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Sonoma Family Life Magazine

School Time Is Dad’s Pool Time

By Shannon Carpenter

The pool calls to me. It is the siren that speaks on stormy seas. In its violence, it offers peace. I shall go to the pool. I shall lounge at the pool. As soon as the kids go to school. 

“You guys have had a great summer, but it is time to put childish things away and have your hopes and dreams crushed,” I told my kids when they went back to school. (On a side note, I’m available for unmotivational speaking at your next corporate event.)

“But…” the kids started. I have no idea what else they said because I was already pulling out my secret pool floaty from its hiding space. My kids are rough on everything. They have bent the rims of my car. Put holes in my wall. Broken a metal gear off the garage door. No, they don’t get the good pool floaty. They get the stuff from the dollar bin. 

This summer, we saw a fan museum, which is exactly what it sounds like. We did the water parks and suffered third-degree burns on the bottoms of our feet. Sleepovers, late nights, special treats—we did them all. 

Now it’s my time. 

There will be no splashing and no yelling. My pool book will not get wet. I will have snacks that will not be gone in 20 seconds. And with my pool floaty, the one where I can fully recline while I pull my hat low, I will listen to the sounds of my own breathing. 

There will be a few more weeks of warm weather. It’s hot enough to bake cookies on the sidewalk. Or bread. Or any of the other 1,000 things I made this summer to create quality time with my kids. I will bake nothing now. I will only eat preprocessed garbage that is mass-produced in a way that makes me question my life choices. And it will be glorious. 

Other brave parents will show up. We will not talk to each other. A head nod will be offered, accepted, and a quiet contract will be established. Slowly we will recharge our souls. 

Bruises will heal. Scars will form over the emotional cuts that all parents have suffered over the last summer. Memories of camps that were too full, activities that cost too much, and vacations that involved epic meltdowns will be locked away until we can one day look at them and see that these activities were actually fun. Right now, recalling them just makes us want to fall asleep, like we did when we were standing in line for the Ferris wheel at that sketchy fair. The place where we spent 40 bucks for rides that haven’t been OSHA-certified since 1987. 

That is what the pool offers and that is where I’ll be. 

I hope to not see you there.

Shannon Carpenter is a professional humorist, co-host of The Dadhouse Pod, and the author of The Ultimate Stay-at-Home Dad Manual (Penguin, 2021).