I am living my dream. No, I'm not traveling to Europe to tour the vineyards of Tuscany or learning to surf in Bali. I'm not even raising chickens next to my own abundant vegetable garden. In fact, I'm mostly just living my normal Midwestern suburban life with my two extremely high-maintenance kids, who, unfortunately, will be attached to my hips for the next two and half months and are still holding tight to their 6:30 a.m. wake-up time, despite having no school bus to rush to meet and my well-documented Summer sleep-in rule.
So what exactly is so magical about my current life, you might ask? One simple thing: this is the first Summer that both of my kids can really swim. Like they're-not-going-to-drown-even-a-little-bit swim.
To a non-parent, that might seem like a small detail. But once you've lived through years and years of taking babies, toddlers, and preschoolers to the pool, knowing that the massive amounts of fun they'll have is exactly equal to the amount of stress and discomfort you'll feel, you understand the splendor of no longer having kids who scream when you insist they wear sunscreen; who deny their need for a life vest despite their inability to stay afloat without one; who are required to wear a soggy swim diaper because they will very likely fill it; and who spend most of their time at the pool running from you, forcing you to chase them while wearing a swimsuit that becomes more and more of a thong with every step.
This Summer, I have officially entered the realm of what I've heard described as the MOOKs, or "moms of older kids," and it is glorious. While parents of toddlers paste on smiles while their children force them into the frigid deep end, I'm chatting with my fellow MOOKs in our lounge chairs. While they attempt to clean up the mounds of wet Goldfish their kids dumped onto the pool deck, I'm enjoying a ice cold beverage I packed for myself because I finally have the mental capacity to think about my own needs, not just my kids'. While they walk laps around the pool, frantically searching for their little one who thinks she can swim but totally cannot, I'm digging into a beach read, confident that my kids will return to me alive and well.
"You're so lucky," a woman said to me at the pool earlier this week as she wrestled a swim shirt on her 3-year-old, who then immediately began dragging her into the pool behind him. I was reading People magazine and wasn't even wearing a swimsuit, the weather that day not coming close to the 82-plus degrees I require in order to enter a child-filled pool. "I know it," I replied. "I've been waiting so long."
It had been eight years since I took my oldest to the beach the first time. Sure, it took five adults to carry everything we thought she'd require for her first dip in Lake Michigan, but I was so sure my beach experience would be just as wonderful as it had been before kids, maybe even better. Then reality hit. She had a massive blowout about 15 minutes after we arrived, and the truth of how I would be spending many a Summer hit me with a heaviness equal to that of her lake water-filled back-up diaper.
But now here I was, sitting in the sun, reading and occasionally passing out Popsicles and icy waters to my independent, solid swimmers. I looked up, staring across the highly chlorinated pool, populated with swim diapers and Puddle Jumpers and, somewhere, I could only assume, my children. A body of water had never looked more beautiful.