It’s a beautiful day so I pack the hamper and my brand new picnic rug, and shove them along with all the essentials into the boot of the car.
Running back indoors, I wake the kids, shouting, ‘Be dressed in five. Put on your bathers! Macca’s brekkie en route.’
Typically, they groan. It’s only 8AM, but I won’t deviate from my plan for a day at the beach. My youngest, Sammy, is six; he’s thumping around in his room already. My good boy.
‘Mummy, where’re my bavers?’ he asks.
‘Second drawer under the wardrobe, behind the shorts.’
Liam, my 17 year old, walks out of his room wearing boxers. He’s scratching his groin as he makes his way to the kitchen.
‘Nope,’ I say, shoving him back towards his room. ‘Get dressed. No arguments.’
I don’t know why I tell Liam I won’t tolerate arguments. It’ll be Harry who’ll give me grief. A day trip to the beach will be deemed too lame, or he’ll call me a bully. His door opens; I brace, ready for him.
‘God, this is the worst idea you’ve ever had!’
‘Harry, come on. Get dressed. Wear your bathers. It’ll be fun.’
‘I was going to meet Ben and Larry today, Mum.’
‘Do that tomorrow instead. We’re off.’
Two hours later, we’re at the beach. Liam takes Sammy in for a body surf, while Harry sulks beside me under the umbrella.
‘What’s in here? I’m hungry.’ Harry rustles around in the hamper.
‘There’s fruit, chips, sandwiches, lollies, dip and crackers, drinks. For starters. We can buy something from the kiosk later if you want.’
He gives me an evil side-eye. ‘Yeah, hot chips.’
I refrain from scoffing. Nothing’s ever good enough for this kid. If I hadn’t have packed anything, just planned to buy food, he’d complain about that, too. I look at his profile; he’s watching his two brothers. I sigh quietly; he’d never admit it, but I know he feels left out. ‘Gotta go for a swim first. C’mon, I’ll race you in.’
And Harry’s up in a flash. I can always get him involved by tapping into his competitive streak. He beats me into the water by more than thirty seconds. We swim to Liam and Sammy.
‘Look mummy,’ Sammy begins, but Harry talks over him.
‘Aaaw, widdle baby Sam-Sam, still says mummy.’ He pushes him. Sammy goes under the water as Harry continues, ‘What are you? Two?’
I glare at Harry, and go to Sammy, but Liam’s already helping him back up. Sammy holds up his right hand in triumph.
‘Mummy,’ he says, determined to use his favoured term for me. I like that about him. He won’t be deterred from his true self, just because he’s got a jerk for a brother. ‘It’s a clam shell.’
‘Wow, it’s gorgeous,’ I say.
‘Can I keep it?’
Liam picks Sammy up and heaves him over his shoulder. ‘Let’s eat. I’m friggin’ starvin’!’
I watch the two of them stride out of the ocean, reminded of Liam’s protective nature since Sammy was born. He always wanted to help feed him, bathe him and even changed a nappy or two. I smile, marvelling at my luck, when at the same time Harry kicks Liam behind his left knee. Liam stumbles, Sammy falls from his shoulder onto the sand as Harry cackles with glee.