Our Summer Village
Summer means one thing in our house - the pool is open. As soon as those gates open, that’s our favorite summer destination. It’s a sweet little neighborhood pool - though not in our neighborhood, we are pool commuters, driving twenty minutes to get there. Towels, pool bags, goggles, snacks, swim diapers, strollers - we pack it all in the car and head for the water, sometimes twice a day.
Last summer, pregnant with our third, I wondered how the pool would work with three small kids. The weekends, when my husband can come, are easier, but during the week with a 5 year old, 3 year old, and 6 month old - my hands would be full for sure. Would I have enough hands? Would my former-lifeguard eyes be able to be everywhere they needed to be?
The first half of the summer is filled with swim team practice and swim meets, and the last half with lazier days by the pool, but all summer long, my double stroller heads down the slope of the parking lot, bumping over gravel, while my overflowing swim bag and diaper bag bounce against my hip. Once we find a place to set up camp, a flurry of finding swim diapers and goggles begins. Sunscreen is applied, and we are ready. Except, sometimes we aren’t. Three kids five and under means we have our fair share of meltdowns and extra diaper changes, and I don’t always have enough hands.
Luckily, our pool isn’t just a pool. It’s a village. The kind that you always hear about, often in the context of how hard it is to find that kind of a village these days. I don’t like to ask for help, but sometimes I need it. And sometimes, I CAN do it myself, but it would be so much easier if I let someone else help. Though my first reaction when someone asks if I need help is usually “Oh no, I’m fine, but thank you.” Over the course of this summer though, this village has taught me that accepting help is okay. In fact, I’m even learning to ask for an extra hand on occasion.
There is a table, always occupied by a revolving door of other families who also live at the pool in the summer. Over the course of the summer, they've lent an extra hand on more occasions that I can count. They've held my baby, and watched my three year old while I changed dirty diapers. On the rare occasion I have two kids napping in the double stroller, they invite me to play a game of cards. When my five year old wants to play, they patiently teach him while I’m tending to the younger ones.
There is another table, always occupied by whatever teenagers are at the pool. These kids are the big kids that my kids look up to. The ones who give high fives and “good swims” and invite them to be a part of their games. They are the kids that make mine feel like they belong, that have taught them how to swim, that catch them during swim meets when they aren’t ready to swim alone. Some days, they are on the lifeguard stand or coaching swim practice. Some days, they entertain my baby while I play with my older kids, and some days they wait patiently in the snack bar while my three year old tries to decide what he wants.
I can’t count the number of people that have held my baby, offered to carry a bag for me, or jumped in when I've needed an extra hand. When my three year old with questionable balance wanted to try the slide for the first time, without even having to ask, there was someone ready to hold one of his hands while my husband held the other. While I jumped in the water to catch him, someone else was holding the baby, and someone else was taking pictures. All done without asking, because that’s what the village does.
When my oldest was born, I had the hardest time letting anyone else hold him. I felt anxious until he was back in my arms. I didn’t want him out of my sight. Now, with my third, I’m able to breathe a little more. I still don’t like being away from him for too long, but I can let someone else hold him without counting down the seconds until I can politely ask for him back. He frequently makes the rounds at the pool, bouncing from one person to the next, all with a smile on his face. I do like to glance over and check on him every few minutes, but now, with three kids, I’ve come to appreciate what a gift it is, to have a whole village ready to lend a hand.
Summer is officially over. We've had our last pool day, and my washing machine can take a break from all the extra loads of towels and bathing suits. As we pack away the pool bag and say "see you later" to long summer days, I also want to say "thank you" to our summer village. I probably could have struggled through the summer on my own, but it was a lot easier and a lot more fun with your help.