The blue waters of the swimming pool shine & shimmer in the pale moon of a balmy California evening. A faint breeze ruffles the palm trees as the hot tub bubbles & steams. This is swimming pool perfection.
This is also a perfect way to entertain the kids and grandkids. They have fed, but are still full of energy. Now is the time to keep them swimming, to work off the excess energy, and calm down for bed. Of course they will need another snack once they get home—but that is a small price to pay for the fun and entertainment.
As kids growing up on a mine in South Africa, I and my friends spent many happy hours in the local mine pool. We had all been taught to swim by Mr. Pelser. I recall he had but one arm, a terrible temper, but a skill in teaching a squirming kid to swim. His first job was to teach us to swim. His second job was to patrol the pool and keep order. This he did pretty well with his terrible temper. Although in reflection, I cannot blame him: how else do you expect him to respond when we insisted on playing with balloons in the pool? Those were not real balloons; they were the “balloons” stolen from the draw of the table beside our parents’ bed. Not an entertainment technique to be recommended today.
In those far off days, the concept of adults entertaining kids had not yet been formulated. We were expected to entertain ourselves. And we did. We would jump, dive, gambol, swam, did hand-stands and more in the water for hours. We were glad of the absence of our parents. It would have been no fun had they been sitting there watching and pretending to entertain us. That easy concept of a self-entertaining kid seems to have been lost in the crush of modern pressures to perform.
My own children came and we taught them to swim. The pool was a small affair on a farm deep in the Magaliesburg mountains. On Fridays, a new batch of fresh water was flushed into the pool from the local canal. By the time we arrived and were ready to swim on Saturday, the water had begun to warm, but it was still chilly and it puckered your skin until you got used to it. Our kids never complained, but swam and jumped with as much energy as ever we had done.
In the Vancouver townhouse complex to which we next brought our kids, there is a small pool that is open only during the short summer months. No heating of the heavily chlorinated water. But still the kids loved it. They and the huge tribe living in the complex would spend all summer day entertaining themselves in the pool. Only occasionally would we go to check up.
This past summer, I took the two California grandkids to this same pool (I still live in the complex.) But this time there had to be an adult in attendance. The kids had to lug vast numbers of balls, rings, and floating devices of all colors and shapes to help them be entertained. Also they had to have safety vests, floatation aids, and goodness know what else. I never had that. My daughter, their mother, never had that. But now it is considered essential. Poor kids need to be entertained by at least one adult. I am not complaining, for as grandfather I am generally designated the “entertainer.” How can you avoid the heart-swelling-with-pride feeling as you watch them learn to do without floatation devices and devise forms of play that do not rely on plastic rubbish?
And so back to California and the Olympic-sized pool that is solar heated all year round. To the big hot-tub of bubbling, steaming water where you can linger for hours relaxing to a pulp. And being private, it is never crowded.
I have insisted that all the kids take swimming lessons as soon as they can move their arms. This helps with the entertainment burden. It is a double-edged sword though. One of the grand-daughters is over-confident, well beyond her ability. You have to watch her like a hawk as she dives, submerses, and paddles away. The oldest boys are now all able to swim, but insist on hair-raising forays into the deep end. I watch them like a hawk.
I love to play with the kids in the pool. What you do depends on age and swimming skills. With the oldest, you lift them on your shoulders and allow them to dive as far as possible. With those in the middle age bracket, you swing them around and send them veering off on a tangential course. With the youngest, you cuddle them, hold them, and give them buoyancy as they try to float or splash their way forward.
I do not wear my glasses into the pool. Thus I do not take part in ball throwing and catching games. But I admit to the fun they have from yet another colored ball.
The most fun are those silly things called variously straws, noodles, or flotees. This is a meter or longer strip of circular soft plastic with a hole down the middle. They cost next to nothing at the local store. I once taught the boys how to fill the tube down the middle with water and by submersing the whole raise it gently to expel the water like from a cannon. Now they do this again and again to the chagrin of each other and the attendant adults.
There is a never-ending fight to control these devices. They give a bit of float-lift if placed beneath your arms, thereby raising your head a bit more than the other swimmers. Thus you get an immediate status upgrade. Which the other swimmers immediately challenge by trying to wrest the noodle from you.
As the hours pass, they grow weary. You all move over to the calm of the hot tub, where horse-play is forbidden. Now you can talk to the kids, or laugh with them as the bubbles inflate your swimming trunks and turn you to a fat-hot-air. Now you can float slow and languid. Now you can engage in discussion with other adults. The younger kids insist on perpetual movement. They are in and out of the tub, chasing after leaves, butterflies, fallen flowers, and each other. No matter, as long as they do not run too fast, slip, trip, fall, or otherwise hurt themselves. All you need do is make sure they know where the towels are stacked when they need to dry off.
The final thrill is to go into the change rooms where everybody strips and takes a hot shower with plenty of soap. Your duty here is to manage the temperature of the shower water. Too hot and the boys are scalded and scream in agony. Too cold, and they jump out complaining. Thus to dry off, put dry clothes back on, head for the bicycles, tied up outside the fence, and cycle contentedly back home for snacks, a bit of TV, maybe a book read in a comfortable chair, and bed.
At which point I head for the liquor cabinet, a crystal cut glass, and a long drink of fine brandy. We will be back tomorrow swimming and entertaining ourselves, kids, and grandkids included.