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Testing the Waters: Parenting Adventures

Ann E. Butenas


Our neighborhood pool opened this weekend, marking the official opening of the summer season. My three young sons, ages 5, 3 1/2, and 2 begged my husband and I to take them up there. We promised them we would go later in the day, when the sun's rays weren't so direct. As my husband and I went about our daily chores that day, we were constantly interrupted by eager questions: "Is it time to go to the pool yet?" "Can I get my swimming suit on now?" "Where are my gobbles? (That is preschool talk for 'goggles.')"

As patiently as I could, I reminded the boys that we would go later in the day, after we finished our work. Finally, the magical moment arrived. It was time to head on up to the pool. While I gathered up all that I thought we should take, my husband put swimming suits on the boys. As I dashed up the stairs in pursuit of suntan lotion, I heard my husband yell after me, "Which swimming suit diaper is Noah's" I responded, "The smaller one." He evidently was holding both diapers up in front of him, yet he still questioned me, "Don't these things have numbers on them?" I raced back to see what he was doing and discovered he had figured it all out. I then reminded him to put the pool shoes on the boys. As I started to give him all three pairs, he must have sensed my frustration at his apparent ineptitude at figuring out whose shoes were whose. I commenced to place them out in order, from smallest to largest. "I think I can manage from here," he satirically replied. I flew back up the stairs and called down, "I'll be out in a minute!"

I rummaged through all of our summer stuff. Things were hidden everywhere. I thought I was more prepared than this. I needed to consult my mental checklist: Sunscreen, sunglasses - five pairs, hats - three of them, towels - dozens of them, three clothing changes, money for the vending machine, pool toys, etc. As I mumbled to myself, I heard my husband open up the side door and yell, "Aren't you ready yet?" I grabbed everything, rambled off my list again in my head, checked myself in the mirror (Hey! I have to look good when I am flustered!), and replied, "Uh, sure, I think so." I hobbled down the stairs with all of our supplies. "Guess I could use a suitcase—or a station wagon," I thought to myself.

For two hours at the pool, I was packing as if I was going on a cruise. I managed to find a couple of bags into which I put everything. I tossed one to my husband as I closed the garage door behind me. The boys were sitting on the front lawn, looking frustrated with the long wait. I managed a grin, "What's wrong with you guys. Let's get going!" Since the pool is just a half a block away, we walked up there. In retrospect, though, we probably should have taken a minivan. I had towels around my neck, a two-year-old on my hip, and a big bag in my hand. My husband was holding the hand of the three-year-old, had a bag in his other hand, a ball under his arm, and an inner tube around his neck. The five-year-old was practically at the pool by now.

Once inside the gates, we found a spot to put all of our things. Looking at all we brought, my husband joked, "Guess we will have to wait until the next ten people leave in order to find a spot to accommodate us." I just took everything and put it into a pile near the baby pool and started the prep work. I grabbed a bottle of sunscreen. I pulled the youngest boy to me, took off his shirt, and began to lather him up as much as I could. One of my biggest summer fears is over-exposure to the sun. There went one bottle of sunscreen. I did the same with the older boys, and, despite their constant fidgeting and whining about it all, I managed to get them all covered up. Now, they looked like ghosts! I felt confident my over-zealous efforts would beat the sun's rays.

The boys approached the edge of the pool and looked at each other as if to suggest, "You go first." The two-year-old jumped right in. There was a brief moment of silence, followed by a look of shock, and then the crying hit. The water was obviously a bit colder than the lad anticipated. After all, it was not a bathtub. That little guy scrambled out of there so fast and raced to me as quickly as he could crying, "Mama, mama, mama!" As I held him, I asked him if he would like to go in the pool with me. He responded with an emphatic, "No!"

The two older boys put on their water wings and told their dad they were ready to go in the big pool! Dad complied with their request. They were soon all in the water, laughing and having a great time. I took my two-year-old over to the edge of the big pool to watch. He held onto me so tightly. He had no intentions of ever going into the water again. My husband glided over to the edge of the pool and held out his arms to get Noah, "Noah," he asked. "Do you want to come in the water with Dada?" Noah politely refused by yelling "No!" while he climbed up over the back of my shoulder to stand behind me. Noah was content to just stay with me and watch the action. I could soon tell he was getting bored, however, so I asked him if he wanted to get a snack. He nodded in eager affirmation, jumping off my lap and racing to the snack machines.

As I grabbed some coins out of my pocket, excited about the opportunity to provide Noah with a pleasurable distraction from the water, I saw the sign on the machine: "OUT OF ORDER." Not understanding this, Noah pitched a fit of frustration in front of the machine, hitting it, and proclaiming, "Mine! Mine!" as he pointed to some treats. I had to convince him that we had to walk back home to get some treats. I walked over to let my husband know this. I then told Noah it was time to go home and get some treats. He was so thrilled that he tripped over his own feet racing to the exit door.

We made it home and I surveyed the kitchen cabinets for something to eat. I found some cookies and crackers and then grabbed some Kool-Aid out of the refrigerator. I told Noah it was time to go back to the pool. A look of horror crossed his face. He grabbed onto a door for dear life. I literally had to peel his little fingers off of the door. I managed to get him to come with me by letting him hold onto his bottle of Kool-Aid. The closer we got to the pool, however, the more hesitant he became. I managed to get him to come inside and sit with me while we watched his brothers swim. In time, we were all ready to go home. Again, Noah was the first to hit the exit door. His big brothers were whining about having to leave. Dad looked tired. We lugged all of our stuff back down the street to our home.

It had been a fun adventure. I only have to do this again for three more months!

Ann E Butenas is a stay-at-home mom of three preschool-age boys. She has an undergraduate degree in Communications, a post-bachelor paralegal certificate, and a Master's in Business Management. She earned the latter during her first two pregnancies while running an at-home business at the same time. She has been professionally published as a writer since the age of 12.
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