Today I woke up to the sound of the wind and rain. Throughout the night when my son beckoned, the rhythm of sheets of water against our siding made me feel as if I was riding the waves I could hear crashing not far beyond my window, on the beach I can glimpse through the trees. The howling continued through the morning, the window screens rippling with each gust, the glass glimmering in the steady stream of water pushed against it. With a toddler and an infant I was not sure what to do in the mess I heard outside. I'm not above bundling them both up and venturing out onto a sheltered trail, but today that felt like a lot of work, and as long as they were putting up with the washing of toilets and sweeping of floor, I was going to press forward cleaning the house.
Then, a friend mentioned she was heading to the pool.
I grew up in the water, filling the days of summer and the afternoons in spring and fall with hours upon hours in the pool in our backyard. The games my sisters and I invented constantly morphed into new varieties to entertain our growing imaginations, and throughout our backyard were stations and homes and towns and businesses we had invented weeks and months and years before. There was an entire world to behold in our backyard, and it centered around the water. As an adult I still find myself drawn to it, with overwhelmingly positive connotations and countless memories attached to it. With two pregnancies and two babies in the last four years, I have spent less time than ever in the water.
A couple weeks ago when my toddler was brought to a kiddie pool I realized she was nearly afraid of the water. How could I be surprised? She's spent very little time in anything more than a bathtub, save the occasional hotel pool or a dip in a frigid Alaskan lake. I was surprised at how much this realization bothered me--how could she have a proper childhood if she was afraid of the water? At two she's not eligible for swim classes, but our city pool has an amazing wading area, and I had no one to blame but myself if she continued to bemoan swimming opportunities.
I gave myself ninety minutes to get ready and arrive at the pool; keep in mind, it is no more than three miles away from my house. Lugging two little ones to a pool was a bit intimidating to me, and I knew if I could just get out to do it once it would be infinitely easier the next time. This is true of just about every task I try to undertake on my own: intimidating until I complete it once. So I crawled (carrying my son) into our under-the-stairs closet, dug around until I found the baby-floating-intertube-thing, and lugged it upstairs. We sat in the hallway--all three of us, because I live with leaches--and I struggled to blow the tubing to life. Apparently the devices invented to prevent the de-flating of the inner-tube also make it nearly impossible to blow up. We set about outfitting ourselves in swim suits and layers for traveling in the monsoon outside. We filled a bag with towels and baby shampoo and lotion and fresh underwear. And finally after several minutes of assembling shoes and coats, I loaded both kids into the carseats--with time to spare.
In the end, we lasted around forty minutes in the pool, with far more than that spent unloading the car, stripping down in the locker room, showers, reassembling our many layers to depart, loading up the car while fighting hurricane force winds, and unloading again at home (thankfully with the protection of a garage). Normally I would think twice about any activity that was that was this high maintenance with only forty minutes of entertainment to show for it. For the pool, I can make an exception. My daughter was still skittish, but less so than last time. She paddled cautiously around in water that was high enough that she couldn't touch her feet but shallow enough that she could clearly see the bottom. My son was laughing in glee for the better part of it, intermittently drinking the water and trying to climb out of his floating oasis. With a couple friends and our combined six kids age four and under, the shallow pool was a bit of a circus, but it was great. In between rescuing the bold kids from drowning and the skittish kids from crying, we chatted about last weekend's mountain race and the triathlons coming this spring. We shared traveling schedules for the holidays and the class schedules for one gal's degree in progress. We talked about our personal positive associations with the pool, and our desires for our kids to (safely) love it too.
Now that it's nap time and both kids are asleep, the thought of ever repeating the outing sounds exhausting--but I know that I will. It won't always be this hard to get out the door. Even though it seems easier to stay home at times, the days that I never leave the house feel empty and energy-draining in their own way. These are good days; these are hard days. A smile from my son and a string of hilarious antics from my daughter remind me to look past the struggles to sleep and feel like a balanced adult, and appreciate the space I am in. Some days a trip to the pool helps me feel a little more like myself.I hope that some day it may do the same for them too.