"The most wasted of all days is one without laughter." ~e e cummings

Monday, July 27, 2015

Transcript from the Backseat...or: The Talk

I had grand visions of being an open, honest, and straight-forward purveyor of information when it came time to have The Talk with my kids. In the past, I have been, in an age-appropriate way...we call body parts by their anatomical names, they know *how* babies are born, and they know that babies develop in a mother's uterus from an egg.  I have been open, I have been honest, and I have been straight-forward in answering their questions....I just haven't ever provided information beyond the requisite answers to their wondering minds. I hadn't ever needed to.

Until last week.

We had just spent the morning gazing upon the beauty and majesty of the Wild Horses of North Carolina. We had driven "up the beach" in hopes of finding them, but with the firm expectations that Wild Horses Are Nearly Impossible To Find. Imagine our delight when we spotted a dozen horses in the dunes overlooking the beach three minutes into our drive!

We were driving back to our beach house, excited over our Horse Discovery, happy, together...when Max's question opened the door to the most ineloquent conversation I've ever had with my children.

Max: So do some people never get married?

Me: Sure. Lots of people don't get married....for lots of different reasons. Getting married is a choice.

Max: Awww! I hope I get married!

Evan: Some people don't get married?! But don't they want CHILDREN?!

Me: Well, some people don't. Even some married people don't want to have children. And you don't need to get married to have children. Some people want to start their family even though they haven't found the person they want to marry...so they have a child.

Evan: But how...?

Max: Oh! I know! Maybe they can adopt a baby, like when two boys get married! One boy or one girl can adopt a baby all by themself!

Me: Well, yeah, but a man or a woman, not a boy or a girl...you have to be an adult who can take care of a baby to adopt a baby.

Me (continuing, unnecessarily...for some reason, which I will shortly regret): But you can become a parent without adopting, too. Like my friend Jess: she was ready to become a mommy so she chose to have a baby. She had her baby in her belly like I had each of you.

Evan: Waaaaaiittt...you can choose to have a baby? I thought a baby started to grow in a mommy's tummy when she was married and ready to start her family....

Me (recalling an answer I had provided several years ago, when a younger Evan watched my belly swell with his growing baby sister): Um, yes, of course a woman can choose whether or not to have a baby....

Evan: But HOW? HOW does the lady choose?!

Sam (glancing at me from the driver's seat, with a "You started it, you get to finish it" smile on his face)

Me: Well, you know that a baby grows from an egg that is already in the mommy's body.

Evan: Yeah, and I know it's not in her TUMMY. It's not like she swallows a chicken egg or something.

Me: Right. The egg starts to grow in her uterus. But it doesn't start to grow into a baby until it's...well, it's...fertilized.

Evan: FERTILIZED? Like with a fertilizer?! I don't think so...

He is seriously starting to think I'm full of shit.

And I am seriously starting to notice how closely Max is listening to this whole conversation. I want to be open and honest, but he's only five. I really don't need Max to be the Knower Of All Things at his Kindergarten snack table in a few weeks....though I'm sure his teacher would get a kick out of hearing all of this...

So I toe the line....like a hippopotamus in a tutu, I pretend to be graceful and elegant, but I know I look ridiculous...

Me: Well, no, not with a fertilizer...but with sperm. You need sperm and an egg. That's how a baby grows. And the mom gets to choose when to introduce the sperm to the egg. And that's that.

Evan: Sperm?! What? ...and Where? ...and How?

Sam (to me, gleefully): I'm going to stop for gas, good luck with this!

Me: thespermcomesfromthedaddyevenifthereisn'tadaddymarriedtothemommy WHO WANTS TO HELP DADDY PUMP THE GAS?!

[end scene]

Lesson Learned:
These conversations are always so much easier in my mind....

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

a brief Civil War tour: Washington D.C. and Manassas Battlefield

Evan has been interested in all things War lately. He wants to know about the soldiers, the battles, the weapons, the strategy. He wants to know it all and it all makes me sick.

