When I am wearing my rose-colored glasses, outings with my infant and pre-schooler are a breeze. There are no tantrums, no traffic jams, no unexplainable screams from the backseat.
But even on days when I am most optimistic, trying to get out and have an experience beyond our front yard — to make the most of the precious hours we have together — requires a lot of planning.
There’s the timing of naps, meals, and potty breaks, the packing of snacks, the avoidance of rush hour, the application of sunscreen, bug spray, and much-loathed sun hats.
Needless to say, we usually stay close to home.
One of our favorite places is Caddy Memorial Park, named in honor William R. Caddy, a Medal of Honor recipient who died in World War II. It’s on Quincy Shore Drive, just north of Furnace Brook Parkway, and though I can’t say this for sure, it seems to be that rare kid-friendly place that was designed with parents and children in mind.
This is not your typical tot lot.
There is — and I cannot stress this enough — shade. Watching your child run in an endless circuit up the stairs and down the slide does not have to result in a sunburn for you, the parent who has taken care of everyone but herself.
The trees make a lovely canopy above two large play structures, one for younger kids and a taller one for older kids. There are no swings, which my 3-year-old reminds me of every time we go, but there are slides of varying heights, a pole to slide down, and challenging monkey bars.
There are play clocks for teaching kids about telling time, and the letters of the alphabet built into the side of one of the structures.
There are lots of picnic tables and benches, and paths around the playground and throughout the larger park, perfect for walking your dog or pushing a stroller.
In the playground rankings that exist only in my head, all of this would be enough to put it at the top.
But Caddy Park, part of the Quincy Shore Reservation managed by the Massachusetts Department of Conservation and Recreation, sits next to Black’s Creek and salt marshes, and across the street from Quincy Bay. The blue sky, salt air, and views of the ocean take a bit out of the stress out of chasing toddlers around the playground. (On a clear day, the conditions can be nearly perfect, but beware, on some summer days, clouds of mosquitoes have driven us away.)
Another feature that is indispensable for this parent of a “runner” — she is fast and I am not — is that the playground is situated far from the road and the parking lot. Once I saw an official-looking state vehicle drive on the walking path next to the playground, albeit slowly. But for the most part, once we have walked from the parking lot up a slight incline to the playground and I have released her tiny hand from my own so she can run around as she wishes, I generally do not have to worry that she is going to get too close to a car.
If the kids are behaving and you feel as though they can keep it together through lunch, there are several restaurants along Quincy Shore Drive, just a short drive (or walk if you’re up for it) away.
Frequent visitors to Wollaston Beach like to debate the merits of Tony’s Clam Shoppe and The Clam Box, casual restaurants with views of the water. I do not take sides in this one, both have their charms.
On a recent July day, after some serious running around the park, we stopped at Tony’s for a grilled cheese and a lobster roll. The lobster roll was so good I kept asking myself why I’m not there more often.
We ended at Cafe Maddie, which is a short walk from Tony’s. Cafe Maddie opened last year and is a welcome addition to the beach, opening early for breakfast and serving a full menu of pizza, salads, and sandwiches throughout the day. My pre-schooler and I shared some frozen custard while the baby eyed it longingly from her stroller, and again, I wondered why I was not there more often.
Oh right, I have trouble leaving the house.
Jill Terreri Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.