August. First day of my classes. Kavya still has three days before her summer ends. It’s ten in the morning. Kavya welcomes me home dressed in her bathing suit. “Papa, the bulb in the corridor is confused,” she says, a feeling I can relate to. I’ve already abruptly shifted out of glorious summer mode, with the usual first week of the semester things to do: creating and updating syllabi, course schedules, grading preliminary essays. Wearing pants, so I can effectively lay down the law in the classroom.
Kavya pulls my face down and adds, “So, let’s go.”
It takes me a few minutes to realize she’s talking about Coney Island. I’d mentioned it in passing with intentional vagueness and a non-committal, “one of these days,” while we were both hanging upside down on the sofa earlier in the week, discussing a range of things, from deep philosophical ideas of such thinkers as Sofia the First, Doc McStuffins, and Daniel Tiger, moving on to our favorite ice-cream flavor (anything with mint). At some point in the conversation, the beach was mentioned, and I must have said that since we don’t have a car, the only beach we could potentially get to would be Coney Island by subway and PATH train. This apparently translated in Kavya’s head to: CONEY ISLAND, NOW!
Things I know about Coney Island: there is a boardwalk with rollercoasters and rides. A beach. It’s accessible by subway. Last stop on the F or D. Two hour commute. No idea how long of a walk it is to the beach from the station and it doesn’t strike me as a particularly toddler friendly place. According to Sona, who has also never been, but has watched movies and read YA from the 80s set in Coney Island, people die there. Syringes on the beach. Panic at the disco.
Sona is working on copyedits of her novel, Tiny Pretty Things at a coffeeshop like some kind of writer, so it’ll just me and the kids. On two trains. At the beach. Getting lost. I mean, not getting lost. I have a split decision to make: stay home with them and attempt to do some work, or go on a beach adventure and decidedly get nothing done. Obviously I make the practical choice: I violently throw my bag on the floor, raise both arms, yell “Beach Day!” and then do a little bhangra in the kitchen, to which Shaiyar Singh lets out his toothless grin, drags his little sausage legs across the floor towards where I am. Kavya jumps up and down excitedly in her frilly swimming costume.
Shaiyar Singh sits up, pounds his fists on the floor. I lift him up and sling little King Kong, his tiny feet dangling on the sides, eyes looking up at me, grinning. I grab the diaper bag, a beach tote bag Sona sorted out before she left for the coffee shop, with a yellow towel, change of clothes for both kids, snacks, and sandwiches for me and Kavya. Thanks Sona!
Proper social etiquette dictates that Kavya change out of her swimsuit and into proper clothes for the subway ride. We’re high society. All so she can change back into her swimsuit as soon as we get to the beach. Before we leave, I half-heartedly ask her to change. “Do I have to?” she says. I ponder this. Most people wouldn’t consider this a quandary and a good parenting response would be Yes, yes you do. “Nah,” I say and off we go, sauntering out onto the streets of Jersey City, ready for a day full of adventure, trains, sand, ocean, and most importantly – fun.
Here’s how our adventure went (Spoiler alert: it was awesome!):
I was quite surprised at just how kid friendly Coney Island is, and how easy it is to get to on the subway. We took the PATH train from Jersey City into Manhattan, grabbed the D train and went all the way to Coney Island. Inside the station, there are little shops selling sand buckets and other beach gear, a mock lifeguard station setup with sand all around, and artwork on the walls using shells. As soon as we walk outside, we can smell the beach, salt, sea, and plenty of fried food. Kavya is conflicted between the large Nathan’s Original Hot dog place on our right, and an ice-cream shop to the left. “Ice cream lunch?” I say, and that’s that.
We take the short walk towards the boardwalk, pass a massive roller coaster, take a turn and before we know it, we’ve got sand in-between our toes. There’s a little playground thing as soon as we enter the beach. It’s got a slide, swing set, and other things to entertain little kids who don’t want to go in the water. On the other side is a palm tree with a little kiddie oasis: there’s sand, and manageable water splashing from the top of the tree. Kavya was on a mission to go to the beach, so we skipped right past it, went all the way to the front row, plopped our things down, and went into FUN TIME MODE, starting with playing with sand, making sand angels, running, swimming, and smashing ourselves against the waves.
On our way off the beach, we stopped by the palm tree oasis, where Kavya proceeded to clean her feet, get them dirty again, clean them again, and by the end of it, they were sandier than they had been at the beach. And somehow, Shaiyar hoisted on my shoulders, managed to get sand in my beard, which Kavya gleefully pointed out to me, Shaiyar, and anyone within earshot. The men’s room was a bit of a madhouse, but in a corner was a changing table, and hoses and things outside to wash your feet right outside.
We’re across the street from the subway station. Shaiyar is in the sling, fed, and grinning at Kavya. We have another telepathic moment. “Hot Dogs?”she says.We walk to the Nathan’s Original Hot Dog place, which is massive, and large beers. Kavya gets on her tip-toes to squirt ketchup, decides she loves mustard, adds some, decides she hates it, then insists me and her “exchange” hot dogs.
Coney Island is very easily accessible, and surprisingly it’s kid-friendly. This was very much a fly by the seat of our pants trip. Next time, with a bit more planning, we’ll definitely hit up some of the Russian food in the area. Beach and BORSHT.
Anyone been to Coney Island with kids? How was your experience?