Every time he tries to show me pictures of guns and tanks and military uniforms my stomach turns a bit and I send a silent prayer up to the Universe that this phase, too, shall pass. Can't we go back to dinosaurs? Let's remember how cool trucks were, once upon a time, please? Can we talk Creature Powers for one quick minute? Please don't ask me who "won" the Vietnam War. Please don't ask me to tell you about Adolf Hitler. Please don't tell me you can't wait until you're grown up so you can join the Marines. My pacifist heart, no--my Mama heart, quakes at the very thought.

But he's my kid. I'm his mom and, though he may be but 8 years old, I know that the fastest way to feed the fire of a child's interest in a subject is to try to change it.

So I listen. I take him to the library where he can find all the Eyewitness Books that have all the answers to his many questions. I even planned a trip to my parents' house near Washington, D.C., from which we could explore a few places of historical, wartime significance.

We took a brief Civil War tour. And I didn't hate it. And Evan didn't run away to join the Army...just yet.

Ford's Theatre; Washington D.C.

We began, it would seem, at the end. We spent a rainy Saturday at Ford's Theatre in Washington, D.C., where Lincoln was assassinated just days after the end of the Civil War.


We learned about President Lincoln's time in office, we learned about the events that lead up to the War. We learned about the final days of war and when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S Grant at Appomattox Courthouse, bringing four years of bloodshed and destruction to a close. We learned about the timeline of events of Abraham Lincoln's final day.


We went across the street to Petersen House, the boarding house where Lincoln succumbed to his injuries the day after the shooting. We saw the bed in which he died. We learned about John Wilkes Booth, his cohort of conspirators, and the manhunt that followed his horrific crime.


...and, when our minds were full and spinning, we breezed through the street-level gift shop, which contained the single best display of books Anywhere, Ever.

...and they're all about Lincoln

From Ford's Theatre, we went, naturally, to the Lincoln Memorial.




In what would be my favorite part of the trip, we turned to descend the staircase and found ourselves facing an iconic scene.


And standing in the footprints of an American icon. 
A simple statement, etched into the stone, forever marking this space, 
forever remembering these words.


My dad, our tour guide for the day, reminded us that the Vietnam Veterans Memorial is right across from the Lincoln Memorial and, despite the rain shower that was quickly becoming a downpour, we couldn't miss the opportunity to see The Wall.


As we started down the walkway, I reminded Evan that each of the names etched into the wall is the name of an American soldier who died during the conflict.

"The letters are so small," he noticed, surprised to see it in person for the first time. "That's because they had to fit a lot of names on it." You're right, buddy. More than 58,000 names, in fact.


One name stood out.


That of my dad's cousin, a medic who was shot while attending to wounded soldiers. 
He died on his birthday.

It had been a long day and we were all sufficiently soaked, so we headed back to my parents' house, ready to rest up for another day of history.


Manassas Battlefield: The Battle of Bull Run

Sunday was a rare, cool and breezy July day outside our Nation's capital. It was sunny with some occasional cloud cover but without the threat of rain. It was the perfect day to walk a battlefield. But first, we explored the museum. I didn't take any pictures of the impressive display of uniforms, weapons, and artifacts, but it's worth factoring a half-hour or so into your trip to really take the time to look them over. 

Our favorite part of the museum, however, was this:


A 3-D topographical map of Manassas Junction, ca. 1861, the location of the first (and second) Battle of Bull Run. This map is equipped with LED lights that light up in two colors, representing the Union and Confederate armies. As a voice-over narration tells the story of the opposing armies approaching toward what would later become known as the Beginning of the Civil War, the lights on the map "move." It was amazing to see the armies meet, divide, retreat, re-group, and ultimately engage in battle. Evan was captivated. Max and Molly were actually paying pretty close attention as well.

