Summer is almost over. Here at Shafer Haus we’ve spent a portion of nearly every day at the pool. It’s an excellent bargaining tool: The kids know that if they let me work in the morning, our afternoons will be spent splashing away (while I ogle a lifeguard that would make the PERFECT Rein, but that’s a blog post for another day) (don’t judge me. I’m not being a cougar. It’s research. For a book I’m writing. RESEARCH, PEOPLE).
The three older kids do so great at the pool – they know the rules, they play together, I don’t worry about them too much.
And then there’s Took.
See, here’s the thing. We didn’t name her after just ANY hobbit. We named her after the ornery hobbit. The headstrong hobbit. The impulsive hobbit. Annnnd that’s what we got. She’s ornery. Headstrong. Impulsive. (She’s also loyal and adventurous and brave, much like Pippin. My God, I love this kid.)
But taking her to the pool is going to freaking kill me. Seriously. Labor Day can’t come fast enough.
After contemplating it I’ve come to realize that every time we go to the pool – EVERY DAMN TIME – she goes through similar stages as a person who is grieving. But not just once a visit. OVER AND OVER AND OVER AGAIN UNTIL WE GET IN THE CAR TO GO HOME.
There’s STAGE ONE: Denial and Isolation. Don’t touch her. Don’t talk to her. Don’t look at her. And for heaven’s sake, don’t you dare try to help her. That whole thing about how breathing in water will make you drown? She doesn’t buy it. She’s pretty sure it’s a well-fabricated lie made up by THE MAN to keep toddlers like her under their parent’s thumb, unable to have ANY FUN AT ALL at the pool. My little water revolutionary begins squirming her hand out of mine the SECOND we walk into the Y’s facility. By the time I’ve kicked off my flip-flops and dropped our bag, she’s managed to get free and is sprinting into the water. I chase after her, shouting over my shoulder at the bigger kids to stick together and NOT DIE. Somehow I manage to lunge for Took at just the last second before she gleefully toddles to a watery death.
STAGE TWO: Anger. At this point she is pissssssssssed off. I hold her, face to face, and tell her she has to let me help her.
She answers with a shrieking, “Bawawawa joopiejooopie bo-bah sis-ah,” which loosely translated means YOU’RE SUFFOCATING ME WITH ALL YOUR LOVE! LET ME BE FREE LIKE MY BROTHERS AND SISTER! YOU ARE THE OPPRESSOR!
“Tough taters, alligator,” I reply. “Momma’s gonna help you.”
Her shrieks elevate to a volume that will literally make your ears bleed. I’m now getting judgmental looks from nearby moms and sun worshippers. The lifeguards act unimpressed. Rein is doing one-armed pull-ups on the frame of the water slide.
STAGE THREE: Bargaining. Eventually the screaming dials down (even Took has her limits) and we swim over to the edge of the pool. She climbs up and sits and pulls my face close to hers. “I bah-boo watoo me-me SPASH! SPASH! Okay?” Translation: Let me just jump in real quick and see if I can sprout a tail like a mermaid. I promise not to die. Okay?
“You can jump,” I say, “but I’m going to catch you. You’re too little to do it by yourself.”
She stares at me a minute, then shakes her head sadly, which leads us to…
STAGE FOUR: Depression. Her chin is down. Her lip is out. Her hands are covering her eyes. Life is so unfair. Life is so completely unfair. I hug her and tell her everything will be alright, that we can have fun in the pool together. She shakes her head no. There will never be any fun at the pool until she is allowed to go it alone, free as a dolphin swimming under a rainbow off into the sunset…until then,
STAGE FIVE: Acceptance. “Do you want to go sit on a towel?” I ask her.
She nods yes.
I perch her on my hip and we make our way back to our bag. I spread out her favorite towel and we sit side by side. Sometimes she’ll climb up on my lap and cuddle, but most of the time she fixes her forlorn gaze on the water and its inhabitants.
“What are you thinking?” I ask.
“A-gleebo-gleebo foamy-moo,” she answers, very serious. I get why you won’t let me swim alone, but it’s a bummer.
“I love you,” I say.
She looks up at me, those crazy blue eyes shining. “Wub you?” she asks.
“Yep. Always, no matter what.”
She grins. “Watoo?” Water?
“Sure,” I say.
She’s up on her feet in a flash…and we’re back at Stage One again.
Later, when we’re still in the parking lot of the Y, I text the Hubster:
When you come home, BRING WINE.