Allergies have been killing my girls for the past few days. We had an entire Sunday afternoon to fill up, though. Hmm, what to do. It had to be indoors, it should hopefully provide exercise, and it had to be cheap (or better yet free). I may not have mentioned that last (cheap) part, though those who know me should take that as a given. I had a brief daydream (aka unreachable fantasy) of sitting in a comfortable chair and reading while the girls played games on the floor, periodically pausing to run over to me and give me a hug and tell me how much they love me.
Back to reality, I had a guest pass to a health club that had an indoor pool. That met all the (realistically achievable) requirements: exercise, indoors, and free. We finally got everything together, itself a time-burning activity. Madeline had to wear last year’s suit because her new one was at a friend’s house, Isabella wore one that was too big, and I wore one that fit when dry but which was magnetically attracted to my ankles whenever I dove into the pool.
At the club, the empty indoor pool had a big “12 and over only” sign. I tried to read a loophole into the message, but, failing that, asked a staff member. “That means only people who are 12 or older can get in,” she said. “What about with a parent?” I asked. “Nope,” she replied. “What about --” “Nope.” Out we went.
The outside pool was packed with people like peaches in a can. More so, because no settling had occurred. We made a nest on a chair and got into the cold water. After a few minutes, Madeline took Isabella with her down the slide. Then, to my amazement, Isabella said she wanted to go to the slide herself. That would involve walking around the back of the big slide, going up some stairs, waiting in line, then going down when directed by the obnoxious teen lifeguard on a power trip (aside: that description seems to cover 97% of all pool lifeguards in my experience... don’t get me started).
I watched in amazement as Isabella made her way over to the slide all by herself while Madeline worked feverishly to get me to play a game with her. Isabella made it to the base of the stairs, then turned and fled like someone was after her. She jumped into the pool to get to me, swimming across the slide landing zone populated by a life guard who was surprisingly understanding during her rule recitation.
So why did Isabella run? Well, in its infinite wisdom, the health club has a 15 minute break every so often during the day. They had just closed the slide and people were charging down the stairs. Everyone under 12 had to get out -- even if accompanied by a parent (I asked). It’s so the kids can take a break to go to the bathroom, they told me. It’s so the lifeguards can change shifts, someone else said. It’s so they can make sure that there are no dead kids on the bottom of the pool, another told me. It’s because they’re stupid, yet another person said. Okay, so the last person was me.
In any case, I worried that they had ruined Isabella’s moment of growth. However, after 1000 kids sat in chairs staring at the empty pool for 15 years, they let us back in. Isabella went to the slide, walked up the ladder, waited in line, and went down by herself. Madeline shifted into big sister mode and helped her get out of the slide landing zone into the writhing, splashing, ball-throwing zone. I was proud of both of them.
So, amazingly, we overcame the club’s ridiculous rules and my inherent negativity. It was a great day.