From there, we met up with our tour guide, who led us on a 45-minute walking tour of the battlefield, retelling the story we heard in the museum, but on the actual grounds where thousands of soldiers would ultimately perish.




It's a fascinating story.

So fascinating, in fact, that after the 45-minute walking tour, Evan wanted to stay and watch the 45-minute film reenactment of the battle. So, for the third time in two hours, Evan listened to the Story of The Battle of Bull Run. It was a pretty graphic film, though...guns, cannons, blood, etc., so Molly and I only made it through about five minutes before I decided she didn't need to actually "see" the war. Max lasted another ten or so before he and my mom joined Molly and me outside to run around a bit.

From there, we concluded our Civil War tour at the nearby Stone House. Before the Civil War, this building served as a tavern. Because of its proximity to the battlefield, it was turned into a hospital during the war. It is also believed that prisoners of war were held here temporarily.



It has been well-preserved over the years, with many of the rooms even containing the original flooring. In one of the upstairs bedrooms, these initials can still be seen on one of the floorboards; the initials of a wounded Civil War soldier. How incredible is that?


Growing up just down the road from Manassas, I knew this house well. We called it the "Cannonball in the Wall House," because you can see actual cannonballs lodged into the stone. I'd never actually been inside, though, and I was anxious to hear the story of this house.


As we approached the house, I told the boys that we were going to see real cannonballs from a real Civil War battle in the stone.

Until my dad struck up a conversation about those cannonballs with the National Park Service guide at the house:

"Those? Oh, no, they're not really from battle. These walls are 18-inches thick! Any cannonballs that hit this fortress would have bounced right off."

"So....the cannonballs?"

"Yeah, they were put in by the new owners in the early 1900s. They saw an opportunity in this house and turned it into a for-profit Civil War tourist attraction. They lodged the cannonballs in there to give it some 'authenticity.' It was quite a successful stunt!"

Humpf.

I prefer my version of the story.

Lesson Learned:
I don't have to love war or conflict to find history fascinating. Unfortunately, Evan seemed to enjoy this tour just as much as I did. I had kind of secretly hoped that I'd take him to a boring old battlefield, make him listen to boring old men talk about boring old history and he'd get over this little phase of his. Not this trip...

But seriously, if you're ever in the D.C. area, it's worth the drive.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

a visit to Jamestown Settlement

We have Big Plans this summer: We are going to (finally!) check things off the To Do lists we've been adding to for the past few years. We are so lucky to live within driving distance of so many places that hold environmental, cultural, and historical significance...many of which we've never been to. This is the time to start exploring them: the kids are still young enough to go along with our summer plans instead of making their own, but they're old enough to have the stamina and the attention span to make these trips worth it...and relatively easy.

So we were off on our way to Get Out and Do The Things...what better place to start than right where our country began?


On Saturday, we visited Jamestown Settlement, America's first permanent colony, near Williamsburg, Virginia.

We entered the building, purchased our tickets, watched a quick introductory video, and were eager to get started. Before we could get to the heart of the tour, though, we passed this super cool temporary exhibit with British military uniforms from throughout history....from the time of the British colonists in America all the way up to present day warfare in Afghanistan. It was worth a stop.

He read every word on each sign.
Cutie with armor from James Fort 

The museum itself was amazing. We learned all about life in the early 1600's in America, Africa, and England and how the lives of these three groups of people converged in Virginia, in a way that would ultimately shape the foundations of our country. We learned about the men and boys who boarded the fleet of three ships (the Discovery, the Godspeed, and the Susan Constant) in England in late 1606. We learned of their harrowing 4+ month journey from England, to Africa, through the Caribbean, and finally to the coast of Virginia in April 1607.


And then, it was time to jump into history and explore life in the settlement for ourselves.

