Taking the kids to the pool got a whole lot easier this year.
After years of dealing with swim diapers, arm floaties, life jackets, a failed attempt at swim lessons and my 7-year-old daughter's general refusal to put her face in the water, something magical happened this summer. She discovered the joys of wearing a mask and began swimming underwater like a little mermaid.
Taking the lead from his big sister, my 4-year-old son doesn't like to use his arm floaties anymore and is now jumping in the shallow end of the pool and putting his face in the water.
Considering that last summer the kids spent most of their time playing with plastic toys at the edge of the neighborhood pool, they are making great progress.
When my husband and I first moved to the Barkley neighborhood in Huntersville six and half years ago, we were thrilled to find a small community pool right around the corner from our house.
We moved here from High Point, where we had to be invited to join the swim club, pay an annual membership fee and battle crowds at the pool, which was about four blocks away from our house.
Having a pool on the next street over seemed ideal.
At first I was a little disappointed that the pool didn't have a separate "kiddie pool" and the shallow end started at three feet, but we learned to adjust.
During the first few years we were here, the idea of taking the kids to the pool, however close, was exhausting. During the summer weekdays when I would take them by myself, there were snacks that had to be packed, sunscreen to be slathered, swimming aids, toys and diapers that had to be remembered, and the kids would inevitably be ready to come back home in an hour.
I spent the entire time at the pool fetching food, blowing up inflatables, taking the kids to the bathroom, and making sure my son didn't jump in when I wasn't looking, which happened on at least two occasions. Luckily, I was right in front of him and he only went in the shallow end, but it was nerve-wracking nonetheless.
Because our pool is fairly small, we don't have any lifeguards, which added to my anxiety level.
I soon began to realize that as other, newer neighborhoods opened, the community pool was a major selling point. I have attended birthday parties at pools in Huntersville that could best be described as water parks.
These pools have separate splash pads for toddlers, water slides, at least three lifeguards, "adult swim" time slots, roped-off lanes and large pavilions for picnics. Anytime we visited one of these pools it was necessary to have two parents on deck at all times, as of course both my children never wanted to stay in the same area at the same time.
Because of this, we've grown fond of our neighborhood pool. It may not have bells and whistles, but it has water, which is all the kids really care about in the long run.
We often see neighbors at the pool we don't get to see throughout the year because of our hectic schedules, and it's fun for the kids to play while moms socialize and chat about schools, vacations and life in general. More and more, I've noticed dads at the pool with their kids this summer, which is just another reminder that traditional work schedules continue to evolve.
Our favorite thing to do this summer is head to the pool after dinner when the temperatures are more bearable, and we often find many other neighbors doing the same.
Now the kids are old enough to help their 33-year-old mom pack their toys and snacks, and I've even been able to lounge on a chair right next to the pool while they swim if I want.