Summer has to be my most favorite time of year. With sunlight shining long into evening, warmer temperatures, and days off of school, summer is just a relaxing, exciting time filled with endless wonders. Raising three children, however, has made me homebound in recent years with children who need naps, elementary school students who need summer supplemental learning (workbooks), and an economic crunch that has forced me to stay away from expensive diversions. What I found is that all I need to make an exotic afternoon is a kiddie pool, some plastic accessories, and a smile and the children are whisked away to a mini-vacation no matter how often I drag it out.
The kiddie pool we own was acquired when my oldest was the only child. Back then I was president of the local M.O.M.S. Club (Moms Offering Moms Support) and participated in a swap, an exchange of toys, household items, and clothing, early one fall. One mother was offering a brand new inflatable round kiddie pool still unopened in the box. She insisted she’d never use it, nobody wanted to store it over the long winter nor had any interest, so I snatched it up. It sat in our garage and every day that winter my son would ask, “Can we use the pool today, Mommy? “Not yet, Honey,” I’d reply. “We have to wait for the snow to melt and for it to get warmer, but we will, Sweetie, we will!” Finally winter melted into a cold, wet spring, and, finally, spring blossomed into a hot, humid, and sultry summer. We inflated the pool, blew it up, and the fun began. By the time summer arrived I was expecting my second child. It was so hot I put on my maternity swimsuit and gingerly sat in the pool enjoying the cool water lapping over my enormous belly. My son would play for hours, jumping in and out, filling different sized plastic cups, water pistols, and playing with toys that captured his imagination. I worried that the pool would last only one summer; but the following year, when my second son was not yet a year old, the pool came out for another year. The boys played well together, although my second child didn’t quite have his sea legs. He would tumble into the water and either giggle or cry depending on his mood. My oldest delighted in having a playmate, even a loud one who sucked on his fingers all of the time, showed off his talent by jumping in and out of the pool and “diving” in managing never to get his hair wet lest his face touch the water. On the verge of a major breakthrough at swim lessons, my oldest was urged to put his head in the water and swim. When I forced the issue one day in the kiddie pool, my son panicked. He cried, freaked out a bit, and nearly hyperventilated. Then, in a single move of bravery, he went under, survived, and was so pleased and proud of himself that he did it again and again and again! In fact, he became so adept at the head under the water move that his swim teachers were flabbergasted by his progress! Thank you kiddie pool.
As the years wore on the second child, who definitely found his sea legs and got his fingers out of his mouth, also discovered his talents; submerging his head earlier than his brother had, kicking furiously, and all around tomfoolery with his big brother. By the time my daughter arrived, I thought for sure the pool wouldn’t survive another day. But it got put away at the end of summer along with the myriad toys, cups, and swimming accessories amid tears and fits. This past winter my second son, now in the last months of Nursery School, asked me, “Can we set up the pool today, Mommy?” I replied, “We have to wait for the snow to melt and for it to get warmer, Sweetie, but we will!” That was enough to placate him until the next day. That pattern repeated itself all throughout the winter and spring. Until this past weekend, when the mercury soared and time permitted, I got out the pool, the bag of toys, cups, and swimming accessories, and my children, all three of them, delighted themselves for hours on end each day. The difference is, my boys now handle the filling of the pool in the morning and the cleaning up of toys at the end of the day. I realize the days with that pool are numbered for my oldest even if it does continue to live through its torture. My son, all legs, hardly fits comfortably in it anymore. He pretends not to notice, but it is difficult not to. He’ll be off with friends swimming in the nearby lake and won’t think twice about his endless summers entertained in that pool, but I will always remember.
I feel so blessed that among all of the things we own, the kiddie pool we received for free has become the best summer activity for my children. The water is soothing, refreshing, cooling, and has restorative power. Like the ocean or lakes for others, the kiddie pool offers my children an escape, a luxury, and a release that nothing else does. I try to capture these times in pictures, in memories, and in moments to relive in the future. The kiddie pool has been a true friend to all of us and will always hold a place of honor in our summer lives.