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Don't Tell Me to Just Get in the Pool

Photograph by Twenty20

This summer, the momternet has been rife with blog posts telling us that we are not enjoying the summer enough. We are bloviating by the pool when we should be strapping on a bikini and carpeing the diem out of every sweet moment. We are too self-conscious to enjoy the magical butterflies.

We didn't even get it right in 2014, either. So, apparently we all suck.

Here is the thing I would like to say about all of that:

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Fine. This is a family site. I get it. But seriously, shut up.

I deeply love my children, but whether I sit on the side of the pool or dive in should not determine the absolute magic level of their little lives. Some moms swim a lot. Great. Other moms don't. Fine. Some moms wear bikinis. Other moms prefer the swim burqa. Mom power.

It is 2015 and despite all of our talk about feminism, we can't even just let each other lie by the water and sun ourselves like beached whales with a good book. These viral tales of passive-aggressive parenting vigilantism will probably continue ad infinitum until the Internet implodes. But I stand firmly against them.

I am not going to carpe diem myself miserable out of some misguided notion that this is what good parents do.

At what point do we get to decide that our casual observation of human behavior has imbued us with Godlike powers of perception that we can address an essay to another "Dear Mom…" and have that reaction stand as law?

Dear Self-Appointed Summer Police:

Calm down.

I don't like swimming. I never will. I hate the high dive. Waterslides freak me out. I will give my children my best—I'll do a waterslide a couple of times a summer before my fantasies of us all slipping on those wet stairs and our blood mixing into the chlorine overtake me and I defer the task to dad. I'll take my daughter out to the deep end, until some random kid kicks me one too many times and it's time for a break. But I am not going to carpe diem myself miserable out of some misguided notion that this is what good parents do.

Not all moments are magic. Not everything has a marrow to suck. Not all parents share the same dreams. Some people just hate water. Why is that not good enough?

When was the meeting, where we all sat down together and decided that if you prefer to sit on the edge of the pool or hate swimsuits, you are somehow deficient as a woman and a mother? When did we make the checklist of what constitutes a magical summer and whether we were fully involved or not?

We are more than a sum of our moments. We are more than our summers, our picnics, our poolside excursions or jaunts to the park.

Somehow, as a collective, we have decided good parents do everything, good parents never catch a break, good parents don't miss a moment, good parents are always good. This is a false idea that presumes too much about the influence of parents or our intentions. While we are so busy creating magical, Pinteresty moments for our children, how are we preparing them for the moments in life that fall short? How are we encouraging them to be OK with sitting one out? To not doing everything? To reading a book instead of cannon-balling into life every single moment and letting that be OK too?

As a child, my favorite summer moments were drinking a Coke on the porch and reading mystery novels. I know we went to the beach and had a lot of epic summer vacations. But what I really loved was the sun on my skin, the cold Coke tickling my nose and the book, so heavy with intrigue. I know this revelation doesn't offend my mother, who truly worked hard. And as a parent it relieves me to know that instead of taking on the task of creating a magical world for my children, that I can teach them to make their own magic. And that is a summer enough.

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We are more than a sum of our moments. We are more than our summers, our picnics, our poolside excursions or jaunts to the park. And I'm OK with sitting on the sidelines in some moments. After all this is their life, it is their summer; it's not about me.

And maybe you aren't OK with that—that's fine too. But spare me your righteous screeds on how I need to get into the pool. I'll sun myself like a beached whale, like God intended. And the moment my kids are old enough, I'm bringing a mystery novel and a cold Coke.

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