April 25, 2006

Family Traditions: Friday Playdate

I can’t remember how I came across Susan and her Friday Playdate blog. She just seems like the kind of woman you’d like to have as a neighbor. Hang out. Drink coffee. Laugh about the kids. In fact, I liked her so much, I campaigned for her to win when she was honored as a BOB finalist this year (for future reference, never ask me to campaign for you if you get nominated for something – apparently it’s a death sentence). This week has been a big week for Susan. She turned XX* this week and now she gets to walk with the Rhinos here at Childsplayx2. So, welcome Susan as we get ready for a truly summer tradition.


Friday Playdate Family Traditions: The First Day of Summer

I live in Oklahoma, where summer starts not when the calendar says it will (Memorial Day is still a good month away) but whenever God the Republicans Mother Nature decides it will. Like now, for example: it’s the end of April, and it’s already 120 degrees out (no, not really, but it IS in the 90s, which does NOT bode well for the actual summer). Despite the fact that school is still in session and the swimming pool won’t open for another month, it’s summer at my house.

My sons are nearly-four and nearly-six; to say that they are energetic is to understate the dawn-to-dusk frenzy of running and jumping that makes up an average day here. My husband was telling some friends recently that our kids never get tired; the run and run and run and then fall asleep. But they are never tired; instead, they are on the go all day long. It’s exhausting. I have made a career of thinking of ways for us to be outside and not die of heat stroke, in Oklahoma, when it’s 90 degrees. Or more! And in the process, I have started a new family tradition, one that marks the beginning of summer: the inflatable plastic wading pool.

Like most traditions, this is one we just fell into. In fact, I am compelled to admit, it is one that I actively resisted in the beginning. Five years ago, when H was just a year old and barely walking and I was out of town for the weekend, my in-laws bought him a swimming pool, one of those hard plastic one-piece deals. We never used it; H was terrified of the water and I was terrified that he would drown. The unused pool sat on our porch all winter; in the spring, my husband hauled it to the curb for our neighborhood Big Junk Pickup. And that was it–no more swimming pool!

But I was pregnant that summer and it was hot (when ISN’T is hot in Oklahoma?) and one day at SuperTarget, I found myself staring longingly at a display of colorful inflatable wading pools. For $7.99! And I thought how nice it would be to fill it with ice-cold water from the garden hose and put my swollen feet in, without ever having to put a swimsuit on. And H was two now, and less afraid of the water; he was also not talking much (by which I mean AT ALL) and I was desperate for things to do with him. I held the wading pool box up in front of H, who was was sitting in the cart, ignoring everything around him. I said, “Buddy, do you want a pool?” And he looked at me and said, “Pool!” So we bought it. And I spent the whole summer with my feet in the four inches of water in the bottom of the wading pool, watching H splash and laugh. At the end of the summer, I told my husband that we were going to deflate the pool and store it, for next summer, because we believe in recycling and not wasting things, even if they only cost eight dollars. He agreed.

In February, he popped it with a pair of garden shears and dragged it to the trash.

Spring came, and H–who has an autistic spectrum disorder that makes it difficult for him to make emotional connections or try new things, and who was still a little afraid of water, even in the bathtub–H said, “Mommy, where’s our pool?” When we told him that a tornado had taken it, he said, “Let’s get a new one!” And then when we got it home, he said, “Let’s blow it up!”

And a tradition was born.

At my house, the beginning of summer is marked not by the last day of school or the first day of camp but by the ritual purchase of the inflatable plastic swimming pool. When I was growing up, summer was all about playing and lounging. My brother and I didn’t go to summer school or summer camp; we took tennis lessons (through the city parks and rec program) and rode our bikes around the neighborhood and hung out with my mom. Some of my happiest childhood memories are of running in the sprinklers with my mother, or playing on our swing set while my dad worked in the yard. My parents encouraged us to go outside! and run! and have fun! We would stay out until it was nearly dark, playing in the big tree in the front yard while my parents sat on the porch drinking Manhattans. My childhood was peaceful and safe and free of worries. I want my sons to have the same.

So today we’re off to SuperTarget to get this year’s inflatable plastic pool. We will fill it up and put on our sunscreen and swimsuits and get some plastic dinosaurs and spray bottles and go outside. Because it’s officially summer here now. It’s time to have fun and be outside and play.

You can read more of Susan at http://www.fridayplaydate.blogspot.com

*I’m not telling her age! You can read that for yourself on her blog.


  1. My sister and her family live in Lawton, just outside of Ft. Sill – she was just complaining about the triple-digit temperatures today! Yikes. What a sweet start to summer. though!

    Comment by Deanna — April 26, 2006 @ 12:10 am

  2. Deanna, the great irony is this: TODAY, it is in the 50s here and we’re all complaining about how COLD we are. Plus, the pool I bought the boys last week? Was popped in the thunder storms the other night and is now lying in a huge deflated pile on our patio. Ha ha! So much for summer.

    Thanks for including me in this series, Matthew! It’s always fun to play at JT and Bri’s. Now where’s the coffee?

    Comment by Susan — April 26, 2006 @ 6:01 am

  3. Oooh, I love that picture! They look so happy. We are getting ready to buy an inflatable pool for my two-year-old. We bought the sandbox a few weeks ago and with the pool, our backyard will be complete!

    And Matthew, you campaigned for Susan to win? Grrr!

    Just kidding… I met Susan through the BoBs and for that, I will be eternally grateful. :)

    Comment by Lucinda — April 26, 2006 @ 11:43 am

  4. I love that picture! Our pool broke last year, so we’ll have to buy a new one. It really made us miss our old in-ground pool in New Jersey.

    Hang in there with those ungodly temps.

    Comment by misfithausfrau — April 26, 2006 @ 7:11 pm

  5. Our Target is already sold out of the one I want. I realized I was truly crazy when I started thinking I’d missed all the fun summer gear at Target. Eventually, I realized they’d probably re-stock.

    While you’re dipping your toes in the pool, have a nice, fruity, icy beverage with an umbrella in it for me. It looks like we still have a few more weeks until it’s summer-y here.

    Comment by Kathryn — April 26, 2006 @ 8:21 pm

  6. My favorite part: Honey, the tornado took your pool.

    I am so stealing that.

    Comment by ieatcrayonz — April 27, 2006 @ 10:58 am

  7. Question for Susan: What are the advantages of inflated versus the hard plastic? I am afraid my pets will claw an inflated one.

    I want to get my dogs a little pool this summer. Should I get a separate one for the kids? Seriously. I want to know.

    Comment by jen — April 27, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

  8. Jen, I would go for the hard plastic for the pets, as they most likely WILL claw the inflatable pool and pop it (and let me warn you all, those inflatable pools? Are a BITCH to inflate. Can I say that here?).

    I like the inflatables for the kids because they are soft and squishy and my kids like to jump in and flop over the sides. You can also get more water in the inflatables, and you can stand on the side and smash it down to drain it.

    Finally, this: we at Friday Playdate are a little on the anal retentive side; we drain the pool EVERY SINGLE DAY, both because the water gets scary and because it kills the grass if it sits on the lawn. And with that in mind, I say OH MY GOD get the dogs their own pool! Please. Do it for me. Or I will be freaked out all summer thinking of your kids in the dog pool.


    Comment by Susan — April 27, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

  9. I love how the little plastic slide is in the pool, my kids do that too. :)

    Comment by Katie — April 28, 2006 @ 10:57 am

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