Family therapists, take note: when looking for another way to help families relate, tell them to “go jump”. In a pool, that is. Or a swimming hole, or lake. With lifeguards on duty, of course. And a shallow end. Because it’s in the shallow end that magical things can happen between parent and child (well, at least with kids whose heads can clear the surface while standing). I thought about this a couple days ago while in a swimming pool with my 11-year-old. In water, kids can walk around, carrying their parents like a baby (“Mama!” I squealed, throwing my arms around her neck. “Keep it down, Mom!” she said.) Parents can hold their kids and carry them around, kids they haven’t been able to carry around on land for years. (Even teens like mine, who don’t like parents to hug or touch them, can drop their guard in a pool.) Parents can ride on kids’ backs, and kids can ride on parents’ backs. (“Giddy-up!” I yelled. “Mom, don’t embarrass me!” said my tween.) Other “kidstuff” we parents can’t do on land anymore, like hand stands, or jumping high, become easy in the water. I amazed my gymnast daughter, and completely shocked my body, by doing a front walk-over and a back “dolphin” somersault (I think I still feel a little water in my ears…). Feeling pretty good, I then challenged her to a race from one side of the pool to the other and back, doing the breast stroke (she won by a hand’s length).
We had a blast, and I realized that even though we’d done all this before, it had been too long. As kids get older, we parents tend to not get in the water with them as much, if at all, because they don’t need our help anymore. But really, that’s when the real fun begins. Because in the water, adults and older kids are equals. Adults can be kids again, and kids can be as strong as adults, and all of this usually equals lots of laughter as the “magic” unfolds.
So before the summer is over, if you’ve got older kids or grandkids, think about getting in the water with them, if only for a few minutes. Play “Marco Polo” or “Chicken”, have an “underwater tea party”, see who can make the biggest splash when jumping off the diving board. You will benefit, and so will your kids!