There were three areas to explore around the Settlement.  
We started at James Fort, home of the colonists:


Throughout the Settlement, people in period costume provided stories and information about life in Jamestown. The first man we met was a leather-worker. We watched as he prepared the leather and twine and he answered the (many) questions my kids had for him. (He also listened patiently as Evan and Max regaled him with facts and trivia that was, at best, tangentially related to what he was actually talking about. "You know, gunpowder was actually invented in Ancient China." "A baby fox is called a kit!")


We explored a church, shop, forge, and several residences... 


We played ring toss in the yard...


...and we played with cannons, too. As you do when in a Fort.


And if you're going to be playing with weapons, you'd better protect yourself.


We left the Fort and walked through the gardens, heading toward the pier where two of the ships were docked.

We climbed aboard (a replica of) the Susan Constant. Okay, disclaimer: I am NOT a boat person. But I am a Brave Mommy. I took a deep breath and walked the plank (fine, it was a ramp) up to the boat. It was tiny...especially considering that 71 people spent more than four months on board. 


The kids had fun exploring the cabins (and calling to the people below deck...)


...but I was feeling extremely claustrophobic. So I hurried on through the self-guided tour and made it back to the pier. Sam and the kids took a quick peek on board the Godspeed, but it was even smaller than the Susan Constant, so I took a pass. (Kinda Brave Mommy?)

From the dock we continued on our way through the third section of the Settlement: 
the Powhatan Village.

Evan studied Native Americans in school this year and Max is practically a Pocahontas expert, so I knew this area would be a hit. The best part of these recreations throughout the Settlement is how hands-on it all is.

The kids practiced scraping the deer hide...


...digging out a canoe...


...grinding corn meal...


...and getting up close and personal with the wall decor...


There were several yehakins to explore...


...each filled with pelts and shells and bones to feel...


...and nets, traps, pottery,  clothing, and jewelry to talk about...to inspire little minds to really imagine what life would have been like for Pocahontas or Chief Powhatan.

Like in the Fort, there were costumed employees giving demonstrations, asking and answering questions, and really bringing the scene to life. 

Resident Chef

Arrowhead Expert
It was a great day.
We had seen it all...had a picnic lunch...visited the Gift Shop...and all with three happy kids in tow.

But the day wasn't over yet.

Oh, no. We had timed our return trip home to coincide perfectly with Beach Traffic. We needed to find an alternate route to avoid the highway and...as luck would have it...there was one!

All we had to do was to get onto a ferry.

Yup. Another boat for Brave Mommy to "happily" climb aboard and "not-at-all-nervously" ride across the river.

It actually wasn't that bad. This was my view for most of the 20 minute ride...


...and this was it for about two of them...


We happened to pass the third boat from the Jamestown Settlement, the Discovery, as it was cruising the river.

Perfection.

Lesson Learned:


It was hot and sweaty and almost three hours of walking, but the kids had a blast. That's some pretty high praise for a day trip. Plus, I love the idea that we're taking advantage of this historically rich place we live...staying, playing, and learning local. What could be better?


Jamestown Settlement? CHECK! Next stop...I'll let you know!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Why I Talked To My 8-year old About Charleston

Horror, sadness, and hopelessness gripped my heart, as it did to so many others, as I read the news this morning. Horror at the gruesome nature of this act of terror. Sadness for the victims and their families. Hopelessness for the state of our country...that this violence and bloodshed and hatred is becoming commonplace.

I was filled with these emotions...but not fear. In the wake of today's massacre, I am not afraid for my own safety, nor for the safety of my children. I am not so naive to think that nothing bad could ever happen to us; surely terrible things happen everyday. But I am white. I live in a comfortable, upper-middle class neighborhood. I am not afraid. But so many mothers' hearts were filled with fear this morning. Because they are black.

I thought of the conversations that were happening in the homes of these mothers this morning. Heartbroken mothers telling their children, again, that they have reason to fear...just because of the color of their skin. In 2015. In the United States of America. They have a reason to be afraid. They had a reason to talk to their young children about the nine lives that were taken, so tragically, so horrifically, last night.

