The splash pool, which is open to all ages and very popular with the under 7 set, closed due to a toileting situation. The baby pool, which is popular with no one, not even babies, was closed. This left the main pool. Children under 4 years old are not allowed in the main pool. That's just the rule. It's always been the rule. It's a little annoying. I remember, especially when Nicholas was under 4 and the girls were over 4, the complications it caused. But, alas, it is the rule.
My very good, best of friend, friend, Jackie and I have been CLP friends since our boys were little. Our boys were born two days apart, at the same hospital, and are practically brothers. In fact, as I wrote this, she was texting me to suggest I write about the incident and also to ask if I would mention our friendship, specifically. We both feel it is very unimportant to harp on the depths of our friendship, which is why we harp on it constantly. And look at us! We are very nice, approachable ladies with very good sunglasses and a love of fruit!
I have no idea why I am rambling on about this, but it seems important local color to the whole story.
Jackie, like me, has a teenager and her teenager is a lifeguard at CLP.
Anyway, a whistle was blown at a mother who was clearly harboring a fugitive under 4 year old in the main pool. The mother said the fugitive had just turned 4 (there is no way, the baby still had baby hair and definitely just started solids. I totally peg her as a Stage 2 puree. I am in baby food industry and a bit of an expert!). My friend's daughter the lifeguard asked her mother's opinion. And my friend said, "well she just lied to you."
I mean we've all done this. I snuck Nick in the main pool when he was nearly 4 years old, but not quite. The whistle would be blown and we would slink away. It's just how it goes. Anyway, back to the incident.
Enter, the young mother vigilante, who is a different mother than the mother of the fugitive baby.
She began yelling at Jackie. She called her vicious and a tattle tale and savage and other millennial words and kept at it. This mother had three young children in tow (the youngest was probably 4, so not an offender). Then Jackie sat down next to me at the edge of the pool and the mother continued on her rant about how she was "helping another mother out," on a 100 degree day when the splash pool was closed.
And you know what, that enraged me more than anything.
I told her she was out of line and reminded her (in a shout) that the lifeguards were children and Jackie was also a mother!
Here's the thing:
I do remember being a mother of younger children and feeling the crushing exhaustion of mothering young children. That crushing exhaustion was nothing compared to the emotional, mental, spiritual, other worldly exhaustion I feel now as a mother of two teenagers and an older elementary schooler.
Back in the day, I had no idea what the fanny I was in for and now I know.
No one sees us, the mothers of older children, as mothers who need a little help.
Yes, our children are able to toilet themselves (typically, although let me tell you navigating menstrual cycles and the related accruements makes me miss potty training), but we are still in the thick of motherhood. The things we have to manage and navigate cannot be solved with a nap or a hug or snack or a timeout or a diaper change or a pacifier (I've offered this as an option; thus far no takers.).
Our teenagers are thrust into adult situations--like the lifeguards--and expected to act with confidence and authority, when they are still children. They are treated with disrespect by adults, lied to and yelled at. They come to us, their mothers and their mother's beloved friends, for support and guidance. We cannot solve their problem; but we can walk them through it, often to exhaustion. They don't always listen and sometimes do the opposite of what we advised. But they come back to us either way with success or failure and we have to be there to guide them.
They have real life, grown-up problems, but they are still children. And they need us in ways that are huge and hard and complicated. A good night's sleep does not erase the struggles of the day; their memories are long and the consequences in their lives are real.
They cry and worry about their school work and sometimes, they refuse to do the thing you need them to do and as my 9 year old screamed at me this morning, when I was dropping him off at summer reading, you cannot make them do anything. And he's right, I cannot make any of my three do anything. But, I do have to walk along side them and be the one to take all the screaming, shouting and emotions.
It is a blessing to be there to guide them; but it is still so much more than anything I ever did for my little ones.
So, mothers of young children, when you see a mother with teenagers in tow, help a mother out, okay? Those teenagers you think are adults, those are our babies, and we still have to dry their tears and boost them up so they can navigate this savage world.
PS Major shout out to my girl Ryleigh with her authoritative bullhorn.