To the Parent Sitting on the Sidelines Watching: Jump In!

by Katelyn Denning July 05, 2024

To the Parent Sitting on the Sidelines Watching: Jump In!

Ask any kid what comes to mind when they think of summertime and I’d bet that swimming or water is in the top five. (And ice cream, of course, ice cream!)

There’s something so quintessentially summer about the smell of sunscreen, the bright colors of beach towels and swimsuits, and the sound of splashing water.

My own childhood was filled with memories of swimming at the beach on vacation, at our neighborhood pool, and in the sprinkler in the backyard. Maybe that’s partly why I’ve always been one of those people who thinks that water can cure most anything.

Feeling tired? Have a glass of water and a nap.

Have a headache coming on? Drink a glass of water.

In a funk? Have some water, break a sweat, or go for a swim.

It’s also one of my favorite parenting strategies. Taking a sip of water gives my kids the pause that they need to slow down, breathe, and figure out what’s coming up for them when they’re sad, angry, or just feeling overwhelmed by emotions they don’t yet understand.

When my kids were really young, I found a bath to be the perfect solution to an endless day full of crying and whining. Something about being in the water relaxed them and it gave me a moment to sit on the bathroom floor and just breathe.

Today, our water solution is going to the pool or the splash pad, or running through the sprinkler in the backyard. (Sometimes even playing in the rain as long as there’s no lightning). My kids love it. They come alive in the water and I can’t help but smile thinking of their smiling faces when we first arrive. They’re so eager to jump in. It’s infectious!

So why then are so many moms fully clothed or sitting on the edge of the pool while their kids splash, laugh, and have a blast?

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know from my experience, by the time we got to the water, I wasn’t in the mood for fun. And getting in just felt like too much work.

Getting to the pool or to the splash pad, or even setting up some sort of water in the backyard takes a lot to coordinate. There are a million things to remember – sunscreen, water bottles, towels, snacks, goggles, hats, change of clothes. The list goes on.

And just getting out the door requires packing all of those supplies in addition to getting everyone to the bathroom, dressed, and physically into the car, stroller, or just outside.

It’s no wonder most parents simply want to collapse into a lounge chair and take a nap in the sun. It’s exhausting just thinking about it.

But like so many things in parenting, unfortunately, your kids probably won’t remember the bag that you expertly packed. Or how everything they could ever need was always there with them. Or how you made sure they didn’t get a sunburn by slathering them in sunscreen so ensured they weren’t hungry because snacks were always available.

What they will remember is the fun they had.

They’ll remember the way those summers of their childhood made them feel - when they were truly carefree and just soaking up the season.

I wonder, where will you be in that memory?

It takes so much energy just to get everyone to the fun. But what if having fun yourself gives you some of that energy back?

What would it change if you jumped in? If you ran through the sprinkler or got hit with a splash of water from the splash pad?

When I started jumping in the water, taking my shoes off and running through the splash pad, or dancing in the rain in our backyard, I was reminded of what it felt like when I was a kid.

To this day, I will never forget the afternoon I decided to run out in the rain with my kids. It had been a long day. I was hot and tired and didn’t have the energy to say “no” when they asked if they could get their clothes wet. But as I sat under our covered porch watching, I thought, “what am I waiting for?”.

So I stepped out from under the porch into the rain, fully clothed, and started spinning around with my arms out. My kids paused what they were doing and stared. But then they ran to me and we laughed and jumped and danced in the rain until we were soaked.

It was exactly what I needed because it reminded me of what it feels like to have fun.

Just like water cures so many things, getting wet with my kids cured my exhaustion and frustration. The cold, refreshing water washed away the tiredness and I felt light. I felt free, even if just for those few minutes.

There was still work to do afterward to get everyone dried off and the wet clothes hung up to dry, but I couldn’t help but smile through it.

And I realized that all those years sitting on the edge of the pool, in a lounge chair, or staying dry hadn’t done me any favors. It only exacerbated the thought that this was a lot of work with very little reward.

But getting in the water helped me remember. I felt the freedom and joy and carefree feelings that I saw on my kids’ faces. And it suddenly made the energy and effort of making it happen, worth it.

That is what I wish for all of us moms this summer.

To smile, laugh, and have fun. To be surprised by the cold water. To feel weightless and light. To be the mom who still has that fun child inside her.

You deserve these memories as much as your kids do.

And you deserve to be more than in the background of their memories. Because they want that too.

So the next time you have the chance to swim, to splash, to play, and to give your stress over to the water, what will you do?




Katelyn Denning

Author



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