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Cornelius News

Reflections on a long, hot summer, with and without kids

“The Swimmer” is a 1968 film starring Burt Lancaster

MODERN DAD | By Jon Show

The Mother of Dragons and I sat at the neighborhood pool on a Sunday last month for four hours with no children. I can’t tell you the last time that’s happened but I’m pretty sure it was the end of the second Bush administration.

Where were our kids? I don’t know but they weren’t out of town and we didn’t have a babysitter. They’re just getting older and we don’t have to know where they are every second of the day.

The Blonde Bomber is old enough to wander around the neighborhood to find someone to play with, and we trust her enough to get there and back without any problems.

Future Man is old enough to ride a bike down to Birkdale with friends, and he’s at the age that we kind of trust him but not really because we shouldn’t but at some point you have to start trusting them even though you should never trust them. Know what I mean?

Anyway, we sat at the pool for four hours. She read a magazine. I read a book about Elvis and watched the Euro Cup final. We each sipped on a beer in a skinny can because we’re in our mid-40s. When we got hot we jumped in the pool. We made small talk with neighbors.

No one asked us for snacks. No one asked us to take them to the bathroom or throw them in the pool or take them home. No one complained about being too hot or too cold or not having a dry towel or losing their goggles.

People strolled by all day. “Where are your kids,” they asked? To which I shouted, “Not here!” My wife responded with each child’s actual location lest we be judged bad parents. I have yet to figure out why we care what other people think of us.

As I sat at the pool I watched a set of parents and their toddler daughter. Each parent took turns serving as her bodyguard in the event she decided to free dive into the deep end. At some point they appeared to argue about something related to the kid because that’s what parents occasionally do at the pool.

When Future Man was that age we would go swimming on summer nights in an apartment complex pool near our house. One night, I turned to grab my backpack as we were leaving. He dove headfirst and I had to pull both of us, fully clothed, off of the bottom of a 10-foot deep pool. I never turned around after that.

Making a splash

Back at our neighborhood pool, another set of parents showed up with family friends and what I’m guessing was a pair of four- or five-year olds. I’m not as good as I used to be at guessing the age of small children.

The adults, wanting to have an adult conversation with their adult friends, strapped life jackets on their kids and tried to talk to each other in the shallow end, but eventually—like every halfway decent parent—relented to the never-ending requests to be thrown around the pool.

I can still throw the Blonde Bomber around the pool but I had to stop tossing Future Man a few years ago because he got too big. One summer we gave the Mother of Dragons just enough rosé to convince her to attempt and achieve a shoulders-on-shoulders family totem pole in the pool. It was a life achievement that I hope will be noted in my obituary.

In too deep

Back at our neighborhood pool, another family showed up with seven- or eight-year olds. None of the kids put on sunblock before jumping in the pool, which roused the familiar level of mom anger that can only be eclipsed by pee on a toilet seat.

When our kids were little we went to a pool almost every day during the summer and I dutifully put sunblock on them. One summer I was getting Future Man dressed and looked down at his feet, which appeared to have these weird markings that looked like a rash.

Then I slipped on his imitation crocs and realized that that his feet had developed block tan lines from the holes in the tops of his shoes. I’d forgotten to put sunblock on his feet all summer.

Eating a Goldfish

Back at our neighborhood pool, Future Man and his friend Curly rode by on their way back from Birkdale. I waved them down and asked if they were going to come to the pool but they blew me off and said they were going home to watch a lacrosse game on TV.

The Mother of Dragons and I opened up our cooler and snacked on edamame and homemade chicken salad and Triscuits. I looked up and one of the toddler moms was elbow-deep in a carton of Goldfish that one of her kids had left behind.

One by one, all the families came and went. Some went home for afternoon naps and others went home for an early dinner. After a while, we were on our own.

Change is good

Just as we were getting ready to leave, the Blonde Bomber rode up on her bike—fresh off of spending the afternoon in the backyard of one of her friends. She plopped down next to us and told us about her day.

Before she learned how to ride a bike I had a tandem attached to my bike that we rode to the pool. She wouldn’t pedal which left me dragging an extra 50 pounds.

Each summer we had a song that we listened to on the ride home from the pool. One summer it was Mumford’s rendition of Dink’s Song, I forget the second summer song and the final summer it was Spirits by the Strumbellas.

Spirits has a quiet, almost throw-away transitional bar with the lyric, “We’re all strange … and maybe we don’t want to change.”

I’m not sure about that second line. Sometimes change is good. Even when the memories are good, too.

Jon Show lives in Robbins Park with his wife, who he calls “The Mother of Dragons.” Their 10-year-old son is “Future Man” and their 7-year-old daughter is “The Blonde Bomber.” Their dog is actually named Lightning.