I remember watching my boys swim at a local pool a few summers ago.
David, then 10, is wearing his big honkin’ green goggles that cover his entire face, well, at least his eyes and his nose. His mouth is still exposed. He reminds me of a huge green bug. Kevin, then 5, still won’t put his face all the way under the water. “Blow bubbles!” I say. He won’t. He whimpers a bit, then shoots other people with his water gun. Kids squeal. Adults express mixed reactions. Some smile and splash back. Others look annoyed. Some glare. Kevin does not have his water gun etiquette down yet. I make a note to work on that with him.
The coconuty smell of sunscreen wafts through the humid North Carolina air. Heads bob up and down in the clear water. The sun scorches my shoulders. I mentally calculate the last time I sprayed my boys down with SPF 50. It is time again, probably. Sweat beads on my forehead and drops down on the pages of my David Baldacci novel. I think of how refreshing it will be to jump into the water.
The lifeguards gaze lazily over their sunglasses, every now and then glancing down at the phones in their laps. Texting, playing Candy Crush (yes, I know Candy Crush is sooooo 5 years ago . . .)
A dad with his two girls, probably ages 3 and 4, sit to my left underneath their own umbrella. He coerces them to eat strawberries or how about a banana?
“No, you can’t have a cookie until you eat your fruit. Don’t make me call your mom.”
He takes a swig of his beer, stands up, hands on his waist.
“But daddy! Stwaberries make me feew sick!” One wails. He takes another drink. Sighs.
Stay consistent, I think. You can do it. I send him mental energy. Words are unnecessary. You are the adult. Don’t be manipulated by their adorableness.
I smirk to myself as if I am always consistent with my own kids. As if I didn’t just give in earlier today when they begged me for leftover pizza and Sunkist for breakfast. Then donuts on the way to pool. As if I don’t say things like, “Fine! Eat the cookie! Eat all the cookies! Make yourself sick! I don’t care!”
“Whatever, eat the cookies. Just don’t tell your mom you didn’t eat your fruit.” The dad sighs. The girls jump up and do some kind of happy sister cookie dance. Then the next thing I know their faces are smeared with chocolate. Dad tells them to go jump into the water to clean their faces and he settles down in his pool chair with a magazine.
At this point David is playing sharks and minnows in the deep end — basically a game of tag — and Kevin is still shooting people with his water gun, turning around quickly as if the victim will have absolutely no idea what happened.
I stand up, stretch, and walk on the hot pavement to the deep end to watch the game. Two boys, probably around David’s age, are playing. They may have been brothers or friends, or neither, or both. The boys climb out of the water, dripping, panting, amongst a dozen other kids.
Boy 1: “Oh Man! We’re screwed!”
Boy 2: “Dude, I think you can come up with a more appropriate description of our situation. How about, ‘we’re currently disadvantaged?’”
My English teacher heart grins so big, and I quickly skip back to my pool bag. I pull out my little notebook and jot down the dialogue I just heard that simply locks this pool experience into the books.
“Hey! No running ma’am!” the lifeguard shouts from across the pool, Candy Crush on pause.
I give him the thumbs up sign.