“It’s really frustrating when each lifeguard has a different set of rules,” I tell the one who’s just started her shift.  She’s just reprimanded my son for doing something that the lifeguard she’d just relieved allows him daily.  “He can swim,” I tell her.  “Well, how old is he – is he four?” “Five.” “Is he in lessons?” “He’s been in lessons.” “Well even if they can swim and they’re five, they still don’t know things, so they have to stay over here.”

I love our YMCA, and my kids and I use the pool – which is awesome – several times a week.  But the rules are nuts.  I am literally going to write an article for my (new, online) zine and link to it soon because you will not believe the weirdness. Non-swimming kids are supposed to be five feet away from you at all times.  But you can bring up to ten kids in the pool per adult (I picture the one-adult-ten-child-5-foot organism moving about en masse like some human kind of paramecium, with the todlets in attendance as cilia. Sounds perfectly logical and fun for everyone).  Deep end of the rec pool only if they’re a certain age.  No wait, it’s not age-based, it’s if they can swim they can test and wear a certain wrist band.  No, actually we don’t use that system.  Yes, your kid is on the swim team and swims laps for 45 minutes but no, she can’t swim laps in the lap pool unless you go with her.  Yes, flotation devices are allowed in the ‘lazy river’.  ZOMG GET THAT CHILD WEARING THE LIFE JACKET OUT OF THE ‘LAZY RIVER’!  I could go on, but I’ll spare you, dear reader.  Not to mention, as I’ve alluded to, each lifeguard chooses to enforce the rules with a kind of “logic” I have not yet figured out.

Here’s one cool thing about lifeguards and rules (enforced and non-enforced; changing and up to the caprice of the employee): I tell the kids I pretty much have to do what the lifeguard says (although they do get to see me, today, discussing it in an attempt to make sense).  I know my kids can handle the different-people-different-rules thing and it doesn’t even really drive them nuts.  But:

“I can swim,” Nels says.  And he gets out of the pool and walks over and tells the lifeguard as much.  They have a conversation for a while, he standing with his arms around his tummy and feeling completely comfortable discussing it with this authority figure (I swear I was intimidated by lifeguards until I was in my mid-twenties!)  Then he gets back in the pool and repeatedly “drills”  himself, turning back to smile at the lifeguard after every paddling experiment (she smiles and waves). He knows the lifeguard’s name now and they’re on completely friendly terms.

Tonight I’m baking brownies.  I announced my husband these intentions while driving through a burgeoning windstorm and after a dinner at one of our favorite taquerias (Sophie had stayed home to watch cartoons and rest; she had a total of about three hours in the pool including swim team).  On our drive Ralph reminded me the last time I baked brownies it had tortured our family. What? I’m thinking.  You know, he tells me, brownie drama.  Checking on the brownies. Begging for the brownies.  Talking about them obsessively.  I don’t remember it being that big a deal, but whatever.

I make two batches: a dark Ghirardelli for our family, and then a large pan of chocolate / marshmallow / mint chip (the marshmallow is homemade and amazing).  Ralph’s been getting pounced on at work when he brings in my cooking, and we’re running a kind of experiment – how much do people kiss your ass if they know they may get rewarded by chocolate et al.?

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