how to take your kids to the pool

This is a story about one day
when I took the kids swimming,
at the Y,
and completely lost my shit.

How to Take your Kids to the Poolby Katie

no no
these aren't mine

1. Preparation is key.

- You must be strong. Are you strong? How strong? Because you must be very, very strong to take your children to the pool by yourself. Look at yourself in the mirror. Are you ready?

- Dress the children in their swimsuits so all you have to do is take off shoes and shirts when you arrive.

- Put your own swimsuit on at home so all you have to do is take off your cover-up/sweats.


- Talk your kids through what is safe and what is not safe at the pool. In case you need a refresher, here are some of my family's go-to no-nos:

(No, that's not a hug, that's a tackle)
Holding another person's head under water
(Yes, even shallow water)
Talking about how other people look in swim suits

2. Know the territory.

- Whenever possible, arrive at off-peak times and only use facilities that have family changing rooms.

- If you are using a facility with a family changing room, but one that has one of those locks on the door that automatically opens if you (or, you know, anyone, even your child, while you're naked) turn the knob from the inside, then I have some good news for you: There is legal precedent; you can burn that bitch to the ground.

3. When you arrive at the pool, stay calm. You've got this.

- Can't stress this enough. The kids will smell the chlorine and take off like Disneyland fanatics on their 9th cotton candy. Be like a seasoned flight attendant. Until all 4 engines are on fire, stay calm and offer ice water. Even then, stay calm and serve some generic-brand party mix. Going down? Stay calm and gesture like a car show model in the direction of the doors. All you have to do is stay calm until impact. After that, everything will be okay. Quiet, dark, and okay. Forever.

- Use verbiage that encourages cooperation and creative teamwork - call yourselves a pack, a team, a herd! Or, if it fits your family culture better, you could go with a cyclone, a slaughter, or a murder. (Those are all real, btw. A cyclone of scorpions, a slaughter of iguanas, and a murder of crows. Also, my family at the pool.)

4. Enjoy what is enjoyable about the pool. 

- Bear witness to your kids' joy as they swim, splash, and wallow in the shallows. Smile. Laugh. Hug them. This is why you came here.

- Stay present. Try not to think about what's coming. Because worrying won't change the path of the cyclone.

5. Watch for the signs that it's time to start leaving.

- If your kid is melting down, it's already too late.

- Watch for shortened attention spans, whining, aggressive splashing, water-wrestling, and manic laughter.

- Give them a 5 minute warning. After 14 seconds, thank God that your kids can't tell time yet and tell them it's been 5 minutes, time to go.

- When they run (because they always run), you can either wait for the lifeguard to blow a whistle and scare the shit out of them, or you can chase them down and the lifeguard will still blow the whistle and scare the shit out of both of you.

- Remind them that leaving is part of the experience of coming to the pool: "The way we decide whether or not to return is if we had fun and stayed safe, right? So if it's not fun and safe when we leave the pool, then we just won't come back here for awhile. But I'd like to come back, so let's work together as a team/murder and get dressed so we can head home for lunch."

6. In the changing room, surrender to your higher power. 

- When your son gets soap in his eyes in the shower, remind him that there is a reason for all things. (And the reason you told him to look up was so he wouldn't get soap in his eyes, but that part just in your head.) And that you're sorry his eyes are stinging. (And that you fucking told him that would happen, but he just had to do it his way and maybe next time he should believe that you understand gravity well enough to help him avoid stinging shower pain. But that part in your head too.)

- When your son opens the door and you give a solid 4-Mississippi of full-frontal to the dripping wet Indian man and toddler daughter waiting in the hallway, remind yourself that you were created divinely and shame is a motherfucking construct and also God didn't want you to beat children.

- When your son upends your handbag - not the bag with the towels, but the bag with your phone, wallet, keys, notebook, pen, and sunglasses - into a puddle on the ground, and you know that puddle is roughly equal parts pool water, shower water, and baby piss, remind yourself that the Lord only gives you what you can handle. So you must be able to handle this.

- When you finally get one son dressed and turn around to find the other son making towel soup in the shower stall, which means you'll be drip-drying today, and then get THAT son dressed and turn around and find that your first son has removed all of his clothing, and is smirking at you, buck ass naked, next to his clothes, which are in the piss puddle, just remember that the experiences of this life are fleeting and that eternal joy awaits you on the other side... of the Starbucks drive-thru, which you're already thinking about because God knows you need a scone after this shit.

- When you go outside and the Indian man and daughter are still waiting, and he blushes, you can just die. He definitely saw your pubes, girl. You can go ahead and die. It's fine. You have nothing to fear from death.

