Learning through Laughter

Bob Owen, Humorist

As a competitive swimmer “once upon a time,” I tried to force feed the love of swimming to my two boys when they were young.  To the point that they both became good swimmers, but they didn’t enjoy the sport – only the social aspects of being at the water – splashing water in girls faces, talking to girls, eating snacks and French fries with girls.  Pools were places to play, not swim.

When our first granddaughter was born, I was thrilled.  Our first grandchild.  AND, I could tell instantly from her little body that she could be an Olympic swimmer.

So, when she came to stay with us for several days in the summer, I was thrilled when she wanted to go to the pool.  She was only two years old, but it was clear to anyone who knew the sport at all that this child had the makings of a sports star.  I couldn’t wait to get her in the water and teach her the finer aspects of the backstroke and the American crawl.

As we entered the pool area, my focus went immediately to the deep end where our granddaughter would instantly learn to swim, in just one lesson.  The newspaper would come and take pictures.  TV reporters would give live coverage.  I would stay modestly in the background, enough to be seen but not to take the attention away from the star. I was so excited I could burst.

We didn’t make it to the deep end. Gosh, we didn’t even make it “toward” the deep end.  My wife immediately directed our Olympian to the wading pool over my protests, saying something inane like she had never been swimming in a big pool before.

Stupidity is normally my forte, but this time I kept quiet and followed my wife and granddaughter to the kiddy pool.

It had been MANY years since I had been to the kiddy section of a swimming pool.  This particular one was just too precious.  There were two little fountains floating in the pool.  They were shaped like tacky bright flowers shooting water a foot into the air.  There also was a separate play area in the shade for the little tykes and wonderful lounge chairs for the parents. Sounds nice.  Wait, I’m not through.

Once you get to the pool, you’re in a baby prison.  You walk through a knee-high gate that you have to unlock to get in and close and lock behind you.  The key here is that an adult has to fiddle with the lock several minutes before getting it to work.  However, any two-year-old immediately has it figured out and doesn’t hesitate to come and go continuously, as if no gate exists at all.

In addition to the gate, the entire area is surrounded by a pint-sized fence, say perhaps two feet tall.  As our entourage approached the pool, some mothers were standing directly in front of the gate entrance and were totally unimpressed that I was carrying my granddaughter as well as three-fourths of the swim toys available at Walmart. I stood and waited.  I “ahemed”.  I was invisible.  Not wanting to bother them, I stepped over the fence.

Oh my gosh!  You would have thought I had beaten someone with a baseball bat.

“Excuse me, SIR,” one of the young mothers standing flat dab in the middle of the entrance said to me.  “But, WE don’t step over the fence.  It sets a bad example for our children.”  This coming from a women with a tattoo across her chest that said “It’s 5 0’clock somewhere,” and she wan’t wearing enough material on her body to make a band aid.  I knew at once that this woman was keenly aware of impressionable youth.  And didn’t care.

As if I didn’t hear her the first time, she rephrased.  “We don’t want to be a bad example, now, do we?”

My wife, who knows me too well, stuffed a beach towel in my mouth and walked through the gate as the ladies parted for her to enter.  “Husbands,” my wife smiled and said to the ladies, “what are we going to do with them.”  It wasn’t a question!

Having been put properly in my place, I quietly sat in one of the lounge chairs away from the young moms, who apparently saw no problem smoking at poolside.  As one of the lovelies lit her cigarette, my eyes got as wide as Frisbees, and my wife simply said, “Don’t.”

I thought things went well, until one of the “OTHER” children, a troublesome little boy who enjoyed crawling over lounge chairs with people in them, picked up the pink flower fountain and squirted a stream of water directly into MY granddaughter’s face. I looked to the mother, knowing surely she would take action to correct her tyke.  She looked at her offspring and said, “Buddy, are you making a new friend?”  She smiled at my wife and said, “I think Buddy likes your granddaughter.”   

Told later I was inappropriate, I retorted, “I don’t think my granddaughter is all that impressed being sprayed in the face.”

“Boys,” my wife intervened.  “What are we going to do with them?

“Ask them to stop?” I answered.  Tattoo woman snarled at me and shook her head.

Thinking it would intimidate the young boy from spraying my granddaughter, I immediately got up from my chair and approached the pool.  “Bob,” my wife said calmly, “don’t get us thrown out and don’t get arrested.  I’ll kill you if you do.”

I calmly called to my sweet grandchild and walked to the middle of the kiddy pool and sat down with her in the deep end, which was five, oh let’s say six, inches deep.  The water rippled over my ankles.   

“Uh oh, he’s done it now,” tattoo mom laughed out loud.  I had no clue what she meant, until I saw a swarm descend.  Children materialized from behind chairs, from the play area, up from under blankets, from the sandbox –to splash and crawl and squeal at the top of their lungs – all over me.  I was the new swim float.

Tattoo woman said, “I just love it when grandfathers come here for the first time.  They’re all so unsuspecting.”

My wife tried to turn her back so that she could laugh without completely offending me, but she only succeeded in spitting out half of the tea she had been drinking.   I could have taken that, maybe, if my own granddaughter hadn’t immediately gotten out of the pool to go sit in Nana’s lap.  ‘Can we go somewhere else, Nana.  It’s too crowded in here?”

I sat there, knowing I had been fooled by 20 two year olds – as they took turns spraying the fountain in my face.

Date of Blog Story: 
September 11, 2007

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