrier? Check. Burp cloth? Check. Diaper bag? Check. Diapers in the bag? Check. Extra shirt? Check. Jacket? Check. Wipes? Check. Purell? Come on. Stroller in the correct back seat? Check. Warm hat? Check. Sunhat? Check. Jingly something to shake in front of his face? Two blankets? Another blanket? Check. Check. Check.
Flying projectile shield?
Swing and a miss.
I know that the learning never ends, but boomerang danger wasn’t even close to my radar. The thing is that I have so much other stuff rumbling around my head that force me to daily question my ability to do this job. I worry that Milo’s still not sleeping when, if every parent is to be believed – and why would they lie – all other children are out 12 hours a night by week six. I worry that I’m a writer, Jenny’s a therapist/yoga instructor, and Milo is screwed on chemistry homework. I worry that he’ll pick up the wiseass gene, I’ll encourage it, and he’ll alienate potential friends. I worry about braces, tennis lessons and tuition.
They’re solid worries, but they’re pending ones, without specific answers, impossible to screw up at this moment, and therefore perfect to ruminate on. And yet, if I’ve learned anything in my first six months of parenting, it’s that not every moment fits into a greater plan. It’s just about handling the moment.
I’ll start looking up more at the beach.
Steve Calechman is a writer, stand-up comedian and father in Salem. Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org.