Summer R&R

(That’s Routines and Responsibilities!)

My husband brought it home proudly, proclaiming this inflatable pool would make the summer great again. I immediately hated it. The pool was large, it sat lopsided, it was always full of grass, and it was a pain to keep clean.

It’s always Mom’s job to keep the pool clean. Like I have nothing better to do, nothing else to keep clean. Give me a large vat of water you don’t intend to change, leave it outside all the time, throw stinky bodies into it, and let me keep it clean. Sounds like the best summer hobby ever.

We’ve never had a pool before. This was a big upgrade from the plastic ones you use for toddlers and then dump out every evening. This held a bazillion more gallons, and if the EPA didn’t arrest me for dumping it out every night, the water company would.

So the pool sat in the yard. The children gleefully splashed in it for hours upon hours every afternoon.

And the pool got greener, and greener, and greener.

I woke up on the Fourth of July excited about the family cookout we were to enjoy. But one look out the window saw cholera growing in my pool. Not a pleasant view while grilling hamburgers.

We had to drain the pool, I said. This is a health hazard, I said. We should never have gotten the stupid pool, I said.

“Just drain it real quick while I go grab the burgers from the store.” Husband Who Started It All closed the door behind himself and drove away.

Do you know how long it takes to drain a bazillion gallons of water from your green petri dish to the street out the front? The rest of my life. That’s the answer.

We got more than half drained before I could not stand wasting any more of my holiday watching water trickle. I commandeered two teen sons and forced hard labor dumping out the other half-a-bazillion gallons of water across the backyard.

Then I complained why was the backyard so muddy.

As long as the pool was empty, we needed to move it to more level ground. So we lifted up the pool to drag it across the mud puddles . . . and gagged. The underside was growing biochemicals that could wipe out the city.

We finally moved the beloved monstrosity, flattened it out, scrubbed it with bleach, and began slowly refilling it. I could hear the water company going “ca-ching, ca-ching, ca-ching” every second.

We finally enjoyed what was left of our holiday afternoon and evening. Burgers next to the Pool of I Told You So.

Three weeks later, it was green again.

I was so done with that pool, but my children were emotionally attached to it. If they had to choose between me and the pool, they didn’t have to think twice.

So I finally did what I should have done at the beginning: I Googled “How to Care for a Backyard Pool You Hate.”

Come to find out, there’s a whole routine to it. Get a cute little animal floatation that contains toxic chemicals that keep the pool clean if your children never touch the adorable thing. Pour bleach into the pool every week or two to kill the remaining green germs. Run the filter half the day or until you’ve paid for the neighborhood’s entire electricity.

Easy, peasy.

I became a backyard pool expert in five minutes. The last half of the summer, that pool learned who was the boss. And I no longer needed a hazmat suit to go into the backyard.

Worse, I began enjoying the thing. I curated a summer playlist for while the children were outside. I bought summer snacks and popsicles. I grabbed a stack of magazines and enjoyed the sunshine while they played. 

The right routine made all the difference in our summer backyard.

I thought of that pool today when I was planning for my summer fun. I can’t wait to drag out that pool now and assert my dominance over it for many weeks on end. And I can’t wait to start our beloved summer routines.

Because having a summer routine brings the best out of me and out of my children.

Summer is a break from homeschooling (or most of it, at least) at our house. But being a creature of habit, I still enjoy a routine to keep our family life healthy and to stay on top of responsibilities. Like I learned with the pool, a good routine is not just necessary. Routines provide a way to conquer responsibilities in a relaxing, enjoyable way.

I need to keep the house clean. So every Friday morning, we spend an hour or two cleaning the house together. Everyone has his own job, and it gets done relatively smoothly. Then we can enjoy the rest of the weekend.

I want to keep my children learning. So every morning, I briefly work on language arts skills with my two youngest children. Every Tuesday, I take the whole lot of them to the library. And every afternoon, everyone reads for a quiet hour. Then we can keep learning without the burden of a whole school day.

I want to take fun day outings. So at least every other week, I plan a fun excursion. We may use our memberships to the zoo or the science museum. We may take in the free art museum. If we find a coupon, we may visit a water park or amusement park. Then we make fun memories together.

I want my children to amuse themselves. So I keep long blocks of free time most mornings and afternoons. No screen time, no mom-directed activities, no nothing. Just the children, the fresh air, and their own imaginations. Then they revel in the summer they create for themselves.

Routine and responsibility aren’t bad words in the summer. They are the keys to making the most of it.

Lea Ann Garfias

My responsibility to not create a public health hazard drove me to a new pool routine. My responsibility to help my family enjoy summer drives me to a daily and weekly routine. Breakfast, books, free play, lunch, rest/read time, pool time (there it is), supper, baths, bed. Repeat. Clean the house on Friday, go to the library on Tuesday, and get out and enjoy something once that week.

Routine and responsibility aren’t bad words in the summer. They are the keys to making the most of it.

So if you hear tunes blaring and children squealing, that’s just us in our crystal-clear pool, celebrating the end of rest/read time and the beginning of the rest of summer.

Lea Ann Garfias

Lea Ann Garfias, the author of Rocking Ordinary and the Homeschool Made Easy series, has been featured on television, radio, podcasts, and live events. Besides author, Lea Ann also bears the titles homeschool mom, soccer mom, professional violinist, and wife of a hot Latino. She and her husband David live with their six hilarious children in the Dallas area.

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