I swam in a lake for the first time in my life this week. I’ve only been in clear, chlorinated pools or in the glorious tropical waters of Saipan. I’ve always thought of lakes as these murky places where Jason Voorhees lives chained at the bottom or a big black blob kills all the horny teenagers.
I took my boys to Seward Park to roam around the playground when one of them started pleading to swim in the lake, I gave in. I slipped TJ into his life jacket and let the two boys splash at each other. We were on the quieter side of the lake, the other area was fully packed with families and crowded areas bring out the crazy in my feral children.
I had this romantic dream that I would relax in the shade, sitting on the grass and reading a book while my delightful well-mannered boys frolicked in the water. What happened was TJ moving farther and farther away which made me rush over with the bottom of my dress gathered in one hand and ushering TJ to come back toward the shore with the other. I don’t know why I was so foolish to think my children would do anything to make my life easier. So he waded too far for my comfort, laughing the whole time, and then I moved in waist deep, dress and all.
I had planned to swim after the park which was our agreed upon schedule: first park, swimming at the pool (with a locker room and shower facilities!) then go to a second park. That is how I went into Lake Washington in a cheap dress from Forever 21 and emerged from the water in what must have looked like a thong made out of those velvet ropes they use at movie theaters. The Creature from the Skank Lagoon. I tried to peel my dress from my body lest I look like a common woman (which is easy enough for me to do on land) and it let out that weird slurping sound as I tried to break the skank dress’ suction from my skin bulges, broadcasting to all the families around me that there was some dumb mom in the water.
I did the parenting thing where I announce to everyone what’s going on but direct it to just my kids. “I wasn’t prepared to swim!” I hollered at Nathan/TJ/everyone in western Washington. “But I’m doing this FOR YOU!”
A woman and her two kids entered the water and I heard how kindly she spoke to her children. Even when her toddler swam out so the water lapped over her shoulders, the woman just said, “Wow, you’re really swimming!” which I would never think to do.
My form of parenting is mostly, “Come on guys!” and “Hey guys!” and “Your brother needs to breathe! GET OFF OF HIM!” It comes from a place of love, fear and general annoyance that we live in a bullshit time where I get emails with subject lines like, “Is your toddler’s emotional intelligence on track?” My parents grew up in a World War II and post-World War II era on a tiny Pacific island and were more concerned with feeding and clothing their children, not, “Is Mona signed up for gymnastics lessons?” Answer: IS SHE FED? IS SHE ALIVE? THEN SHE’S FINE.
I feel lucky to be living here in Seattle, where there are so many parks and wading pools and places where my kids can run wild, whether or not they know how very lucky they are or how many lakes I’m willing to jump in, fully dressed, if it makes them happy.