Now that our boys are older and on the brink of independence, we’ve installed a pool per a long-standing family tradition. My parents put a pool in when I was a college undergraduate. My grandfather erected his first pool while my dad was serving in the Navy.
When I was 10, I begged my parents to buy a pool. Our backyard was big enough. Sure, it would encroach upon our wiffle ball field, but that was a sacrifice I was willing to make. But my parents politely declined. They were too busy. A pool would be expensive and time consuming, they explained. And after all, we could always swim at our grandparents’ house.
When my children were younger and longed for a pool, we had the space. We would have had to cut down a few trees, but my kids were willing to make that sacrifice. However, Hubby and I were too busy. We knew a pool would be expensive and time consuming. If they wanted to swim, would could head to the city pools or, better yet, visit Poppy and Grams.
But today the boys are less dependent. Hubby and I are somewhat more financially stable. The stars had aligned. It was time. We decided to purchase our very own pool.
As a 10-year-old, I didn’t agree with my parents’ decision not to let us grow up with our own pool. As a young adult, I teased them for waiting until we were practically on our own before installing a pool. But as a nearly empty-nester, I finally get it.
Parents of younger children are too distracted for pools. They are busy keeping siblings from drowning each other during bath time, coaxing youngsters to eat healthy foods in the face of a world filled with convenient treats, and inspiring them to reach for the stars while battling an endless pile of laundry.
When our boys were little, we traveled for sports, traveled to see relatives, and then thought it was a great idea to add pets to the mix. We both worked. We barely had time to keep up the house. Caring for a pool on top of everything else would have drained us of the last bit of sanity we desperately clung to as parents of younger children.
When you put a pool in later down the road, the kids are less likely to drown. They are also able to share in the upkeep by vacuuming and testing chemical levels. In addition, because the kids are indeed semi-independent, the people who paid for the pool, i.e., Hubby and I, are actually able to find pockets of time during which we get to enjoy it.
The best part by far, though, is the magic. Yes, our pool has magical powers. It has the power to make our children friendlier and more family oriented.
I don’t know how it is with girls, but when boys hit their late teens and early twenties, they prefer hanging out with friends and their friends’ families. They prefer to eat out rather than at home. They decline invitations to go to the movies or take in a ball game with their parents.
But the pool magically changed all that. While I’m not their first choice when my kids want to go to the mall, if they need a fourth player for pool volleyball, they call on me. They don’t roll their eyes when I head to the deck with a towel and sunscreen. They’ve actually — I am not making this up — asked me if I want to come out to the pool with them.
And the magical pool effects have been seeping into other areas of our lives. We’ve been to ball games and even a movie together this summer. They have even allowed me to take pictures of them with me at these events and — I am not making this up — they’ve let me post the photos on Facebook and Instagram. I was even allowed to tag them a couple of times.
Looking back, my parents did become more tolerable to me when they installed the pool. That was the year I traveled with them to visit our relatives. It was also the year I started hanging out with my dad on the deck during the evening to relax and chat.
Some young families do, in fact, have pools. But my guess is that those parents will be forever burdened with frustratingly miserable memories of a giant container of water that ripped away their last bit of sanity.
However, if installed at the right time, a pool can keep the family unit together even as Mother Nature works to coax children into leaving their parents behind. Sure, my kids will make their own way in this world. But they will visit, if only to stave off buying a pool of their own while their children are young.
Of course, they might also visit for a refreshing, challenging game of pool volleyball every now and again.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.