Sunscreen Is Difficult.

Before I tell you all about the new anthology I’m appearing in, I’d like to tell you about why I bought regular lotion-type sunscreen today at the grocery store instead of the spray-on kind.

I’m a firm believer in picking your battles as a parent. As such, I decided long ago that sunscreen is probably a battle I should go ahead and suit up for, because I’m not interested in listening to my kids whine about sunburns or getting skin cancer. Also, one of my kids is a redhead, which means she bursts into flames if she’s in the sun for more than five minutes without SPF 263.

In my Top Five List of Annoying Shit I Do to Keep My Kids Safe, meticulously applying and rubbing in sunscreen is right up there. It takes forever, they complain the entire time because you’re usually keeping them from something really fun, or they’re urging you to keep the sunscreen out of their eyes in a higher and more anxious voice the closer you actually get to their eyes (ONE FREAKING TIME WE HAD TO FLUSH YOUR EYES WHEN YOU WERE TWO YEARS OLD GIVE ME A BREAK WE’VE ALL MADE GREAT STRIDES IN THE LAST EIGHT YEARS). Then, when you finally finish, there’s another kid just waiting to begin their litany of complaints while you rub them down like a goddamn hand servant.

So imagine my delight when, a few summers ago, I discovered spray-on sunscreen! “Wait — I can just spray them down and be done with all this rubbing and arguing? SIGN ME THE FUCK UP, COPPERTONE!” So I bought the three-pack of Target brand sunscreen (like I have Coppertone money) and drove home, happily envisioning a summer full of pale children complaining about anything and everything except the speed at which I applied their sunscreen! I immediately began imagining all the great things I could do with the time I used to use applying sunscreen to my kids, like sitting on my couch alone for ten uninterrupted minutes. The twenty-first century, I decided as I pulled into my driveway, was truly the best time to be alive and raising children.

The next day I broke out the new sunscreen as the kids began heading outside to play, which usually lasts about fifteen minutes before they realize it’s hot and they don’t actually like being outside. This is partly how I know deep in my heart that these are, indeed, my children. I decided to sell the shit out of this new sunscreen innovation.

“Guys, check this out! You know how you don’t like how long it takes me to put sunscreen on?”

“Yeeeessssss?” They have a healthy suspicion of me when I go into salesman mode. My children are, unfortunately for me, very bright.

“Well, I just found this at the store yesterday –it’s spray-on sunscreen! I just spray it on real quick…”

At this point, I did what any good salesman does — I demonstrated the product on myself to show how great it is. I sprayed both sides of my own leg.

That’s when it started.

COUGH COUGH COUGH “Mom! Ugh! It smells terrible!”

“No, no, no, it’s fine! Here, let me spray you.”

If you were my neighbor that lives on the other side of the privacy fence (my neighbors are also very bright), you would have assumed that I had brought home a can of oven cleaner or napalm and decided to attack my children with it.

“AAAAAHHHHH! I CAN’T BREATHE!”

“You’re screaming, you can breathe.”

“I CAN TASTE IT AHHHHHHHHH!”

“Oh my God, then close your mouth, WHY ARE YOU GULPING THE AIR LIKE A GOLDFISH??”

“MY EYES! IT’S HURTING MY EYES!”

“I’m nowhere near your face, JUST CALM DOWN.”

“MY FEET ARE BURNING!!!”

“HOW IS THAT EVEN POSSIBLE?!?!?!”

It was a fine summer memory that I’m sure my kids will treasure for the rest of their life.

While I watched my kids act like they had just participated in a police training exercise for tear gas, my mind circled back to the fact that I had bought the fuuuuuuuuuucking three pack. I had three whole cans’ worth of theatrics to endure before we could go back to regular sunscreen. That night, I had a dream that I traveled back in time using Hermione’s Time Turner so that I could find myself in the parking lot of Target and punch myself in the stomach for making such a dumb decision. Even in my dreams, I knew stopping myself from resisting something like spray-on sunscreen was impossible.

*****

That summer, I drove my kids in my new minivan to New Hampshire. It was a wonderful fourteen hour trip that, conveniently, my youngest daughter doesn’t even remember now so that’s pretty cool. We spent a long weekend with friends in a painfully charming town, eating, celebrating, and chilling out. On the last day, we all packed up our children and headed to a tiny neighborhood beach. I took out the (mercifully) last remaining bottle of spray-on sunscreen, sprayed each kid, endured the laughs and stares from my friends as they witnessed The Passion of the Sunscreen performance from my children, and after they recovered, they scampered off toward the sand and beachfront. A few minutes later, my friend also arrived with her brood. We started chatting, and her children lined up for their own sunscreen application.

“Ah, you got the spray-on stuff too, huh?”

“Yeah, it’s so much easier, right?”

“It is, but my kids hate it.”

“Mine too, but I don’t care.” Then she turned to her kids and said, “Okay, close your eyes and mouth. Here we go.”

Then she SPRAYED THEM FULL BLAST IN THE FACE. She sprayed those kids like it was mace and she was in a self-defense class that she paid full price to attend, so she was definitely going to get an A+ because . She gave no fucks. She left all her fucks in the sunscreen aisle the day she bought that spray-on can. It was incredible.

“WHOA! You don’t do the spray-in-your-hand-and-wipe-on-their-face thing?”

“Naaah. This is easier.”

I have never been more in awe of a parent as I was that day.

I didn’t end up adopting my friend’s face application technique, mostly because I had her blast me in the face later that day and discovered that I could, in fact, be the genetic source of my kids’ drama skills. I decided to gracefully admit sunscreen defeat and go back to slumming it with regular, lotion-based sunscreen. Some of us, like my friend, are meant for the blasting life; I, on the other hand, was destined for a life of lotion-applying servitude. I see that now, and I accept my fate.

I did, however, make sure my kids witnessed my friend and her revolutionary application method, leaving it up in the air as to whether or not I would begin using it. A good dictator always keeps her subjects in suspense.

*****

So, back to the anthology: if you love stories of semi-useful parenting advice and cautionary tales about things like sunscreen and pet funerals, you should pick up the newest installment in the Pee Alone series, But Did You Die? Setting the Parenting Bar Low. On top of my own outline on how to plan the (not so) perfect pet funeral, there’s tons of other “suck it up, kid!”-type stories that will make you feel a lot better about your parenting skills. Or just make you laugh, and really, isn’t that partially the reason we had kids in the first place?

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8 Responses to Sunscreen Is Difficult.

  1. “A good dictator always keeps her subjects in suspense.” I adore you. Keep acing it, mama!

  2. Jessie says:

    Oh my god, this was hilarious! My husband is a redhead in every way except for his hair color, and our son seems to have inherited this defenselessness to the sun, so I’m “looking forward to” (aka intensely dreading) the amount of sunscreen I will have to apply. I can’t handle the spray stuff in my own face, so I kinda don’t blame the kids on that one lol. Thanks for giving me something funny to think of while I’m fighting my own sunscreen battles!

  3. Valerie says:

    I recently discovered your blog and I must say I’ve been reading back over your previous posts and nodding enthusiastically at your hilariously opinionated views on parenting. It’s like we are kindred spirits – right down to the dictator comments!

    Thank you for sharing your stories and helping me feel like I’m not a bad parent for not wanting to act like most other #helicopterparents I know. Your blog is seriously a delight!

  4. Oh this was good! I loved your analogy about the self-defense class made. Laughed out loud! Ellen

  5. What I completely meant to say, had I not hit “post” prematurely: I love your wordsmithing! You can truly paint a scene with hilarious brushstrokes. You killed me with the A+ defense class student analogy. 💯

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