I always loved the water. It was a quiet and peaceful respite for me growing up as a city kid. When I was young, my family would retreat to the Catskills and later, the Poconos, to rustic rentals my parents could afford on their artist and teacher salaries. There, in the modest concrete pools and placid lakes, I learned how to swim, and when I was 15 years old, I passed my lifeguarding course. I proudly took my post on the big chair, armed with a rescue tube and a walkie-talkie to call in emergencies...of which I had none. Most of my lifeguarding “career” (four-and-a-half summers) had to do with keeping the beach clean and the bathers safe. It was more like daycare than Baywatch.
But the job experience primed me for motherhood. There is no tougher measure of water endurance than the lifeguarding test, which included treading water for more than three minutes while holding a ten pound brick over my head. More importantly, lifeguarding ingrained in me a deep respect for the water. My children learned to swim early on, and, while that doesn't mean I take my eyes off them when they are in the pool, it does free them to be independent in the water. And that's what parenthood is, right? Teaching them everything they need to know to make it on their own.