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In a country where winter is routinely eight months long, a gloriously hot summer can feel like a hard-won gift. The downside to that gift? Sunscreen. No one likes to wear it, least of all children, so I’ve developed this handy guide on the best way to put sunscreen on a child. Good luck.
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Step 1: Choose an appropriate sunscreen for your child. Only organic, paraben free, phthalate free, non-GMO, gluten free, nut free, sugar free and unscented sunscreen will do. It should be handcrafted in small batches by monks in a secret monastery beside a pristine river that Nestlé hasn’t discovered yet. Obviously, it will be expensive – but you can’t cut corners when it comes to the health of your offspring. This sunscreen represents the physical manifestation of the love you have for your child, and you imagine they will feel that love whenever you smooth it over their delicate skin.
Step 2: Chase your child, who ran away from you the millisecond after you said it was time to put on sunscreen.
Step 3: Wonder why you can’t get the sunscreen out of the tube, even though you are squeezing it aggressively with one hand while your other hand is firmly grasping the arm of your flailing child, who is struggling to get to the monkey bars. Eventually, you will realize that the little silver seal thingy is still on inside the cap. Try not to mutter a string of curse words when you realize you will have to let go of your child in order to remove the silver seal thingy.
Step 4: After your child has bolted for the monkey bars and you have spent a solid five minutes trying to remove the silver seal thingy that has no obvious tab and is the size of a ladybug and you just clipped your finger nails so the whole exercise feels like a suburban scene from Mission Impossible, you will end up stabbing at it with your house keys.
Step 5: Now that you have sunscreen all over your keys, use the napkins or extra wipes you keep in your park tote bag for just this sort of occasion and wipe them down.
Step 6: Apply sunscreen. Your child will wriggle and writhe like a strip of raw bacon on a flaming hot pan while you rub their limbs and face, but whatever you do, don’t get it in their eyes or the protests you hear now will transform into screams of agony. “It’s in my EYEEEEEEEEEEEEESSS!” will be heard across the park and every head will snap around to look at you, torturing your child with sunscreen.
Step 7: When you invariably get sunscreen into your child’s eyes, scrounge around for a washcloth or a paper towel or a crumpled napkin. Realize you already used all the wipes to clean your keys, so you are resigned to using the sleeve of your own shirt. Apply water from the water bottle onto it. You did remember to bring a reusable water bottle to the park, didn’t you?
Step 8: Drag your child to the one public water fountain at the park and wet your sleeve in the water. Try not to feel the shame and dread building at the back of your throat. It’s fine. No one’s looking. I mean, everyone’s probably looking, but let’s not focus on that.
Step 9: Take deep, calming breaths when you try to wipe at their eyes, while they whimper and cry about how they knew this would happen all along and why are you doing this to them and Brooklyn’s mom never puts sunscreen on her face and obviously, Brooklyn’s life is so much better because of it.
Step 10: Try not to think horrible thoughts about Brooklyn’s mom who, according to the rumour you just heard from your own child, can not only avoid getting sunscreen in her child’s eyes, but also lets them eat cookies every day, sometimes even before dinner. Secretly, you know you can’t keep cookies in the house because if you do, you’ll eat them all the second your child is in bed.
Step 11: Your child just rolled in the sand and now has sand stuck everywhere you previously slathered with sunscreen. Try not to curse under your breath as another parent, one you do not know and who looks like they have a perfectly packed tote bag for the park, hands you a fresh pack of wet wipes. You proceed to try to wipe sand, along with all that precious sunscreen, off their face and limbs while your child shouts in your ear, “I AM A SAND MONSTER RAAAAWRRRR!!!”
Step 12: Grab the cheap can of aerosol spray sunscreen you bought at the mall and secretly squirrelled away for emergencies. It’s the thing in your tote bag that you thought was the reusable water bottle. It has God-knows-what in it, you don’t recognize any of the ingredients and you don’t care. It was on sale. Run after your child and hose them down with the spray sunscreen while they flee in joy and terror, trying to dodge the cloud of sunscreen you’ve created that is so thick it has its own weather system. Both you and your kid have breathed in at least half of the sunscreen fumes and micro particles, which will invariably cause cancer at some later date – but then, so will a sunburn, so you can’t win no matter what you do. Some parents (the ones who have gluten-free granola bars and organic strawberries prepared for snacks) will give you the side-eye for your air-polluting sunscreen, but you are past the point of caring.
Step 13: Find another parent at the park who looks as exhausted as you do (so, everyone) and flop down on a park bench beside them, no longer caring if you have eyes on your kid anymore. It doesn’t matter now. They are wearing sunscreen. You have done your duty.
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Julie Crawford lives in Toronto.