Pool Daze: All the Hard Work, None of the Glory

Woman in hat, leaning on pool wall

Summer by the pool…ah, how relaxing.

Oh wait, you have small children? Then it’s the opposite of relaxing!

I remember when my children were tiny, seeing moms sitting by the pool, reading magazines (sitting?? reading??). This seemed like an impossibility. A future that could never be mine. But alas, it became mine and was bittersweet in the many ways that moving on in parenting can be. Here are the stages of parenting at the pool over the years as I experienced them:

Babe in arms…ah, lounging yes but all the uncertainty of first time parenthood. Am I doing this right? Does she need sunscreen? Does she need more sunscreen? Do I nurse here? Is it too hot for her? Why is everyone so loud?

Toddler…Oh, this will be fun. We just need to bring this and this. And this. And this. Oh, now you need a snack? Ok, and we’re off. No, please get in the stroller, there’s so much to bring in. Please. Please. Now. Ok, hold my hand…Yes, you slipped and got wet. But you’re ok, this is fun! Remember? Oh, and now it’s naptime…

Preschooler + new baby…Ok, we are literally bringing everything we own to the pool. Wait, now you need a snack? Ok, now let’s go. Oops, hold on, the baby pooped. Ok, now we’re ready. Hold my hand, please. No, no. I need you to hold my hand. Ok, hold onto the stroller. Stay with me. No, you have to stay in the shallow end. Mommy can’t get in, the baby just woke up and needs to eat. That’s it, play right there, don’t run off. Ok, now I can get in with you. Oh, you want lunch now? Ok. I can do this. What? Oh no, mommy, is just talking to herself. Here’s your lunch. Now the baby is asleep again and you want to go home. <whimper> Ok.

Kindergartener + toddler…Ok, off we go. You can be my helper. Stay nearby so your brother doesn’t try to chase after you. No that too deep. No, you can’t go after her, she’s too deep (he’s toddling into water starting to cover his face). No, no. Come back. Let’s find some pool toys. No, not that one. That one isn’t ours. Here’s this one. It’s ours and exactly like that other one. No, give that one back. No. No. Ok, let’s get a snack! Come sit down. No, come here and sit down. I have your favorite. No, you can’t get a snowball today. Here have a snack. It’s almost his nap time. We have to go… <Stares wistfully at the parents sitting on the edge of the pool>

School-age + preschooler…Ok, this year we are taking lunch. You can bring toys, we are meeting friends. Ok, and the noodles, and the inner tube. No, we just have one, you need to share. Ok, please carry the toys for me. Please hold my hand. No, don’t chase her. Stay with me. We are sitting by the baby pool, where there is a gate. <Sits down for nearly 8 uninterrupted minutes. Feels like a miracle. Notices another parent sitting in a chair, glancing at a magazine. Feels impossible.>

School-age + kindergartener…Now this is really going to be fun, guys. Let’s see do we have everything? Yes, that’s right now we have two inner tubes. And pool noodles. And dive sticks. Oops, almost forgot the snacks. Let’s get on swimsuits and sunscreen here. Stand still, please. Please stop moving. It’s going to get in your…oops! It’s ok, we can rinse it out. Alright, now are we ready? Let’s go. Oh, ok, quick, run and use the bathroom. Alright, you guys swim right here, I’m going to sit here with my feet in the pool. <Gasp! I’m one of those parents SITTING next to the pool! Amazing!>

Two school-age kids…Get all your things together, please. Don’t forget your water bottle. Here we go! Make sure you check in with me. <Sitting in wonderment> Wait, what are they doing. No, hey! Hey! Stop it. No fighting at the pool. Stop. You go over to that side. Look, there are your friends. <Sitting. Thinking, omg, I could’ve brought a magazine!>

A 13-year-old + 10-year-old…Go have fun. Listen to the lifeguards. Here’s money for a snowball. I’ll be over there <points clear across the pool, far away from all the yelling children>, with my book! Possible napping.

And off they ran.

It’s so cliche, I know, but man, those summer days went by SO SLOWLY and the years just vanished. These days I can send them to the pool with friends. Hang in there, my friends. Your day will come, too.