For years I have carried a book to the pool. I recall taking a book with me to the “swimming baths” in my hometown of Manchester, England, when I was 8 or 9. The book would remain in my locker for the length of my swim session, but I liked to know that a book was available. My book was comforting to me.
As a new mom I stopped carrying a book. There was simply no room in the overstuffed diaper_bag for anything as frivolous as a book. Plus the book would have suffered the indignities of spilled bottles, leaky sippy cups, and unfortunate diaper issues. Yes, the book was better left at home.
At some point I ditched the diaper bag when my youngest was out of diapers. My son was finally dry day and night by mid-August, just in time for back-to-preschool. Yep, we like to live on the edge in this family. I was free to carry anything I wanted. I had to teach myself how to carry a purse again. For years, the diaper bag was my purse. I was more comfortable toting one bag instead of two.
In the waning days of the summer, my youngest child was finally toilet trained, I stashed a book under my arm as we made a last trek or two to the pool. No, I didn’t read the book as my son was still very active in the baby pool. At any given moment he could go from playing quietly with a watering can to creating a tidal wave. I feared for the wee ones in the baby pool.
As I tried to keep his mayhem to a minimum, I would glance over at the other side. You know the side I mean. The side where all the moms are reading books, filing their nails, and leafing through magazines. The readers are on the nonbaby pool side of the fence. To the moms in the baby pool area, the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. And it is more relaxing!
The next summer my son had graduated from the baby pool, but I was not off the hook. He loved playing in the pool, but was not a swimmer. With his swim_vest on, he loved nothing more than jumping in the pool over and over again. I was the catcher of a slippery, jumping-in, constantly moving 4-year-old. When not catching him, I would tread water and look longingly at the book readers. Nope, book reading wasn’t in the cards that summer either. It’s hard to keep a book dry while wrangling a 4-year-old.
It happened gradually. I sat at swim practice one morning last summer with a book in my hand. I had 3 swimmers on the swim team It was towards the end of the swim season and my son was a bona fide swimmer by then. All three kids were either swimming or reading a book after swimming, while I watched them with a book open on my lap.
Before I knew it I had read a chapter. I quickly realized what I was doing and glanced around. I’m a pessimist, so I naturally assumed that my son had drowned while I read a book. I could see his earnest little face as he slogged his way up and down the pool doing the back stroke. I had nothing to fear. He was fine. Watching little children swim backstroke down the lane of the pool while taking the longest, most circuitous route possible is just precious or funny or both. But back to my book I went.
There is one thing about becoming a book-reading mom at the pool. I did not wear a bathing suit all summer. No more treading water for me. No more catching slippery 4-year-olds. No more taming wildly unpredictable 2-year-olds in the tranquil waters of the baby pool. But, I will tell you that there is a whole lotta reading going on over here. I read this one and this one and even this one. So, I will need to get back on the treadmill sooner rather than later, but at least I will have a book with me.