Without having to watch water for possibly drowning children, vacation pools have taken on a whole new definition for me. While visiting my daughter at college in Hawaii, I had several peaceful days to lounge by a pool, undisturbed. Due to my curious nature, I am obsessed with people watching. So, when the cute family of four arrived juggling floaties, goggles and large tote bags, I couldn’t help but be captivated. It was like I was watching a reel of my life 15 years ago. I felt a wee bit nostalgic, but also relieved I wasn’t the mother leading the pack.
“Want to hear me talk under water, Mommy?” the 5-year-old baby girl shouted as she lifted her goggles to expose bright red mask marks. Mom was partially in the water on the steps, hair dry, perfectly content sipping her cocktail.
“I can hear you from up here—you just have to shout while you’re under,” states mom in a crafty attempt to placate baby girl.
“No you can’t! You have to come under water to hear!” insisted the child.
If there was ever a loud sigh to be heard, it was at this moment. Mom glanced around the pool for husband who escaped to the nearby bar area to catch a glimpse of the game. A loud roar of excitement reached the pool from the bar. I watched as mom rolled her neck back and stared up at the sky.
I remember that feeling like it was yesterday. That motion of looking to the heavens for someone to come save me right now. Her body language said it all. Mom didn’t want to swim and certainly didn’t feel like getting her hair wet. The last thing she wanted was to listen to anyone scream under water. She was saved from the request when her older son cannonballed into the calm water. The ensuing splash woke the tranquil honeymooners napping nearby. I was immediately transported back to vacation pool days with my own two high-spirited kiddos.
The anxiety would swell as we’d approach the pool and I’d survey the people lazed about in complete peace. As I’d sunblock my amped-up children, my pre-swim speech went something like this: “Ok guys, there are other people at this pool quietly enjoying themselves. Try not to behave like wild animals. You will be human and not splash, scream or play incessant Marco Polo. You hear me? Okay, now go have fun!” With my hands full of thick sunscreen, I’d wince and worry the day away.
After the young boy shot to the surface from his epic splash bomb, mom grabbed his arm and whispered something stern in his ear. His face fell as he gently swam underwater as far away from mom as possible. I felt a pang of sorrow for the little guy. I mean, all he wanted to do was have fun. Who goes to the pool to just sit in a chair and watch the water? Adults do. And parents dream of the day when they can just be and enter the water at their own leisure to cool down or float about sans children hanging from their limbs.
Before long, the father came back to the pool. Like a well-oiled tag team, dad handed mom a Margarita as she swiftly exited the pool without a word to anyone.
“Daddy!” squealed the cute little girl. “Make a tunnel with your legs! I want to swim through! Where did mommy go?” An obvious master of the Irish goodbye, mom was nowhere to be seen. I was proud of her. Dad was on duty and knew his role was to engage and entertain. A traditional balance in the married with children world that doubles as a survival technique.
As I finished my third Piña Colada, the little family was fixing to leave. Neither of the children wanted to exit the pool as they loudly announced with absolute certainty. I waited for the meltdowns I endured for years, but these parents were seasoned. Promises of ice cream and imminent return to the pool somewhat quelled the tears. With sincere reluctance, the kids exited the pool as their parents wrapped their pruned bodies and quivering blue lips in large fluffy towels. Snacks were provided to distract the sad ending of a fun day.
My pool time is now quieter and way more relaxing than days past. But, I wouldn’t appreciate those Piña Coladas and gentle floats as much if I didn’t survive the years of pool tending. However, I did want to approach that mom hiding in the shadows slurping her Margaritas. I wanted to tell her to not be concerned with others if your kids’ splash, squawk, and play Marco Polo. I wanted to encourage her to get her hair wet, wear goggles and hunt for pennies in the deep end. Because while these moments seem endless at times and breaks are so rare, there will come a time when they just want you to drop them at the pool. You’ll then long for the days when they slept hard in your arms after a long day of swimming in the sunshine.