Swimming with friends

When we first brought Tess home, I remember wondering where our group of friends would come from. You know the ones I’m talking about! Think about your parents’ friends that have been there since before you remember existing. These friends are part of birthdays, funny stories from childhood, they are part of all of your memories going back as far as you have them. Where do these magical unicorn friends come from?

We’ve been really lucky. Some are neighbors, and we joke about our kids being able to bike to each other’s houses when they get older. Some are park friends, who we always seem to run into at the playground next to our house. The kids know each other and play well together. But a lot of our friends come from swimming class.

Since Tess and Remy were about 1 1/2 and nine months old, we have gone swimming at the same place every Saturday morning. Up until a few months ago, Dave and I could handle this on our own. We have a meticulous ballet for getting kids into suits, swim diapers, and in the pool while removing the already wet child from the former class – during the 5-minute window between age groups. This involves the double stroller and the help of every adult around us. Many a fellow parent has kept an eye on two kids while we dash to the pool to trade out the other pair. We return the favor when they are a parent down, as watching one more kid out of the pool is really no big deal at this point.

Recently, we found ourselves with a small dilemma. Instead of almost 3 hours of classes with one kid in each, our mornings consolidated. Now we have two kids in two classes each. The good news is, we feel like we got half our weekend back. (When all the kids nap in the afternoon, the morning is really the only adventure time you get.) But our well practiced ballet no longer worked. If two adults are in the pool with two kids, who is out of the pool with the other two? See what I mean?

Poppi Doug and Sue Sue saved us. When I asked if they wanted to give up their Saturday mornings of peace and quiet and fun for a wet hour in a public school downtown, they didn’t hesitate. Doug jumps in the pool with the kids every Saturday morning, and the kids now chant his name when they wake up because they know they’ll see him there. He’s become part of our Saturday morning routine. And Sue Sue often keeps whichever parent is out of the pool company, and brings a magic bag that produces snacks on top of her already delightful and entertaining personality. The kids are in heaven.

On top of meeting lots of new family friends at swimming class, the people I hope our kids will grow up with, it’s pretty neat to bring family friends who I’ve grown up with to help us introduce our kids to the water. These two swim saviors are the people that have always been part of my holidays, birthdays, and major life events. They are family in every way, and have advised me and laughed with me and comforted me as I maneuvered my way to adulthood and through adulthood.

I am a “head on” parent, and always struggle in redirecting kids from storm clouds back to sunshine. As Doug and I guided the kids through swimming this Saturday, it amazed me all over again to see him pop his head under water and bring just eyeballs back up, leaving a kid on the edge of hysteria dissolving into giggles. As I wheel and coach, trying to get a face in the water and some bubbles, Doug made funny noises and played games of keepaway. Suddenly, our kids faces dropped into the water so they could get the same alligator effect that Doug was showing off. Griffin, the boy who will not bubble, tried to match the awesome motorboat sounds that Doug was making with Lilou.

Our new swim friends, the ones we see every Saturday and whose kids make us laugh and remind us that we are all living through the same struggles and joys, now hang out with my lifelong family friends. I looked around the pool and realized half of the people in the water have been over for brunch. How awesome is that?

So here it is – Tess is almost 5, and this amazing community of support and friendship has grown up around her and the kids without us even noticing. She followed my instructions and Poppi Doug’s hilarious modeling so that I’d let her go stand next to Will, the toddler Olympian, for the next jump into the pool. We joked around with Clare, who helped us figure out Griff’s hair, as her sons have the same. We have commiserated over haircuts that were too short and laughed about the super old guy who gets to cut their hair anyway he wants, pretty much. Lilou raced to Sue Sue’s side and immediately started begging to see inside her bag, where the magic cookies come from. Remy shared his trucks and tractors as he waited for the Littles to finish their lesson, and all of us know will see each other in the next session.