And because they did, so did I.

Racial hatred and violence is not a "black America" issue. This is a "human being" issue. One that we have to acknowledge and address. My children, because they are white, do not know the fear that some of their classmates and neighbors know and, while I'm thankful for that, I'm not okay with that. I'm not okay with my children not knowing that racial violence in this country still exists. I'm not okay with my children thinking that We Have Overcome. We haven't. But someday, we can.

This morning, after I wiped my tears and busied my 3- and 5-year olds with a water table on the patio, I sat down next to my 8-year old.

"I want to tell you about something that happened in Charleston, South Carolina last night," I began. "It's a scary and sad story, so if you want me to stop, just tell me. If you have any questions, you can ask them whenever you need to."

I went on to tell him what happened...just the facts as I could piece them together from the various news accounts I'd read. He listened, making eye-contact the entire time, which is rare for him. He was really listening.

I continued, "I don't know why this young man did this horrible thing. I don't know what thoughts were going through his head, but I can tell you this: For some reason, his sick brain believed that he was better than the people in that church last night. He believed that their lives did not matter as much as his own life....he thought that the lives of black people do not matter. I want you to know that they do. ALL lives matter. It doesn't matter where you live or how much money you have. It doesn't matter if you believe in God or what language you speak. It doesn't matter what color your skin is. ALL lives matter, every life is important. And this sick, sad, hate-filled man took away nine Important Lives."

Because he continued to just look at me, wide-eyed, I went on...

"Listen: I'm sad today. But I'm not scared. I think, if I were African American, I might be scared this morning. And that's why I'm telling you this. It's not fair that some families have to be scared today just because they are black. I hope that, someday, that fear will go away."

He nodded. And looked down...deep in thought.

"Do you have any questions?"

He shook his head. I'm sure, in good time, as is his way, the questions will come. Regardless, the conversation will continue.

***

I talked to my 8-year old about the Charleston terror attack because:

--he recites lessons learned from school with words like "a long, long time ago...back in the olden days...black people and white people were treated differently. But Martin Luther King Jr. fixed all that when he gave his speeches." It wasn't that long ago, and little has been "fixed."

--I wanted him to see me cry for the nine people who were killed: men, women, husbands, fathers, mothers, sons.

--he's not too young to know that All Lives Matter. Black Lives Matter.

Lesson Learned:
Gun control. Mental health support. Love. Peace. Kindness. Is that too much to ask?

Saturday, June 13, 2015

My First Time: A BlogU Recap

Over the past month or so I'd given myself the same morale-boosting pep talk dozens of times: "I know it's scary, but you can Do This! You can learn from experts! You can talk to people who are passionate about the same things you are! You can FIND YOUR TRIBE!"

I was preparing myself mentally and emotionally for my first Blog Conference. I was about to step out as a Blogger, to begin this new chapter in my life as something more than just Mommy. It was my debutante ball of sorts, but with less High Society and more Middle School Awkward.

I was scared to death.

Besides the worry over the talking and the listening and the learning and the networking keeping me up at night, I was also nervous to leave my babies. I'd never spent two nights away from my kids. I knew they'd be fine without me. I'd miss them more than they'd miss me, but still: It was going to be hard.

Then, after weeks of worry and nervous anticipation, it was the first weekend in June and I was there on a small, beautiful campus in Baltimore, ready to Get Schooled, ready to Take My Blog Beyond, ready to find my Tribe. Ready...or not.

I started the first afternoon by attending an informative and helpful workshop on Writing and Editing. Taught by experienced bloggers, writers, and editors, it was a crash course on when you may need to hire the services of a professional editor and what you can expect the process to be like.

