There are unlimited ways you can fail as a parent. I fail often. Daily in fact. Hourly?
Some things I like to think I’m pretty vigilant about. You know, not letting them play in the road, putting them to bed before midnight, that sort of basic stuff.
And then there’s sunscreen.
I like to think I am pretty fanatical about it. I do know those who are more so. But I’m pretty dedicated. Before school for terms 1 and 4 I have a 70% hit rate. And I’m a serious sunscreener for every beach visit, park visit or swim in the pool. They have many rash vests and I make them wear them.
In all this, I know I don’t differ from most parents of kids my ages, who in turn are children of parents who as far as I know, thought applying sunscreen was a charming fad, which would soon fade away and let everyone get back on with turning into wrinkly sultanas. Coconut Reef Oil anyone?
Or is that just me?
Growing up in Queensland, I wore sunscreen almost none of the time. By the time I was about 10, I think we were wearing maybe 8+ if our parents could make us. But it was mainly to avoid the pain of sunburn and peeling, never with any sinister thoughts of melanoma.
My Dad had pale, pale skin, and red hair. His doctor advised him (in the 70’s) to always wear long sleeved shirts in the sun, a hat and sunscreen. He did. Even though at first he had to hunt high and low for a chemist that stocked it. Almost nobody did. He also had many, many, sun spots (these days they call them carcinomas) cut out.
And strangely, he never covered his legs, favouring the shorts that finished above the knee (with a button, fly and belt- no elasticised waists for him) like many of his generation. He also wore long socks, but only when he went to work in summer. It was more formal like.
So yesterday. You know, the 43 degree day in Sydney. We are currently residing a few hours north and so our temperatures were less severe, reaching only 35. Which is still f***ing hot. We arrived at the beach at 9am, expecting to leave at 11:30 at the latest. We were lathered in sunscreen before we arrived, rash vested within an inch of our lives.
But I didn’t reapply Sarah. She swam in the surf for 2.5 hours. All the sunscreen washed off her. My excellent friend J carefully reapplied her three children’s protective layer and I did our two youngest. But Sarah? Well, she just doesn’t stop. Like Dorey in Finding Nemo, she ‘just keeps swimming’.
So last night, just before bed, she looked like this.
|I'm sorry this photo is of appalling quality, but you can see the sunburn? Unmissable. And she's still smiling.|
And today her nose is peeling. I am gutted. It’s the first time in ten years any of our kids has been sunburnt. Me, who peeled the skin off my décolletage, about 10 times in my late teens. who has vowed never ever, ever to have ANY of my kids peel.
Yet I have failed. She is less red today, after cooler temperatures all round. I made sure she reapplied after 40 minutes in the surf. But my confidence is shattered and my complacency is in tatters (not such a bad thing really, cause complacency is a nasty thing anyway).
I do, however have newfound strength for tomorrow, which is a new day of sunscreen application and sunburn avoidance.
Tomorrow I plan to discuss another pertinent holiday pastime: sweeping sand off the floor ALL DAY LONG yet still finding it in your bed at night.