Just when I thought I was fully secure in my seven years of at-home-dadness, my pioneer spirit abandoned me. I’ve been the only at-home dad at playgroups and church groups and playgrounds and eventually found perfectly pleasant women who became close friends. But this time, I had to integrate yet another group: Pool Moms.
When I walked in to the pool we just joined, I asked the gate attendant where to go for swim class.
“Down there at the right side of the shallow end,” she said. “By all the moms.”
I followed her gaze and spotted a clump of 30-something mothers waiting with their little children. Then I looked around and saw groups of moms on the steps in the shallow end, under the umbrellas, by the kiddie pool. All in their little tankinis and stylish sunglasses, with ponytails under their golf visors. (I buy my sunglasses at the drugstore, never for more than 10 bucks. And my swimsuit is Old Navy circa 2008.) Except for the prepubescent lifeguards, not a man in sight.
This, I thought, is going to be worse than seventh grade.
I found a chair and slathered red-headed Carla with SPF 700 sunscreen and handed her over to Mr. Bruce, the buoyant swim teacher, and looked around some more. So what pool do the at-home dads go to in this town? When I finally spotted some 50-ish guy traipsing around, I figured he was some unemployed perv. (Jeesh, what a hypocrite. I know people make the same judgment about me all the time.)
We almost hadn’t made it to swim class at all. It was at 2:30, which still ought to be naptime, as far as I’m concerned. Plus, Carla didn’t want to go.
“Oh come on, it’s blazing hot out,” I told her during the car ride there. “The water will feel great! Why don’t you want to go? Because the water is cold? You don’t like the teacher? It’s hard to hear?” (Once when someone had to repeat instructions to Carla in a louder voice because it was a noisy indoor pool, she thought the person was yelling at her, so she broke down and cried. Ugh. Girl-drama.)
“No, Dad, because you have to go and go without stopping,” she finally said. Ohhhh… no breaks.
Bottom line was: we were going to the pool, and she was going to swim class. There’s no other time all summer that it really suits, and the instructor already cashed my check. I tried to find some patience and a calm voice and explain that you can’t have 15 minutes of swim class and then do something else for awhile before the last 15 minutes because the whole thing would take far too long and use up your whole day. Finally I found the short answer: yes, you do get breaks. When the other students take their turns, you get to rest.
That answer did the trick, and into the pool she went.
As for me, I dodged the Mommy-Scrums and opted for a chair where Mr. Bruce couldn’t see me spying on the class. (It was like skirting land mines, but I didn’t want to have to give a big fake smile and make small talk with people I’ll never see again, after I explain that no, I’m not unemployed and no, the nanny’s not sick today.) It turned out I knew one of the mommies from one of the first playgroups I integrated years ago. And then walks by the preschool director at our new church, who chats me up.
Before I even have time to sit down, swim class is over and Carla comes bounding up to me.
“Come on, Dad! Let’s go play in the pool!”
I avoided asking how swim class went, for fear she’d say it was terrible and she was never going back. At supper that night, my Lovely Bride asked instead.
“Great!” Carla said. “I’m gonna go tomorrow, too!”