I headed from there over to a class called Mastering Pinterest. It was exactly what it promised to be: A How-To course on the secrets and tricks to conquering the Pinterest algorithm to drive traffic to your site. Taught by the Queen of Pinterest herself (she must be, she's a Pinterest genius), the course provided real-life tips on making your posts pinnable and your pins searchable. It was great ready-to-apply information that could make a difference in your blog traffic immediately...if you're ready to Master Pinterest, that is. I have an account. I think I've pinned five things and they're all my own articles. I know that's not how you Do Pinterest, but I don't get Pinterest. I don't want to get it, yet I furiously scribbled notes during the class, believing that to be the Blogger I want to be, I'd better figure out the Pinterest Beast, and fast.

I left the session feeling completely overwhelmed. Add to that the fact that I still wasn't sure how, exactly, one goes about "finding her tribe," and the fact that I stayed up way too late listening to brilliant writers read the best of their best, and the fact that I woke up way too early for not having a 3-year old in my bed and two bigger boys whispering in my ear that "It's morning! Let's go downstairs, please, Mommy! Now, Mommy!" and I just lost my shit.

It was 5am on Saturday morning, with most of the weekend still stretched out before me, and I sat on my bed and cried. I called my husband: "I don't belong here! I don't want to Master Pinterest! I don't wanna find my tribe! I already have one and I miss you guys...I want to come home!" Sam reassured me that he and the kids were, somehow, managing to survive in my absence and that I should NOT come home. "You'll be glad you stayed once it's over," he said. "Just stick it out and don't try to be something you're not. If you don't want to Master Pinterest, you don't have to. Just try to have fun."

So I put my brave face back on and went to breakfast.

On Saturday, I learned a few things:

I don't have to Master Pinterest. I don't have to build a Facebook community or have a Fans of my Blog Page. I don't have to become a brand....but if and when I choose to, I'll know what to do and how to do it. All I have to be is authentic. That's it. That's enough. The women who organized the conference and who taught us what they've learned about Blogging as a Business, Making Money as a Writer, using Instagram, and Building Your Book from an idea to a hard copy you can hold in your hands, know exactly what they're talking about. These women are smart, driven, hard-working, and highly accomplished. They're inspirational and supportive. They're also funny as hell.

I learned that I don't need a huge tribe to feel supported. I need a small circle of real friends. (I found some!) I don't need a million page views a month or for an article to "go viral" to accomplish my goal. My goal is simply to write. I learned that, if I want to write for an audience, I need to write and write and write and to submit and submit and submit. I can do that. I want to do that. I don't have to do more than that...I don't have to BE more than that.

But I'm keeping my notes on Pinterest...just in case I change my mind. That shit was gold.

Lesson Learned:
I did it. I saw the boundaries of my comfort zone and I stepped over the line into uncharted territory. I defined my goals: I want to write. It's as simple as that.

One of my favorite lines of the weekend came not from a session but from the lunch table: My friend Jen said (and I'm paraphrasing here because I had put my notebook away), "If you're going to be a writer, you're going to have to hustle. Might as well hustle for something you're passionate about." I'm not passionate about becoming a brand. But I'm ready to hustle for my writing.

I'm glad I went. I'm glad I stayed. I'm glad Nickelodeon hosted the Saturday night party because, damn: I haven't danced to Sir Mix a Lot or The Bangles in way too long.

***    ***    ***

This post has been syndicated by WIRL Project.

"WIRL Project is an edgy blogging and microblogging platform where real people confess and share life and what it’s really like (WIRL)." 

You can find this post here, but spend a few minutes checking out the site. You're going to like what you see. 

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Time Out: In Pictures

It started as a simple request: "Max, before you go upstairs to play, please clean up your project area."

He'd been working on another one of his books: we print out pictures of whatever characters are in his book (Lalaloopsies, Strawberry Shortcake, My Little Ponies, whatever). He cuts them out and glues them into a stapled-paper book, then dictates a story for me to transcribe. He's made over twenty books and it's his Most Very Favorite Thing To Do Ever. This book will be based on the "Sugar Rush" racers from the movie Wreck-It Ralph and there were pictures of the girls and their go-karts and tiny scraps of paper E V E R Y W H E R E. Also, glue smeared on the table and crayons, pens, and colored pencils strewn about all over.

