Thursday, August 21, 2008

View from the Pool


Well, summer's nearly over--in the sense that children will be headed back to school and their leisurely pool days will come to an end.
It was an interesting summer for me as it's the first time in six years of pool adventures with kids that I could sit and attempt to read a book.

And it felt strange.
For six years I would tread water while holding one or more kids, scaffolding their attempts to swim and stay alive while they ventured deeper and deeper into the 12 feet.

This year with both on swim-team, I was pretty much shrugged off by the kids. They went from pool to playground, to lunching with their friends, back to the pool-all with minimal assistance from me. Aside from my stalking them with sunscreen, being met with eye-rolls and pursed lips as I did so, they had a fantastic time stretching their boundaries, moving away from me.

This felt good in a lot of ways. My friends with kids under four were especially jealous of my lounge-chair act, but I couldn't shake the feeling that I should be doing something, anything but sitting there like a lady of leisure. I nearly offered to help in the snack bar.

But, as things go, throughout the day, the kids would stumble over to me with one problem or another and I'd send them back to solve it themselves, completely conflicted--if only I'd insert myself in their lives, work out their problems for them, they'd have to spend more time with me--beg me to tread water or something...make me feel useful again.

Luckily, they understand their position in the world and understand fully it's not their job to give me something to do.

And I guess part of the reason I've spent so much time writing all these years, squeezing it in between naps and bedtimes and nursery school stints, is because I knew I'd need something to do when they were finished with me--finished with me in the that way that left us completely absorbed in each other's lives--something that makes me a person outside of a mother.

So, it was weird, but good. How was your summer?


Joyce said...

It's hard letting go, isn't it? I still have trouble with that sometimes and my boys are grown!

It's kind of bittersweet, though, when kids start finding their own way. While you relish the little bit of free time you have, you miss them hanging on to your leg.

Tory said...

Kathie, congrats on hanging on to the writing through all those years! Now, while you're sitting in your lounge chair, you can be writing.

Wilfred Bereswill said...

Yanno, for me, I can't put a finger on my favorite age as a child. I know I'm not a newborn kind of guy, but watching my daughters grow from babies to young women, I've enjoyed each age progression equally. I loved going from hands-on instruction to coach to mentor to friend, while always being a parent.

WHAT! summer is almost over? I didn't even know it arrived. It's the middle of August in St. Louis and in the low 80s for a high. What ever happened to global warming?

Wait. I'm the Environmental Engineer, I should know that answer.

kathie said...

it is bittersweet--mostly sweet. I know we're raising them to be independent little (big) beings and so my plan is actually working!!! Sometimes the bitter's good to feel.

Tory, you are absolutely right. This summer the independence took me by surprise. They went from being shaky swimmers to swimteam fast and I never really settled into my lounge chair even though my body was physically in it. Next year I'll be prepared for my freedom and I won't squander it.

Wilfred, yes it's been a mild summer for us in Pittsburgh, as well. But for me, that's perfect. The heat really gets to me and so, this was my idea of wonderful weather. So you're an environmental engineer? Now that's a job!!

JennieB said...

Oh, I'm so envious! We've had a relatively mild summer so far, but the last few days it's been 94 here in Nashville, with no sign of letting up.

My youngest started kindergarten two weeks ago, so I'm free - free, I tell ya! - for seven hours a day. And it's glorious! Of course, when they're around, I'm still as much on the hook as ever. My oldest, who's 9, is showing increasing signs of independence, but it'll be a couple years till the little guy's there. I figure I should enjoy it while it lasts, since I know it won't last forever.

Dana King said...

Similar to your in one way. My 17-year-old daughter took our third, and almost certainly last, trip cross-country. We covered 14 states and 5200 miles to visit my broter's family, throwing in Yellowstone, Little Bighorn, the Devils Tower, and the badlands on the way home.

The trip was great, but every time we take it I'm reminded of how she is a little more separate from me. This time she did some of the driving and I sat in the right-hand seat trying not to feel as though I'd been transported to England.

Next year she'll be at college, and our summer trips will have to submit to the demands of college summers, which will include a job. And that will be that. And it's good, and I'm proud of the young woman she's grown into, but I'll miss those trips with her like crazy.

Joyce said...

Dana, I'll tell you right now, there are few things more traumatic than dropping your child, especially your firstborn, off at college.

kathie said...

Jennyb, I think that part of the reason that I wasn't so relaxed in the lounge chair, even though both kids are now strong swimmers, is that there was still always something coming up that they needed me for. It just felt so weird for them not to need me just to stay alive in the water. It was a great summer for us and I know how lucky we are! You have a nine year old? That seems so old to me, my oldest is almost seven. It's interesting to hear that they're still right there under your feet at nine!

kathie said...

Dana, your trips sound like the stuff movies and books are made of! How lucky to be able to measure your daughter's growth in the context of cross-country trips. A really amazing thing.

I have to agree with Joyce, though I'm nowhere near dropping a child off for college, it must be excrutiating...exciting, too. Good luck with all that.