By Kayleigh Rahn
I’m a self-proclaimed “pool rat.” Or at least I was.
I loved the pool as a kid.
I was never on the swim team, but I couldn’t get enough of being in the water. When we moved to Parkview the summer I turned 9, I headed to the Tuscola Pool nearly every day with my friends. But never on a game day of course, Dad.
My best childhood friend Casey and I took full advantage of our pool passes and likely kept the pool in the black with our routine of purchasing daily sodas, frozen Snickers, and popcorn from the concession stand.
I think the summer I stopped being a “pool rat” was the summer I was hired to work at the pool for my first job.
I worked in the concession area and cleaned the bathrooms my first year and worked as a lifeguard for the four following summers. Of course, the name “pool rat” was a mostly endearing term used for our regular swimmers who were usually unsupervised children. It was a fantastic summer job, and I still keep in close contact with many fellow guards and “pool rats.”
As an adult, I’ve found I have the same love for the pool as I did then, but I now have a 2-year-old to introduce to all the fun of being in the water.
We’ve made a few quick trips to various private pools owned by friends and family and a couple outings to the Tuscola Pool, and Nora loves the water as much as I’d hoped she would.
On a sunny August morning we loaded up the vehicle for a birthday party at the Tuscola Pool.
I was ready. We had sunscreen, toys, toddler floats, towels, swim diapers, a cute swimsuit cover up, and extra sunscreen, toys, toddler floats, towels, swim diapers, and a cute swimsuit cover up.
I may have over packed, but this Mama was prepared for a fantastic dip in my familiar hometown pool.
Throughout Nora’s life I’ve been sentimental about her firsts. Of course, this is typical for most Mamas, but I’m a bit more nostalgic in my thinking. For me, her first Sparks in the Park parade was a big deal, her first Tuscola football game required a photo shoot, and her first time swinging in Ervin Park’s Prairieland Pride was a full circle moment I’ll never forget.
This particular morning was to be Nora’s first dip in the big pool at Ervin Park where I’d spent my childhood summers and worked my first job. It was a milestone I wanted to witness firsthand.
We started in the fenced-in baby pool. In my younger years I never realized how reassuring it is to have an enclosed toddler pool. It is a huge stress saver compared to open wading areas.
William and I were dressed in our suits, but we stayed to the side and let her toddle around the shallow water.
Once the birthday wishes were wished and birthday presents were presented we decided to take out the Puddle Jumper to let Nora float in the big pool. I could picture her eyes lighting up once we walked out to the deeper water. I’d dreamed up this adorable little family moment in my head, and I was ready to execute the scenario.
We walked around the east side of the pool to the 3-foot area, William hopped in, took Nora in off the side, and I froze. I looked around, took a few mental notes, and realized of the dozen or so Mamas at the pool party that day not one was in the water.
I noticed Nora was about the youngest invitee, and I was aware it can be a hassle to get cleaned up for a full Saturday following a morning dip, but I immediately felt embarrassed when I realized I was the only Mama wearing a swimsuit.
William stood in the 3-foot of water with an excited girl in his arms waiting for me to jump in, but I never did. I sat on the edge of the pool, attempting to convince myself to just get in; however, it never happened.
I missed that moment of watching Nora’s eyes light up as she floated in the deep end for the first time, because I told William to go ahead and I’d wait on the ledge with just my toes in the water.
I don’t know where these things come from, but I know all mothers have experienced the unwritten Mama Rules of Life. Most make sense, like never comment on another child’s eating habits; however, not swimming at a pool party was unfamiliar territory for me.
I couldn’t believe that as a 29-year-old professional woman, wife, dog mom, and human mom I couldn’t muster the courage to break past this social norm to enjoy a moment with my child.
After about 30 minutes it was time to pack up and head home. I was incredibly disappointed and vowed to my self and William that next time I would jump in with my girl, no matter the unofficial party protocol.
And I did!
We were grateful to be invited to an indoor pool birthday party on an unseasonably cool October Saturday night, and this Mama jumped in. No questions asked, I shed the pool cover-up and hopped in, and I have no regrets.
Nora kicked, splashed, and screamed with joy as William and I took turns spinning her around and hopping up and down the pool lanes.
I love my fellow Moms and all the support and advice they have to offer, but I won’t miss another moment because I’m too afraid to be a different kind of Mama.