Feeling Like a Mom at the Public Pool

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Last week Larkin and I embarked on an ambitious first ‘paseo’ (field trip): a trip to the Wanchaq pool with the youngest of our chicas dinámicas from Virgen del Rosario. When we handed out permission slips the week before, the girls shrieked with excitement! The enthusiasm was awesome, but then was followed by a round of giggles in which, one by one, they informed us that they didn’t actually know how to swim…

For the past five years, I have worked steadily as a lifeguard and spent a great deal of time watching people swim with varying degrees of ability. Although I certainly am confident in my abilities as a rescuer, the thought of taking a group of eight, nine, and ten-year-olds to a busy public pool in the middle of a South American city was scary to me. The girls’ excitement was infectious, however, and Larkin and I began to prepare for what most certainly would be a crazy day.

…And what a crazy day it was.

The Wanchaq pool is a public pool located on a busy street in the middle of Cusco, so we were immediately frazzled upon exiting cabs with our girls. We quickly threaded our way through several large school groups who we would be sharing the pool with, and gathered the girls off to the side to get organized. Although we had researched the pool schedule in advance, in typical Cusco fashion, it was not what we had expected, and we had to wait an extra 30 minutes before entering.

Finally, we were ready to head inside! As we stepped through the doorway and into the locker room, a cacophony of children’s voices could be heard from the pool area. I was already stressed before the girls had even changed into their swimsuits. It took the girls awhile to get changed, but the chaos of the pool deck made the locker room seem pleasant in comparison: there were easily 75 people at the pool, most of them under the age of 16. There were no lifeguards to be seen, and the only woman who seemed to be in charge was wearing an alpaca sweater and jeans. She was most certainly NOT ready to be rescuing anyone.

I couldn’t believe that I was the only one freaking out! Luckily there was a shallower but equally crowded kiddie pool where we were able to bring the girls. Larkin got in the water with them while I paced around the pool deck counting our girls and keeping an eye on everyone. It wasn’t until about 20 minutes into the pool time that I momentarily stepped back and realized just how much of a mom I was being! I couldn’t help but to laugh at myself as I realized how ridiculous I looked striding back and forth across the pool deck in my lifeguard shirt (I couldn’t not wear it), while not a single person there knew (or cared) why I was so preoccupied. If that wasn’t enough to make me feel like a mom, it was the picture-taking that really made me laugh at myself as I waved my hands around to get the girls’ attention and snap a few pictures.

Although I still spent the rest of the field trip in mom/lifeguard mode, I had an infinitely better sense of humor about it because after all, así es la vida (such is life). Nothing bad happened on my watch. I guess I just have to assume that every day there is another day of slightly organized chaos. Ultimately, the girls had a blast even though they got cold pretty quickly. I had fun watching as they all clung to Larkin’s arms while she swung them around in circles.

So would I go to the pool again? Yes, definitely. Could you pay me to work there? Not in a million years. 🙂

–Caroline

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