OK, I admit that taking a book to the swimming pool along with five kids was being pretty ambitious. Foolhardy even.
I wrapped the book in plastic, put in in the bag and didn't see it again until tired and sunburnt, I unpacked the dripping towels, threw away empty juice packets and retrieved it. At that point I raced into the most private room in my house -- the bathroom -- propped myself against the wall and devoured three chapters.
That was the extent of my "me" time.
And after a day like that, I deserved it.
It was going to be the cutest thing ever. A day at the pool with my two daughters, my stepsons and their cousin.
What I didn't expect was that Katie would be scared to death of the water and demand that all wet time be spent on my lap. Nikki, on the other hand, didn't know the rule about "over-your-head" water. As one girl ran screaming in one direction, another ran screaming in the other and for totally different reasons.
So, my dilemma was whether to stay in the water with my prone-to-excess daughter or make sure my trying-to-entertain-herself daughter didn't keep stealing toys from other children.
Nikki definitely had more of my attention, you know with the chance of drowning and all.
Katie settled things for awhile by clinging to the fence staring at the slide in the park.
For the record, we were just at the park two days before. She stood at the fence watching the people in the pool and talked about going swimming for two days.
Katie's attention was severed when she saw a beach ball lying on the grass near the pool. Her begging gave me the courage to go ask the adult in charge of that area whether she could play with the ball.
The answer was a resounding yes and Katie was happy.
When the woman's three-year-old saw another child playing with her ball, instead of reacting as Katie would -- having a fit -- she was thrilled to have a new friend.
What a beautiful soul the girl was. She allowed Katie to pretend the ball was hers and let Katie take the lead on all games (most of which included running with the ball while the girl chased her).
The little girl wanted to get in the water and even offered to lend Katie a life jacket, but the answer was a definite "no."
She finally coaxed Katie to the edge of the pool by using the ball as bait.
Katie sat at the edge of the water and the girl threw the ball into the waves so that they washed it back up to Katie.
That game did more to get Katie into the water than all of my coaxing combined.
The only problem was getting Katie to understand the ball wasn't hers.
Kids have little understanding of personal space or individual possessions -- well, beyond their own, that is.
So when we're at the swimming pool, Katie continuously "visits" other people's areas, helping herself to towels, food or toys.
Luckily, most people think it's adorable and laugh at my exasperation when I find her sitting with strangers eating their popcorn.
The worst was when I found her carrying a doll and could see no small child chasing after it.
I had no clue where it came from and no clue were it went, so I set it prominently on the grass and we went home.
Now, packing to go swimming feels like we're moving. I have to make sure that we have any snack or toy that anyone else in sight may have. We bought beach balls, special juice and bags of fishy crackers.
The lure of the water is clearly not enough to entertain my girl.
That's why the park is (in my mind) a much easier destination than the pool. It cuts packing in half.
For some reason I take a book with me to the park, too.
I'll learn one of these days. Those outings are about the kids, not me. Not even both of us.
It becomes clear as I look longingly at my neatly placed blanket and book then turn around to push two swings at once and catch one mid-air, just to hear her giggle.
That's the better story anyway.
(Christina M. Currie can be reached at 824-7031, Ext. 210 or by e-mail at email@example.com.)