I’m definitely a summer person. I love the long Scottish summer days: bright when you wake in the morning and staying light long after 11pm (albeit often without a hint of sunshine). Come the end of August, families are in denial that school will be restarting and are caught up in the frantic school uniform shopping required to kit out the kids for another school year (cue the well-versed parental quandary: buy early and risk the kids sprouting two sizes during the summer hols or wait till the last week and risk empty shelves and only one choice of school shoe). I’m always at the coo’s tail. Last minute is the only kind of shopping for me. Even if it means the girls only get one style of skirt/shoe/shirt.
In an attempt to squeeze as much out of the summer as possible, the last couple of weeks are pumped full of activities: early morning runs on the beach (other people, not me); picnic lunches on the beach (I tend to miss these too but do receive the obligatory photo message showing Husband and my +3 enjoying said picnic, as I sit at my desk, at work, with a boring sandwich); after work b-b-q’s with friends (I’m always there, burger and beer in hand); ice cream treats; late-night walks and marshmallows toasted over a roaring beach fire. We spent most of our summer days, and nights, on the beach. Living on the coast, it’s easy to take it for granted. We stay a short walk from the water’s edge: two beautiful soft sandy beaches; coves, caves and rock-pools for exploring; sand dunes for rolling down; coastal paths for walks and a wee marine harbour, all overlooked by picturesque beach huts. It really is something special.
And we’re on the beach walking all year round. More often than not, we’re in the water too (with a 5mm wetsuit, February and August feel pretty much the same). Dookin’ (jumping in the harbour at high tide) is a favourite activity of all the local kids and I’m not adverse to a dook myself. Now six years old, youngest of my +3 decided that this was the year she would start dookin’. She started at the bottom of the steppies (a short set of steps leading down the harbour wall to the water) but before long had worked her way up to near the top step, a feat feared by kids twice her age. I was impressed but slightly scared too. As much as I want the kids to be confident in the water, they also need to respect it too. A couple of summers ago, a few dookers were swept out to sea and had to be rescued, so my +3 can only jump when I’m there and the youngest only on the condition that she wears her life jacket.
My +3 also have surfboards and enjoy taking them out onto the water, whether there are waves or not. The Alder Rio foamboards are a great introduction to the sport: light, bright, easy to carry and soft (guaranteed at some point the water will whip the boards over and give the kids a knock on the head). The two of us have had surfboards for around eight years (note my select choice of words. If I had said we’d been surfing for eight years, that would imply we could actually do it. Husband claims that we have instead mastered the fine art of floating!). Professional surfer or not, there is something serene about being out on the water, awaiting the next wave. When the sea is flat calm, the kids will still be out on their boards attempting to balance or just floating around.
After a few years of 3mm No Fear Wetsuits from SportDirect (costing around £20), we invested in proper 5mm O’Neill wetsuits for the +3. Full length arms and legs. And gloves. And boots. It’s amazing the difference the boots and gloves make, I think you can get an extra hour in the water before the kids start complaining of the cold. I bought the wetsuits in a local specialist sports shop (they came in about £80 each and while I might’ve found them cheaper online, I wanted to make sure they fit). The shop didn’t stock small enough 5mm suits to fit youngest +3. So she wears two: a 3mm long suit and a 3mm shortie on top. This gives her a toasty 6mm coverage across her core.
After a long day on the beach, I may rant about having to carry three surfboards home single-handedly (with cold, tired and grumpy six-year-old limpet hanging on to back). I might moan about rinsing off all the wetsuits, gloves and boots (the worst job in the world after putting the bins out, hence why it usually falls to Husband) and cleaning out picnic baskets. And I may grump about the endless layer of beach sand covering everything in the house. But, I’d still much rather we were out on the beach and in the water than anywhere else.