- Yes, you're dead now. But you still have to get the kids out of the Y, into the car, through the Starbucks line, and then home safely. So rise like Christ himself on the third day, and Walking Dead it up, girl. It's go time.

7. Get safely to the car.

- Literally, any way you can.

- One child may try to dart into the road so you have to grab his arm with your mom claw, and the other may go boneless so you're dragging him as he giggles. You may need to create a third hand out of your knees. You may walk to the car with your sunglasses falling off your face and sweat sliding down your rib cage under your loose cover-up dress. You may have to abandon the swim bag and come back for it. You may need a kind stranger to help you.

- Literally, any way you can. You're almost there.

8. Clip the children back into the car.

- Do one thing at a time.

- When one child (the traffic-darter) climbs onto the roof of the car as if you'd said, "Chicken, would you like to get into your car seat, or would you like to summit Mount Subaru?" stay calm. He can stand there in a triumphant pose as long as he wants, or as long as it takes you to clip in Buster and then snatch his triumphant ass off the car roof. Whichever comes first.

- Chase Chicken around the car for a minute until both pride and rage prevent you from catching him. Your pride tells you, "Stop. Honestly. This is humiliating." Your rage tells you, "Hold up, honestly, you do know what I'll do if you catch him right now."

- Wrestle him into his car seat. When he thrashes around and kicks and punches, try to remember that he's exhausted. Clip the straps in and remember to explain that keeping him safe is part of your job, and no matter how mad either one of you get, you will still keep him safe. He might spit in your face.

- Close the door.

9. Take a minute, girl. Take a minute.

- So that was fucking horrible. Walk around to the driver's side door, collecting fallen belongings as you go. Walk back to the parking lot entrance and pick up the abandoned swim bag. Walk back, pop the trunk, and put the swim bag in.

- Get in the car. Put your hands on the wheel. They might be shaking a little bit. That's normal. Remember, that was fucking horrible.

10. Finish strong.

- Your son, the one who just peek-a-boo'd your naked ass, dumped your shit in a puddle, undressed himself after you dressed him, darted into traffic, climbed on the car, fought you all the way into his car seat, might ask you, "Mom? Pistachios, please?"

- Look at the bag of pistachios in the cupholder. The bag is as big as a pound-bag of dried beans, open and full. He's been asking about pistachios all morning. You promised him pistachios after the pool. His eyes are shining. He's holding out his hand.

- Pick up the bag of pistachios.

- Open your car door.

- Maintain unblinking eye contact with your son as you dump the entire bag of pistachios onto the ground.

11. Oh no you didn't.

- Oh shit, yes you just did! Look at his face! He doesn't even KNOW you anymore! HAHAHA that was awesome! And terrible. No seriously, that was terrible. Look at his face, he's broken now.

- Wait, wait, wait! Don't shame-spiral! Well, okay, you can shame-spiral a little bit, that was super mean, but don't do it in silence. Shame-spiral out loud, girl. Be brave.

- You might go with something like, "OH NO! I just did something SO mean!" (You'll have to make this big so he can hear you over his heartbroken sobs.) "Chicken, I am so sorry. I was so angry when you asked me for pistachios, and I just did something really mean without even thinking about it. I am really, really sorry. Can we rewind and try again?"

- Get out of the car and scoop up a bunch of pistachios from the ground and put them back in the bag. Make a rewind noise, say again, "I'm really sorry I did that, Chicken," and then hand the bag to your son. (They were in the shell, it's fine.)

- He might ask you, "Why did you do that?" Be honest, but not mean. For example, don't say, "I did that so you could understand how it feels to have joy extinguished from your life." Also off-limits: "I did it because you were being a real ass hole, kid."

- Maybe go with, "Oh man, I was so angry, Chicken. It was really, really hard getting out of the pool. All of our stuff got wet, and getting everyone dressed was too hard, and awful. Walking back the car was scary and stressful, and then you asked me for some pistachios and I just... I was too mad. I just wanted to be mean. And as soon as I did it I felt so sad. That's why I asked to rewind. Sometimes when people are mad they do things they feel bad about later."

12. Await the miracle.

- Start the car and make your way toward home, aka the Starbucks drive thru.

- After a few minutes, your son might make the rewind noise.

- Look in your mirror.

- He might say, softly, "I'm sorry I did all that stuff at the pool, mom. I'm sorry I made it so hard."

- You could reach back and hold his hand. You could say, "Thank you. I forgive you completely. I love you."


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