She sat in the shade of the patio awning, twisting a melting Drumstick along her outstretched tongue. I sat across from her, examining the freckles splayed across the bridge of her nose (too many new ones to count) and watching the way her copper hair glistened in the sunlight. Pink swim goggles rested across her forehead. I smiled. She smiled back.
Summer at the city pool.
It saved us.
See, as soon as school let out in June, we started checking off the bucket list. Bike rides, library programs, art camp, play dates. And I ushered my kids to and fro like any intentional mom would. Then in between their activities, I worked. I wrote. I checked e-mails and Instagram.
I’m an author and a blogger and an online spiritual coach—I have stuff to do. My responsibilities don’t take a summer vacation. If anything, they intensify as I juggle mom duty with work and ministry.
Don’t get me wrong—I love what I do, and I’m blessed. But life as a stay-at-home, work-from-home mom is constantly at odds. Family and deadlines vie for my attention during the same waking hours.
I thought I was balancing.
We took a family trip to the pool one Saturday afternoon, and our kids loved it. They loved it so much that they asked to go back again. And again. And again. Until finally my husband and I tallied up the daily pool fees and decided it made more sense economically to buy a season pass.
So we did.
And suddenly I had no financial deterrents to saying “sure” whenever the kids wanted to swim. In fact, the more we went to the pool, the better return we got on our investment, technically. More swimming meant smarter stewardship. So what was to stand in our way?
Of course. I always have something to do at my desk. And I might’ve let the kids play in the back yard while I worked day after day after lovely summer day—if it hadn’t been for that unplanned season pool pass.
Because now when the kids ask to go swimming, more often than not I acquiesce. If we have nothing else planned, if it’s not raining, if I have no good excuse not to—we go.
And at the pool I am forced to focus solely on my children.
No phones, no laptop, no social media. Just me and a swimsuit and two little girls splashing around me. The pool has opened my eyes to dedicated quality time I didn’t even realize I was missing. And now, at the end of the day, sometimes Daddy comes with us. We run to the pool for an hour after dinner because, hey, we can and it doesn’t cost us anything more than we’ve already spent. And then the entire family swims together, laughs together, learns to dive and somersault together. No distractions. No interruptions.
We’re living in the moment. Which is something I’ve never done well—until now.
How about you? How are you doing in this area? When you sit to talk with your kids, are you looking them in the eye and noticing their sweet freckled faces, which were made in God’s image minus perhaps the sunburn and goggles and the chocolate Drumstick mustache?
Or are you thinking about something else entirely?
Are you asking questions and listening to the answers? Or are you already two mental steps ahead, thinking about your to-do list?
When I removed all access to my to-do list there at the city pool, I actually gained one of the greatest accomplishments a mother can own.
“Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but be a new and different person with a fresh newness in all you do and think. Then you will learn from your own experience how his ways will really satisfy you” (Romans 12:2, TLB).
This summer and beyond, I encourage you—and me—to do more than live alongside our children. Let’s enter their world and live among them. Of course we’ll still have work and chores and deadlines and grown-up stress. But I’m learning those things don’t need to define me as a parent. God defines me. And he says my children are a gift from Him . . . “they are his reward” (Psalm 127:3).
I want to unwrap the gift day after day and delight in what I find. Don’t you?
Let’s do it together. Poolside.