I hate taking my kids to the pool. As in, I HATE IT. I recognize this makes me a terrible mother. Summertime is about flip-flops and chlorine and the faint whiff of sunscreen. I know. I know. But if you have very young kids or have seen someone at the pool with toddlers, you must be vaguely aware that the effort required by a mother to get to the pool is not in any way, shape, or form equivalent to the pleasure received from being at the pool.
All around me moms are proclaiming the glories of summer, breathlessly anticipating time at the pool, or god forbid, a trip to the beach. What do these ladies know that I don’t? I’m sorry y’all, but going to the pool sucks. Don’t even get me started on the beach.
Last week I briefly lost my mind and decided that a trip to the pool was just the thing we needed to get this summer party started. The pool opens at 11, which meant preparatory activities began at 10. First up, the sunscreen dance. This is the part where you have to locate and strip down your children, hold them in one place, and rub creamy white goo all over their tiny bodies so their tender skin doesn’t fry under the withering sunshine. It’s recommended to do this at least 20 to 30 minutes before sun exposure. My kids hate this part of pool prep, so I’m always prepared for battle. Sunscreen makes kids slippery, so the more success you achieve, the harder this activity becomes. Maddening.
Naturally I’m already dressed and ready to go—wearing the very latest in postpartum pool attire (wink wink) and having generously slathered myself in SPF 50 as well. Of course I can’t reach my back, so I’m prepared to burn—anything for the children.
I also need to be sure to have plenty of snacks and drinks so that we can stay at the pool for longer than 45 minutes—something nutritious and easily eaten without utensils, preferably not too sticky, crumbly or messy. Organic carrot sticks and homemade hummus would be ideal. I’ll just pop that into my small, lightweight cooler with padded shoulder strap (I am after all, the only adult participating in this bliss).
At long last, we arrive at the pool. I unbuckle car seats, grab my purse, diaper bag, slow-walking 18-month-old, and small, lightweight cooler and trek across the blazing asphalt toward that beacon of happiness: The Pool. I hand my passes to the teenage gatekeeper who interrogates me on the number and type of swim diapers I’ve brought with me before letting us pass.
Can we take a sec here and talk about the swim diaper, the nemesis of toddler mamas worldwide? Swim diapers are a joke. Supposedly they enable your child to pee and/or drop a poopie while swimming in a public pool without contaminating the water. Yet, I and every other toddler-mom know that a swim diaper can only handle one tiny little pee before it’s rendered useless. Therefore you wait until the last possible millisecond to put it on.
Back to our arrival: After a quick scan of the crowded deck, it is obvious that only one lounge chair remains. The kids make a run for it, and we all squeeze together on the sun-scorched plastic slats to unload our gear. Out come towels, off with shoes, I pull on swim diapers, tug up suits, and re-lather faces with sunscreen before giving the blessing to enter the water.
Are you still with me? This adventure is just beginning.
Inevitably, five minutes after the kids start swimming, the whistle blows and it’s time for adult swim. At 11 a.m. on Tuesday morning we need to have adult swim? The only adults currently in the pool are mamas with non-swimming children desperately Velcro-ed to their sagging one-piece. We all drag our kids out of the water and exchange eyerolls at the splash pad until the break is over.
Repeat the above scene twice—stopping to do the sunscreen dance at least one more time—and it is noon. Time for some food and a potty break. Trying to get a swim diaper down off my 3-year old’s bum and back up his pool-wet legs again is an exercise in patience and self-control. And what’s that face my 18-month-old is making?! Oh no. Noooooooooooooooo. She’s pooping in the swim diaper. Awesome. Now I have to take both children and a diaper bag to the tiny pool bathroom stall, get a wet swim suit off my girl, continually admonish my curious 3-year-old (“do not touch anything!“), clean her hiney, and get a fresh swim diaper on. Have we talked about the humidity levels in this tiny little poolside bathroom? It’s drier in the Amazon.
Two hours into this performance, I’m cooked, the kids are looking a little too pink, and I decide it’s time to surrender. A mom with older kids might just throw towels at them and trek back to the car, but a toddler mom must prepare for naptime. I change the kids out of their swimsuits (and of course swim diapers) and put them back in regular clothes again. Never mind doing this for myself—I’ll just deal with a wet butt in the car.
Mercifully we’re home 15 minutes later. The tots have fallen asleep in the car, so I lug them back to their beds and collapse on the couch, my hair a tangled mess, my cover-up plastered against my lobster-red back. I pray for long naps and drift off to dreamland with the kids.
And so, dear friends, if you call and invite me and my brood to the pool one of these days, please don’t be offended if I decline. We’ll be playing in the sprinkler for the rest of summer.