As summer begins, and school is finally out, parents everywhere are faced with the inevitable question: What on earth are we going to do with these children all day for the next two months?
A lot of us look back with longing at our own childhoods, in simpler times, when our moms could send us out the screen door in the morning to play with a wolf pack of neighborhood kids in the woods until the proverbial street lights flickered on. We wish our kids’ childhood could look more like the natural, uncomplicated freedom we enjoyed instead of the iPad screen. We lament what today’s youth are missing out on. But it’s a different world, and a lot of things we reminisce about are no longer possible.
This hasn’t stopped me from looking for similar experiences for my daughter anyway. While I would never let her roam the streets unattended as I did (especially without sunscreen!), there is one place that has remained remarkably the same for the past 40 years, one place where I can take her that feels like a time warp, where my child and her friends can make the same memories that I cherish. That place is our community pool.
I am convinced that the community pool is magical, and here’s why I love it so much.
1. For starters, it’s cheap.
I can’t afford thousands of dollars on lavish vacations, or hundreds for a day at a theme park. I need cheap entertainment, and my membership to the community pool cost me a whopping five dollars for an entire family for the whole year. It doesn’t even seem possible, I know. That’s less than an iced coconut latte these days, and I get unlimited visits!
2. The pool is exhausting.
This is a very good thing. During the dog days of summer, parents need things to do that will wear these children out. Hours of sun, swimming, splashing, and fresh air will have the kids conked out in the backseat before you get home.
3. It’s super convenient.
A day at the community pool requires zero planning. It’s not far away, so I don’t have to deal with the hassles of a road trip. By going to the pool we avoid tourist crowds and beach traffic. We can be spontaneous. Since I keep a packed pool/beach bag and towels in my trunk at all times, the most work I have to do is packing lunch in a cooler, but most of the time I don’t even do that. We can either go after lunch or get drive-thru on the way.
4. No technology.
I’m constantly looking for ways to reduce screen time, especially in the summers when boredom reigns and electronic distractions are all too tempting. A day at the community pool is the perfect solution to that dilemma, because, hey, the iPad can’t get wet. My smartphone can’t go underwater. When we go swimming, we are naturally forced to unplug.
5. I get a break too.
Parenting may be a full-time job, but everyone knows we moms and dads also deserve a break. I work hard as a teacher all year, so I’d like to enjoy my time off from school. When we’re at the pool, I get a vacation too. I can relax on a chaise lounge, or I can chill in the shade of one of the big oaks. Mostly I hang out in the water enjoying not being hot while my daughter implores me to “Watch this, Mommy!” for the 756th time. It never gets old.
6. We make a lot of new friends.
Our community pool is close by, but it isn’t in our neighborhood or even our school district. Which is great, because it allows us to branch out and meet a lot of new people. My daughter can play with kids who go to other schools this way. Since it’s not only families who go to the pool, I get a chance to make valuable connections with people outside of my usual “elementary school mom” demographic. For instance, I’ve had a lot of meaningful conversations with the senior citizens who frequent the community pool.
7. The vibe is so low-key.
No one cares what you look like. It’s not a scene like the fancy country clubs where the ladies in Lilly judge your cellulite and recommend the latest fat-melting cleanses. People come here to have fun with their families, not to be looked at, so there’s no pressure. It’s freeing, so put on your new Target tankini and get in! At the community pool there is room for everyone.
8. Swimming is amazing for you.
Don’t spend your days on the sidelines. Jump in! It’s no secret that I can’t stand exercise. In the heat and humidity, I absolutely loathe movement, but not in the refreshing turquoise waters of the pool. I can swim all day and feel fantastic. Swimming is one of the healthiest forms of exercise there is, and it’s low impact. For people like me who have connective-tissue pain, swimming can actually bring relief because it’s gentle on the joints. The buoyancy of the water helps me hold my body weight, while at the same time, the water’s resistance aids in building muscle. When I get moving, I feel great, and exercise helps me be a calmer, happier, and healthier person all around. That’s reason enough to spend as much time at the pool as I can.
9. The ice cream truck comes.
Okay, fine. I know it’s not organic, vegan, or locally sourced. Yes, that strawberry shortcake bar is filled with chemicals, and the creamsicle contains terrifying levels of food dyes, but nothing brings me back to my childhood summers like the twinkling jingle-jangle of the ice cream truck’s tune. Every afternoon the ice cream man makes a stop at the community pool (exactly like when we were kids), and more often than not, I’m cool with shelling out a couple bucks for rocket pops and chipwiches. In fact, I look forward to it. You’ve got to live a little, and we can always have quinoa for dinner later.
Not much remains from the summers that today’s parents look back on so fondly, but miraculously the community pool has remained timeless and unchanged. I’m grateful for the physical wellbeing it allows me and my daughter, and for the sense of unity and belonging it brings to all the people in our town. The community pool is a real treasure and I’m thrilled that my child and her friends will get to share some of the same happiest summer memories that I recall.
Now excuse me, because I have a pair of goggles to adjust — because guess where we’re off to this afternoon?