For whatever reason my daughter’s preschool decided to take the three to six year old’s to the local swimming pool this morning. As ridiculous as this sounds, they weren’t entirely foolish. They also decreed that every child had to have a parent tag along. So I spent the morning waddling around water that was a foot deep with fifty parents and fifty preschoolers, reassuring my screaming 3 year old that if he just stood up he wouldn’t be drowning.
As much fun as that was, it was even more fun to watch the parents. Many of them weren’t even dressed in swimming suits. They wore business casual and stood in a line off to the side, frowning every time they got splashed and otherwise looking at their smart phones. I just hope they weren’t texting each other. The most prominent of this group was wearing a tight fitting dress that came down to her knees, boots with six inch heels and she had her hair done up with a good, thick layer of makeup. She apparently misread the invitation, though I don’t know how. “Swim Day” is pretty self explanatory. The only time she looked up from her phone was when her daughter did something cute that she soon captured on the camera on her smartphone.
Then there was the hot tub crowd. They camped out there as if it was the steam room at a local 5 star resort. Their faces were furrowed as they dialogued with each other about politics, theology and the meaning of life, the universe and everything in it. Their children may as well have been hundreds of miles away, out of sight and out of mind. If I had cigars and vodka I could have made a killing selling them poolside to this crowd.
Then there were the lounge chair parents. Unlike the business casual crowd, they were at least dressed in bathing suits but they sprawled out on the long chairs as if they were not actually inside an overly chlorinated facility but outside on some beach somewhere getting a tan. Much like the business casual crew, they were looking at their smartphones and trying to ignore the background noise. Once again, I could have made a killing selling them poolsides daiquiris.
Then, of course, you had the helicopter parents. They were actually in the water, seemingly enjoying themselves with their children. Imagine all the stuff they missed on their smart phones!
Don’t get me wrong, this group had some standout characters. First, there was the poor father who ended up manning the short tunnel slide that led down to the water. He stood there all morning arguing with five year olds about who and who couldn’t go first. At times I couldn’t tell who the five year old was.
One of my closer friends, and heroes, spent the morning arguing with the lifeguards about the ridiculous pool policies. The pool had a piping network that shot water everywhere which they had strangely refused to turn on. There was also a giant water slide that they weren’t letting anybody use. My friend thought all this was an absurd injustice and I totally agree. He entered into strict negotiations on behalf of the rest of us and, not surprisingly, gained some ground.
Then there was that other parent who mistakenly thought he was one of the life guards. He stood at the water’s edge, off to the side of the business casual crowd, fully ready to yell at anybody who broke even the tiniest rule, even if the rule only existed in his head. I think at one point the lifeguards told him to tone it down and that splashing in the water is actually not against the rules. He blew his whistle at the lifeguards and gave them a penalty flag for not having adequate rules.
As for me, well, I won’t tell you which one of these people I was. I will tell you that at one point my daughter’s teacher passed by me and said, “Oh I always love it when the dads actually get in the water and play with the children.” I beamed with pride, assuming that meant I got an A for the day, which is one of my life goals.
But I didn’t get the highest grade in the class. That prize goes to my 5 year old friend Bridger’s mom. She went through several rounds of chemo therapy over the winter to try to fight off a dangerous and life threatening cancer. She is a veterinarian who had to close down her prominent practice to fight the disease. I am not sure if the cancer is officially in remission or not but she was there today. The scars of the surgeries were evident all over her body, made more obvious by the fact she was wearing a bathing suit. Her face looked taut and worn. Her scarred, wrinkled body looked frail. But she was right down there in the water with her son, laughing and splashing and enjoying every moment of being alive.
And as I watched her and her son, that got me thinking that well, perhaps there is a sermon in that water somewhere.