And it was nearly dinnertime. I hate it when the house is a wreck and I'm trying to get dinner on the table. I can't breathe. I feel claustrophobic. Sam had just gone upstairs to play World War II with Evan and Molly and Max wanted to join them. As much as he wanted to go, I needed him to clean up his area even more. It wasn't too much to ask.

But these days, by that time of day, it was. He's tired from late nights and early mornings. He's worn out from a full day of cooperative and outdoor play. He's talking about "end of preschool" and "beginning of Kindergarten" stuff constantly. He's hanging by a thread, that deep-feeling, sensitive kiddo of mine.

He furrowed his brow: "No."

I stopped what I was doing and looked him in the eye, "Max, I know you want to play, but you have to clean up first. There will be time to play after you clean up, but not if you waste time now. Get busy."

"NO! You can't make me!"

Oh, yes I can. And, you, my boy, need to take a break.

"Go sit on the steps."

"NOOOOOOO!"

"Yes. Five minutes. Cool down."

And then the defiance and the attitude and the yelling continued to escalate until he had earned himself a 15-minute cool-down instead of five. And then he kicked Molly's milk cup out of her hand and collapsed on the floor in a puddle of Big Emotions.

I carried him over to the steps, handed him a notebook and a pen and said, "Fifteen Minutes."

He glared at me one last, dramatic time before accepting his fate.

At the end of his Epically Long Time Out, we talked. He apologized to me (for the yelling and the defiance) and to Molly (for the kicking and the milk-spilling), I sat with him while he cleaned up his mess. Before he went upstairs to join the game with Evan and Sam, he snuck into the office. He returned and handed me an envelope. Inside were the drawings he made during his Time Out:

Max is Mad

Max is Mad and Max is Yelling at Mommy

Max has to Sit on the Steps While Daddy, Evan, and Molly Get to Play Upstairs

Now Max is Sad

Mommy is Thumbs Up, Max is Thumbs Down

Lesson Learned:
He talked to me about these pictures and I assured him that, even when he is Mad Max or Sad Max, he is still Thumbs Up Max. I love that he can express his feelings so well. I love that he wears his heart on his sleeve. I love that he Feels the Big Feels. I just can't wait for this endless transition to kindergarten to finally be over...not that I'm wishing away our summer before it even begins...it's just that the worries and anxieties of Starting Kindergarten are so hard on these tiny little people. (And their Mommies.)

Monday, May 18, 2015

Welcome to the Jungle...I mean...the pool

As a lifelong card-carrying member of several different Neighborhood Pools, I have had 35 years of experience observing a unique subset of our society; suburban moms, finally let out of their school-year cages, enjoying the freedom of Summer Break in their natural habitat. They are The Pool Moms.


No longer a mere observer of this culture, I have been accepted as one of the tribe. I've been a few of these moms in the seven summers I've spent as a Pool Mom. Which one are you?


The Swim Team Mom
This mom does not come to the pool as a leisure activity. Oh, no. For her, the pool is Strictly Business. In fact, Swim Team Mom doesn’t even bother to wear her bathing suit to the pool, as she is far too busy to go for a swim. She is running the snack bar or posting meet stats. She is making sure all Time Keeper positions for the upcoming meet have been filled (and she has your number if they’re not). She is making sure no casual pool user is using the lap lane for Marco Polo, as it is to be used solely for lap swim. She knows all of the life guards by name, and when she calls one of them, you’d best come running, son.


