Club Independence

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.

The last pool picture I took of my boys, c. June 2014

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.

The view from my lounge chair.

And to the moms of little ones who are still relegated to the kiddie pool — Hang in there. Your day will come.

– LJDT

The End of the Innocence

Anyone remember that late ’80s song, “The End of the Innocence,” by Don Henley? I don’t even like that song and, to be honest, I’m not even a big Don Henley fan (except for “The Boys of Summer”), but the chorus of that song has been stuck in my head for the past few weeks because it’s reflective of my world right now. You see, we are entering a whole new stage of life with both my boys — puberty for my youngest and dating for my oldest.

My 5th grader, who is a little more than a month shy of turning 11, has been learning about the body systems in school and is currently studying the reproductive unit. Luckily, his cool, 32-year-old health/PE teacher keeps it pretty basic and PG-rated. No Miracle of Life videos or graphic textbooks, but he does teach hand signals to help with the vocabulary. My personal favorites are the forceful fist punch up in the air to represent ejaculation and a military salute for semen. Needless to say, dinner conversations at the Tarr house have been rather lively these past few weeks, filled with scrotum stories and unbridled laughter from my pint-sized penis-talker.

Thanks to Mr. D and 5th grade health class, I’ll never be able to look at this Halloween photo the same way again!

This isn’t my first journey through puberty with boys and, generally speaking, it takes a lot to shock me. But I have to admit, it’s a little unsettling to hear my 10-year-old discuss nocturnal dreams when he still sleeps with a stuffed animal and wants to be tucked in each night. Talk about a dichotomy! Thankfully for me and my music selection, he’s still pretty naive and sexual innuendo mostly goes over his head. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same for my oldest … Cue the clean version of my playlist.

Speaking of my oldest, my 13-year-old 8th grader is officially a man-child. At 5’8″ and over 140 pounds, he has long surpassed me in both height and weight. Add an additional two inches for his “winter hair” (a.k.a., the faux ‘fro) and he’s almost as tall as my husband. But it’s not only his size that amazes me. Like many typical moody, hairy, smelly teenage boys, he’s now girl crazy. While he’s still fully absorbed with his buddies and playing lacrosse, football and basketball, he’s now equally obsessed with texting and FaceTiming his new girlfriend. Yes, you read that correctly. My first-born baby has his first-ever girlfriend. I don’t like to think about it, but those nocturnal dreams my younger one is learning about may be more of a reality for my older one. [Shutter] All I have to say is, thank goodness he does his own laundry so I don’t have to find out.

My man-child even has lip fuzz … or is that dirt?

The teen dating scene is new to me (and him) so I’m sure there will be many more posts about it in the coming weeks. I know this is just the beginning and right now it’s all still very innocent. They are still very innocent. Thankfully. But my boys are growing up and experiencing things earlier than I remember. On the school bus alone they are exposed to everything from elementary school kids dropping the F-bomb and telling racial jokes to middle schoolers talking about blow jobs and sexting. For real! I can’t home school them (none of us would survive that catastrophe) or keep them in a bubble, so all I can do is talk to them (repeatedly and incessantly) to ensure that my polite, honest and respectful boys mature into polite, honest and respectful men.

In a few months, my boys will start middle school and high school, respectively. Life will get even more complicated, I’m sure, so for now I’m going to relish the hand gestures and giggles … and even the constant texting.

– LJDT