A year ago last March while I was visiting my brother and his family in Florida, my little nieces begged me to take them to the community pool one day. No other adults were around, and they couldn’t swim by themselves because the pool had no lifeguard. I’d just woken up from a nap and was settling myself on the living room couch with a can of Dr. Pepper and my Victor stream to listen to a good book while awaiting the return of the girls’ parents. The last thing I wanted to do was go swimming. When I hesitated, eight-year-old Isabella said, “You don’t have to swim. You can just watch us.”
“We know how to swim,” said nine-year-old Lauren. “We won’t drown.”
I agreed to accompany them, thinking this wouldn’t be any harder than transferring my late husband to the toilet, then wiping him and swinging him back into his wheelchair after he finished his business. The girls dawned their aquatic finery, and we were soon on our way.
The community pool was located only a couple of blocks from my brother’s house, but it might as well have been a mile. When my brother and I were kids and walked the short distance to the park to swim, all we carried were our towels. In this day and age, besides the obligatory towels, we had to haul a multitude of pool accessories including but not limited to kick boards, noodles, and a variety of inflatable animals that were used as floatation devices.
As we trekked to the pool, our equipment in tow, a disturbing thought crossed my mind. With no lifeguard, there would be the ever present danger of helicopter moms, women who hovered over their children, worried about any little thing that might harm them, and criticizing other parents for not doing the same. Earlier that day at a street festival in downtown Jupiter, we encountered such a mom, and my brother felt compelled to be a helicopter dad while his little girl was playing with her little girl.
I didn’t think to bring my Victor and headphones so I could listen to my book while the girls swam, but even so, with my limited vision, I would be easy prey. “You should be watching those girls. They’re in the deep end of the pool. I know they’re using rubber duckies, but those could deflate, and the girls might sink. You should be keeping an eye on them.”
“Oh my, isn’t that your little Susie who just went under?” I would say.
To my relief, the pool looked deserted, not a single helicopter mom in sight, at least none that I could see. Just to be safe, I said, “It looks like no one else is here.”
“Yeah, we have the whole pool to ourselves,” said Isabella before both girls plummeted into the pristine blueness.
I wasn’t sure which was the deep end, but as long as I wasn’t planning to get in, it didn’t matter. I found a lawn chair in the shade and settled down to watch them frolic in the water with their little floaty toys. I tried to keep my eyes on them as best I could, holding my breath as little heads disappeared underwater but popped back up.
As I relaxed, I almost wished I’d put on my swimming suit. I remembered the time a couple of years earlier when my brother had his own pool. Isabella and I had a great time tossing a ball back and forth in the water while Biance’s “Single Ladies” blasted from the stereo. Now, there was no ball and no Biance, but at least there were no helicopter moms, and the girls were having fun. That was the only important thing. I liked making my nieces happy. Maybe that’s why I was inspired to write poems about them. You can read these poems at https://abbiescorner.wordpress.com/2014/04/01/poems-for-my-nieces/ .
This post was inspired by one I read on a blog called The Writing Bug at http://www.writingbugncw.com/2014/08/helicopter-mom.html . Are you a helicopter mom? If not, have you ever met such parents? How did you deal with them?
Abbie Johnson Taylor, Author of We Shall Overcome and How to Build a Better Mousetrap: Recollections and Reflections of a Family Caregiver and That’s Life: New and Selected Poems
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