Well into October, while most people (of the northern hemisphere) switch their closets for winter gear, I bring you a super summer-y post: The day I really enjoyed its full length as a mom (aka my happiest day as a mom). It was a day right out of an overly optimistic movie: There was no whining, no crying, no throwing stuff (except sand and small stones), no stress and no cleaning or tidying. Instead, there was laughter and swimming and hugging and baby kisses every second. All day long.
It was perfect.
I usually avoid going on excursions with The Cute all on my own. Frantic mom of one, a newbie really, I fret about all the possible problems I *might* encounter. “What if…?” and “how will I…?” are constantly in my mind. Therefore, I aim to have a back up, usually my hubby, when I go out with our daughter.
I know most moms are doing better than me in this aspect but I get overwhelmed by the potential dangers that miiiiight arise. So, it was rather brave of me when one day I got up and declared: I am taking The Cute to the sea today – on my own!
I packed extra outfits and extra diapers (yeah…the potty training is still failing) and first aid kits and extra snacks and liquids, and lots of other stuff that could come in handy and off we went!
I am guessing, most moms are incredulous or laughing right now but, I truly am an overly afraid mom. Still.
We took a taxi to get us to the tram station. The taxi driver was infatuated by The Cute, to the point of not letting us out, until he verified I applied sunblock on my daughter’s face! “She is too white (true, she takes after her daddy that is so white, he can hide behind milk – no offence honey, I love you!), the sun is scorching, she can’t go out like this! Here, take my sunblock and put some on her”. And he handed me an expensive (and super clean) creme. I declined, but I still had to apply our own sunscreen before he let us out of the cab.
It might sound scary that a stranger was so demanding but, us Greeks are exactly like that when we like someone. We care like they are our own, to the point of being overbearing. And let me warn you: if you ever encounter a Greek family that insists to offer you a little snack, just go with it. I have fond memories of a visit at the Greek island of Crete, where we visited relatives of a friend and at every house they insisted to give us a treat.
And by “a treat” they meant a full buffet that could feed an army. In all three houses… Refusing is not an option. Arguments like “we just ate, thank you” don’t work either. Trust me on this, if you refuse, your Greek hosts will be upset and embarrassed.
Moving on, we embarked on the tram and the real fun started. Passengers were making cute faces to The Cute, talked to her and a few older women pinched her gently above the knees. I think this is time for another warning: We are touchy-feely. People aren’t usually that physical with foreigners and their babies, however don’t count on it if you have a really cute baby (which of course you have!).
image source (the explanation is mine)
I was overwhelmed by all the contact at first – even a little annoyed. It was something I had not experienced living in USA, where people are more reserved and I was unprepared for all this attention. And when you get more than one cab drivers that kept turning back to talk to The Cute and tickle her calf, while they were driving, well, it might worry you, as it worried me. (Deep down though, I found it utterly warm and cute that they were so nice to The Cute.
All it takes, for people to engage, is that your child smiles at a Greek and they will probably start playing with your child and tell you stories of their grandchildren. And they will touch. A knee, right above the knee, the arm, the cheeks. People were melting when The Cute, making use of her newly discovered vocabulary waved and greeted complete strangers with a hello (in Greek, albeit accented). To be fair, there were plenty of non-Greeks (living in Greece) too, that were equally engaging with The Cute and also sharing stories of their grandkids.
And so, my daughter’s first ride with a tram, was all laughs, meeting people, and getting downright enthusiastic when the route started going by the sea. Oh the exclamations when she saw the sparkling sea! The small boats and yachts! The seagulls flying over serene blue waters! The hot summer sun that was creating “stars” (according to my daughter) on the surface of the Mediterranean coastline!
She was in awe with the novel sightings and I was in awe with her.
Since this was my first time going by a tram to a beach, I asked where to get off the tram. Well, practically every single stop, was a beach. Some require a ticket, some are free. They are side by side, which means you get the exact same sand and sea, whether you pay or not. The differences lie at the upkeep of the beach, how often it gets cleaned through the day and whether there are amenities like free chairs and security guards.
I chose a spot that required a ticket, and had lifeguards, super friendly security, a medical station, small gardens, a discrete store for the basics (sunscreens, towels, bathing suits), changing facilities and so on. The Cute was amazing and kept greeting people. The beach was packed but, we got lucky and there was exactly one free beach chair right by the sea and under the lifeguards. It was perfect: we were a yard from where the water licked the sand, so I could easily watch our belongings and be a single step away from my baby, while having the lifeguards next to us. Win!
I put The Cute on the sand, so the edge of the water splashed playfully at her feet. This was the second time she was at the sea and the first time she had gotten upset: She was yelling at the waves to go back and when they kept coming back, she cried with indignation and of course, I didn’t force her to go in. This time it was wayyy different: she was curious at first and when I got accidentally splashed in the face, she started laughing.
Hint taken, I started goofing with the water and my baby daughter giggled and laughed like it was both the greatest and the funniest thing she ever saw. When I started going into the water, she seemed worried I would leave her behind. I went back (the whole…3 feet I was away), took her in my arms and slowly went in again. Still wary, she clamped on me (I could stay there forever!) and when I started splashing the surface with my hand she exploded into more giggles.
We were soon swimming and playing and spent hours splashing in the sea, going out to play with the sand (and get some much needed tan) and back into the sea for more games. The Cute was telling stories to the sea and sand, in her own baby language, sometimes she was reprimanding the ebb and flow (which was hilarious) and she was thrilled throwing sand around (while I was frantically trying to keep it from landing on people).
Not a single cry was heard that day. She ate everything I gave her and then some. I had never heard my daughter laughing so much and for such a duration. Everything clicked in place, from the easy access, to the perfectly located free chair, to the amazing weather, to the loving and helpful people. Oh, and I didn’t have to clean up a thing (which is always a great thing).
Well into the sunset, we rode back home, having again made friends in the tram and smiling all around. When we got home, after a quick bath and milk, she asked me to go to bed where tucked in, she slept instantly.
Let me emphasize this: She. Asked. Me. To go for sleep. First time ever! HUGE!
And that, was my best day ever as a mother. A day, where everything happened perfectly, where my baby was laughing all day and where I was just with her and she was just with me, having fun. As simple as it may sound, I wouldn’t change it with the world.
If you ever find yourself in Athens Greece, (perhaps waiting to go to an island or even for a conference), know that you can reach a great beach easily and often with a single public means transport (bus, tram). And this is a heads up for the locals: guys, you have all this beauty right there at your feet. Try to enjoy it as much as you can – especially when other things go bad. 🙂