The Baby Pool Mom
Still in her private bubble (or, in this case, a literal fenced enclosure) of toddlerhood, this mom comes to the pool for Adult Conversation. Sitting on the edge of the Baby Pool, with her feet submerged in 12 inches of water of debatable pH balance, this mom can watch as her child attempts to empty the entire pool by dumping one tupperware container at a time onto the pool deck, while finally interacting with another adult...any adult. She is not picky. She will happily strike up a conversation with anyone else who enters the Baby Pool enclosure, including the life guards who come in to “check” the pH levels.


The Mom of Many Small Children
With a baby on her hip; a toddler in water wings, a life vest, and a floatie at water’s edge; and a preschooler splashing around with a pool noodle nearby, this mom’s not here for relaxation or adult conversation. Actually, she’s unlikely to engage in any conversation other than shouting reminders towards her children: “No, no, no! Stay here! Diving boards are for big kids.” or “Stop splashing your brother!” or “No, we’re not going to the snack bar.” or “I really wish you had told me you needed to use the potty while we were in there with your sister three minutes ago.” This mom has another motive in shlepping her kids (slippery from excessive, unevenly applied sunscreen), the toy bag, the towel bag, the diaper bag, and the snack bag to the pool each day: Nap Time. Ah, yes. There is little more cherished reward for a hard morning’s work at the pool than simultaneous afternoon nappers.


The Mom Who Thinks The Life Guards Are Babysitters
If you’ve ever been to a neighborhood pool, you already know this mom. This is the mom who also brings small children to the pool but, unlike the Mom of Many Small Children, she mistakenly believes that, once on Pool Property, they are no longer of her concern. Her children run on the pool deck, raid other people’s pool bags, take pool toys out of other children’s hands, splash with intention to annoy, and demonstrate otherwise obnoxious behaviors. The Mom Who Thinks The Life Guards Are Babysitters is in a chair, under an umbrella, reading a magazine, completely unaware of the havoc her little monsters are wreaking.


The Mom of Independent Swimmers
The Mom of Independent Swimmers enters the pool carrying a small tote, which holds only a book, a bottle of sunscreen, a water bottle, and a single towel. But she’s a Mom. Where’s the rest of her gear? you wonder. And then you see it: Her children are Carrying Their Own Shit. They drop their things onto a row of lounge chairs and then, she settles in with her book while the kids go off to swim. At break, the kids climb out of the pool, dry off, grab a snack out of their own bags, and (with a gentle reminder from Mom) reapply their sunscreen. This is Neighborhood Pool Nirvana. This is the Pool Mom the other Pool Moms watch, longingly, hoping to someday emulate.  


The Absentee Mom
There will come a time, believe it or not, when your presence at the pool will not be necessary. Your newly-a-teenager will ask for a ride to the pool, where she is to meet her ten closest girlfriends (and some boys, too). You will drop her off, yelling a hurried “Don’t forget your sunscreen!” after her. You will look through the fence as she walks in without you and see the sweaty, harried Moms of Small Children as they slather sunscreen on wiggly little bodies and chase toddlers away from the edge of the pool. You will see the children who are whining about being too hot, too wet, too hungry, or too bored. You will see the look of exhaustion on their mothers’ faces. On witnessing the familiar scene, you will be filled with two equal emotions, two competing thoughts: “I remember those days. [sigh] It went by so fast,” and “Well! Looks like I’m just going to have to go home and watch my DVR’d Daily Show and drink my coffee All By Myself.”

As for me, I have taken my place alongside The Pinball Moms. With one kid playing in the shallow section, one kid practicing his cannonballs and dog-paddling in the 4-foot section, and one kid mustering up the courage to jump off the diving board, we are in constant motion. We are bouncing from one end of the pool to the other, monitoring our children’s safety while making sure we catch every jump and dunk and paddle (“Yes, honey! Of course I saw that! You were so brave!”). We are amazed by how big and independent our little fishies have already become, but damn: That lounge chair and a book look really good right about now.

Lesson Learned:
'Tis the season, Moms! Can't wait to see you at the pool!