Living in Texas, water has always been a big part of our family life. Our summers have always centered around boat rides on the lake, splash parks, running through sprinklers and days at the pool.
I usually long for summer, but this year I’ve been dreading it (and not just because I didn’t want to shove this postpartum body into a bathing suit). I have 3 boys plus the twins and the thought of taking all 5 to the pool by myself scared me. Two of my boys can swim, but O is only 3 and is too confident to be smart around water so I resigned myself to only going swimming when I had my husband’s help. I quickly changed my mind after spending one of his on call weekends at home trying to keep everyone entertained. I spent the next week thinking, planning, and browsing the summer section at Target. When I finally felt comfortable I braved the pool.
That’s right. I took five kids swimming. Here’s what happened:
My plan: I had intended to get O a life jacket, but he took one look at one and bluntly said “no”. The thought of wrestling him into a life jacket every time we went to the pool didn’t appeal to me so I went with a puddle jumper. I looked at two types of floats for the babies. One had a small inflatable center that was surrounded by a mesh ring. The second type needed to be completely inflated and was much bigger. I chose two mesh floats with detachable sun shades. The package said “easy to fold and carry” and they looked like they’d be a snap to untwist and use. I also purchased them a double stroller with a huge sun shade that was big enough to even keep their feet out of the sun. In an effort to make the older boys easy to spot I bought them neon green rash guards.
What worked: The puddle jumper is awesome! O wears it happily and it allows him to keep up with his big brothers in the deeper areas of the pool. The rash guards are great. They are so bright I can easily spot the boys from across the pool and can even see them while they are under water. The double stroller’s sunshade has been so helpful. It keeps the babies cool and has an added bonus of blocking what the babies can see. There have already been several times where I was able to put the babies in the stroller with the shade down and have them nap at the pool.
What didn’t work: The mesh floats were a total fail. They are too bulky to carry unfolded and once they are inflated and wet they are impossible to fold small enough to put them back in their case. While both babies were heavy enough (according to the float’s specifications) Rhodes seemed too light. He kept slipping down and his mouth would inevitably end up in the water. I tried several positions but I just couldn’t make it work for him.
Managing the babies before getting into the pool
My plan: I wanted to do as much as possible at home / in the car so when we got into the pool I could focus completely on supervising the kids. My plan was to apply all sunscreen at home and bring spray with us for touch ups. I also wanted to change the babies into their swim diapers and swimsuits in the car and put O in his puddle jumper in the parking lot.
What worked: Changing the babies and putting the puddle jumper on O while we were still in the car. We were able to walk right into the pool and start playing and I didn’t have to worry about the kids getting into the pool without supervision.
What didn’t work: The sunscreen. Our first trip to the pool was 3 weeks ago and my car’s interior still has streaks of greasy sunscreen in some spots. I now do faces at home and put an older boy in charge of spraying arms and legs when we are at the pool.
Managing the babies while in the water
My plan: To use the floats or pull the double stroller close to the edge of the pool (with the brake on) and only take out one baby at a time.
What worked: The stroller has been great. I can play with one baby at a time while safely watching the other kids. I’ve learned that if I put diluted juice in a sippy cup (we usually just fill them with water) the novelty of having juice will keep the baby in the stroller entertained and happy.
What didn’t work: The floats. If both babies want to be in the pool at the same time I must have another set of hands. I’m simply not comfortable having both babies in the water by myself.
Since having the twins I’ve realized that we can still get out and do things, I just have to adjust, plan, and be willing to try. While I’m pretty proud that I’ve been able to manage the pool, I’ve had to concede that it’s just not something we can do every day like in past summers. While the kids love going it isn’t a relaxing time for me anymore. I’m constantly counting heads to make sure everyone is safe and the amount of effort it takes to get everyone ready and gather all the needed supplies is exhausting. Even though we won’t be visiting the pool as often this summer we have still found ways to play and stay cool. We’ve had really good times at the local splash pools, had too many snow cones to count, and the babies are always happy to splash in a tub of water.