I-i-i-in Chester County, not born but raised, the pool club is where I spend most of my days …
Okay, so those aren’t the real lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, but that song is stuck in my head so I’m taking poetic license to draw you in. During the summer months, the pool club really is where we spend most of our days. Or at least some of our days. Either way, after six years at the same private pool club, I’ve made a few observations and learned a valuable lesson.
There are two types of moms at the pool club: The ones who religiously apply sunscreen to their kids every hour on the hour, continuously offer snacks and drinks to their offspring regardless of their hunger/thirst levels, incessantly snap photo after photo of their children’s gazillionth dive/handstand/water basketball trick and even, for some godforsaken reason, play with their younglings enthusiastically and lovingly … And then there are the moms like me, who do none of that.
Before you criticize me and say I’m a bad mom, let me remind you that my boys are 11 and 14. When they were smaller, I was more hands-on. I sunscreened, fed, photographed and played (albeit reluctantly) with the best of them. I did my time at the kiddie pool (or as my sister calls it, the coxsackie pool). I paid my mommy dues. But those days are long gone. Once the boys passed the swim test and we moved up to the big pool, I learned to let go and enjoy the pool club for what it really offers — FREEDOM. Yes, in those early days I still watched them in the water to make sure they didn’t drown, but unless they were splashing an adult or misbehaving in a way that was obnoxious to others, I let the lifeguards handle the reprimanding and scolding. And let me tell you, it was refreshing not to be the one reminding them to stop running or to wait at the bottom of the slide ladder.
Now that my boys are older, it’s all about independence and autonomy. The pool club offers a safe environment for them to spread their wings: It’s private (members only), enclosed (only one entrance/exit) and small enough that you can see everything from your lounge chair. It’s well-staffed with trained lifeguards and never too crowded. The best part? There’s always someone for the boys to play with, so I’m off the hook. They each have their own set of pool friends to keep them entertained — swimming, diving, shooting hoops, playing shuffleboard, wiffle ball, volleyball or Four Square, or even just hanging out — which means they get a break from each other, too. A win-win!
Pool sovereignty isn’t just about how the boys spend their time at the club. They have to take responsibility for their actions and their belongings. It’s on them to remember to pack the things they may want or need, like snacks, drinks, towels and sunscreen. If they get hungry, thirsty, cold or sunburned, they’ll remember next time. Or they won’t. Either way, it’ll be a learning experience. #LifeLessons.
But the best thing about giving my kids more freedom at the pool? It gives me more freedom, too. At the club, they’re not all up in my business as they would be if we were home. I can research, plan and write my next article or I can read and even nap (!) while working on my suntan. It’s glorious! It may not be perfect, and it’s definitely not as zen as an exotic beach or my own private backyard pool (thanks to other people’s loud kids), but with the help of dark sunglasses and earplugs, it works well enough most days.
So if you see me at the pool club ignoring my kids while I catch up on my summer reading, don’t hate … Join me.
And to the moms of little ones who are still relegated to the kiddie pool — Hang in there. Your day will come.