Day five with our house guest I arranged to meet a friend at her town pool, which is even nicer than my town pool, which is pretty nice. Her pool practically qualifies as a mini water park with two water slides, a lazy river and a grand total of four swimming pools. The grounds also include numerous shooting, spraying, dripping and squirting water features.
That morning I’d described the place to Lil Lin hoping to generate some excitement, but as I spoke he sat unfazed at the breakfast table. I figured I’d let the pool work its magic when we rolled up that afternoon, and he took in the majesty that is Crystal Waters.
Turning onto the pool’s drive later that day, we bumped over the gravel and dirt lot, kicking up great clouds of dust, which I love because nothing screams simple, old-school summer fun more than rumbling over a dirt pit, rocks crunching under wheel. I pulled into the unmarked spot next to my friend and came to a stop right in front of a long, worn log that demarcated the row.
We hopped out and headed for the entrance when Lil Lin said, “I thought it was going to be bigger.”
I replied optimistically, “You haven’t even been inside yet,” but I knew the magic was lost on him.
The pool may have failed to impress Lil Lin, but it never failed to awe me. When I was a kid my parents refused to pay the exorbitant pool fee in our town where my friends went so my sister and I were left with each other and the small, above-ground eye-sore in our backyard for entertainment. (And we were lucky to have that.)
More than awed by Crystal Waters, I was relieved. Crystal Waters offered the best of all worlds (how could you be bored there?) and had the perfect pool for Lil Lin. The one in my sights started out at ground level and gradually deepened, leveling off at three and a half feet. Since Lil Lin didn’t know how to swim, despite his belief that he did, what better than a pool in which it would be nearly impossible to drown?
Almost as soon as we entered the water, though, Lil Lin voiced his objection.
“You can’t swim in this pool,” he protested.
“That’s good because you don’t know how to swim,” I replied. I couldn’t believe the irony of the situation. Here was a kid complaining about a pool that was too shallow for swimming yet he couldn’t swim. No matter. He was determined to switch to the other, deeper pool where he would bounce himself along, his toes straining to reach the bottom, with his head tilted back, lips just above the surface. That was the kind of swimming he wanted to do.
And he did. Just not immediately. That day we pool hopped, hitting every pool in the complex, and added another child (my friend’s) to the mix. Still, somehow even with a group of energetic, able-bodied playmates and free reign of an aquatic wonderland, the kids appeared incapable of play without parental involvement. The good news though was Lil Lin never complained of boredom. Actually, Lil Lin never said much of anything unless it involved Mario Cart or Ninjago.
The next day, the final full one of our adventure together, I took a different approach. I went the low-key route, deciding to take the kids to see a movie where I could sit mindlessly in the dark, stuffing my face with overpriced popcorn. After checking the times, I called the boys to breakfast, and when they didn’t appear I called again. That was when Lil Lin strolled in and told me to have patience.
Yes, I had to have patience. Patience for one more day.
The movies was definitely the right choice. We went to see Brave, and while I can’t say I’m a huge kids’ movie buff or Disney fan, it was a fairly good film. It had action and adventure, suspense, a dash of humor and some mystery tossed in. What more could you ask for? Afterwards my kids asked Lil Lin if he like it.
“Not really,” he replied.
Ok, I’m out. I did my part. I introduced a city kid to the fresh air. I planned activities for every day of the week. I provided ample opportunity to play and run around outside rather than being couped up in a cramped apartment with no backyard, but what I realized was that while I can expose a kid to all sorts of experiences, I can’t make him enjoy them. I can’t engage someone who’s not interested. I can’t parent another person’s child.
Oddly enough, every member of my family had similar reactions. We all felt a bit disappointed. I because I thought the experience would teach my kids about the world beyond our small, insular, suburban borders, and because I thought we are lucky enough to have a home, and a pool and a backyard – why not share it with someone who doesn’t? My kids because they’d been excited for a week-long slumber party, and they did everything they could to ensure our guest had an enjoyable time. My son gladly gave up his bed and adorned it with all his stuffed animals to make a warm welcome for our visitor, and both kids made signs to decorate for Lil Lin. When he arrived they deferred to his wishes, letting him choose the T.V. channel, movie or video game to play. They never complained. They never fought. They never said a mean word to our guest even when they got annoyed with him. They made me proud.
In mulling over the events of the week I’ve tried to consider all aspects: Cultural differences, age (he’s still young at eight I know), family dynamics (his and ours), shyness. The strange thing is Lil Lin appeared perfectly at home as soon as he walked in the door, and he wasn’t the least bit timid about making his needs or wants known. I also can’t come up with single other culture except for maybe American where speaking disrespectfully to an adult is acceptable. I’ve had my own self-important, back-talking, solipsistic kids to knock sense into, and that may be all I can handle.
Now, as I sit here typing I can hear the soft voices of my children as they play in the other room, something they never did the week Lil Lin was here. Actually, on the last day even they tired of video games. Preferring their imaginations instead, they played with action figures in my son’s bedroom while Lil Lin laid on the bed absorbed in a virtual world.
(Photo: Flickr/SROA SHARC)
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