There are certainly a multitude of things I relish about Summertime...sandals (no socks), strawberries, swimming--and that's only the S-stuff! However, there is one element I do not enjoy, although it is an absolute requirement for my fair-skinned family: sunscreen. Growing up, I had probably more than my share of burns, and I'm determined to shield my kids' skin from the same fate. But, as I've mentioned before, I'm also adamantly opposed to slathering unnecessary chemicals on our bodies, which means I'm constantly buying and trying out natural sunscreens, to find ones that are acceptable to my picky clan. You see, the problem with non-chemical lotions is that they use titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, which block rays exceptionally well...but tend to sit on top of your skin...leaving you looking fairly...shall we say "spectral". Added to that, my gang doesn't like creams that feel too sticky...or slimy...or heavy...and it becomes a knotty problem to find something that's both protective and comfortable. Let's face it, I'm really aiming for the perfect balance between keeping my boys safely untanned...and minimizing the whining protests that occur each and every time I cheerfully declare that they must wear sunscreen for whatever activity they're about to undertake.
To be honest, I think I'm probably on the Less Vigilant side of the spectrum on this particular issue: I don't lube them up every morning if we're only at home or following our normal everyday routine. Our yard has lots of shade, they generally don't like to be out there in the heat for too long, so more often than not, I just let it go. But of course we do full-sunscreen for the pool...or when they're attending camp. Which brings us to the most recent example of SPF-itis. I had purchased two different lotions from Whole Foods to test this Summer. One of them emerged as the clear (no pun intended) winner, as it spread fairly smoothly and left only a faint whitish sheen on the skin when applied properly. (This is important to note, as Husband tends to layer on that stuff as if preparing for...a nice long vacation on Mercury...or something. When he's in charge, the boys look like...well, the best visual I can give you is: it appears that they have thick, goopy diaper rash cream smeared all over them. Don't tell them I said that, please!) Anyway, the other product came out of the tube in clumps, and refused to absorb at all, instead depositing a chalky residue that just remained there until washed off.
Okay, so we identified a natural sunscreen that works for us, you'd think everyone would be happy, right? Oh, please. This morning the ungrateful little urchins--not at all appreciative of the time and effort (and messy hands!) I sacrifice to prevent their pale selves from suffering a nasty sunburn--gave me a ridiculously hard time before the application process even started. Derek led off with, "My friends ask me why my face is so white, and tell me I look like a zombie." Riley chimed in, "Yeah, they all tell me to rub it in better." How I wanted to sarcastically respond: something along the lines of "What are you, high school chicks, worried about what your legions of admirers think?" But that didn't seem like appropriate Mom Behavior...so instead I explained once more how the minerals don't sink into your skin the same way as the chemicals do, and why we (well, I...and they don't have a choice) prefer the natural option for our health, and the environment, blah blah blah. But Derek refused to let it go--"Suppose it's raining, then do we need it?" "Well, nooooo," I began, then quickly added, "but it could just be morning showers, and the sun could come out later, so it's better to be safe!" I could barely hear his exasperated sigh, but he recovered enough to come back with, "It rains all day until 3:00, then do we need sunscreen for the last half-hour of camp?" Oh. My. Goodness. You'd think I was subjecting them to unfathomable torture every single day of their Summer lives, for crying out loud.
At this point I deemed it best to cease debating with the mouthy pre-teen...and commence the Sunscreen Punishment. I believe during the subsequent ten minutes--while I gently, carefully placed the bare minimum of lotion on my precious son's delicate skin and he mooooooaned theatrically--I threatened to "forget" to pick them up today and leave them as a special gift for their counselors. So hopefully right about now they're out in the sun, playing, having loads of fun, NOT burning...and we'll see how I feel about retrieving my little ghosties after a few more hours of blessed peace and quiet...