Lifeguarding: Tank Suit + Whistle = TLF

abd7a6797c983dad55bf9ec19c0f0529This summer represents a milestone for me. No, it’s not that I’m finally throwing caution, decorum and my cellulite to the wind and going to the Schlitterbahn water park without wearing a swim skirt, but thanks for that keeping the dream alive for me. My big ta-da is that for the first time in my parenting career both my kids are working this summer.

My college son has a job in an office where I had to take advantage of the 2 for 1 suit sale at Joseph A Banks and was devastated that he didn’t believe me when I told him that seersucker looks darling on him. Seriously, what’s up with hating on seersucker? It’s a lovely cotton fabric that evokes memories of sipping ice tea on the veranda. Why my son said it “resembled something an Easter Bunny at a mall would wear” is beyond me and truth be told I feel like he’s betraying his Southern roots.

This child wore adorable little embroidered, smocked, seersucker rompers for the first three years of his life. Perhaps, he’s experiencing some sort of repressed seersucker memory because a couple of times okay a lot of times, when he wearing those rompers he was mistaken for a girl. I thought it was because he has such long eyelashes, but maybe, just maybe, it was those rompers.

But enough about seersucker my real excitement is that my daughter is following in my footsteps towards summer greatness. She has her first job and like mother, like daughter, she’s a lifeguard. I loved life guarding! So many wonderful things happened because of it. Primarily my deep respect for the one-piece swimsuit and the glory of the whistle. Talk about two great things that go great together. Let’s break it down and start with the one piece.

It was 1983 and Cheryl Tiegs was featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated wearing a microscopic bikini. This of course meant every girl was now trying to emulate Tiegs. I dodged a bullet (correction more like a cannon ball) that year because God Bless America and it’s longstanding lifeguard tradition of full coverage swimwear which gave me not only the perfect excuse to not go tiny bikini, but I could also get up on a high horse (and I’m telling you I went way, way, up like I might as well been sitting on an unicorn riding a cumulus cloud) about how saving lives trumps fashion. Please, even I’m now rolling my eyes at teenage me.

But let’s not allow my grandiose sanctimony to take away from the wonder that was the lifeguard one piece of the early 80’s. It was a thing of beauty. First, it was baggy. Yes, a baggy swimsuit or in 2016 parlance it was a relaxed fit. The one piece was a double lined nylon, almost turtle neck, thick straps, modest thigh cut, navy blue, shelf bra, ode to modesty that even the most discerning nun would be a-okay with. Although it sounds horrible, trust me, it was like wearing p.j.’s to the pool.

There was no spanx-esque Lycra attempting to tame your tummy bulge or any need to constantly suck your fat rolls in and/or re-adjust your top or bottoms. You could just luxuriate in the wonder of what was basically a swimsuit sack. I’m going to admit that when you got in the pool there was the little problem of air getting trapped in the lining of the swimsuit and creating the visual that you could be 40 weeks pregnant with octuplets. But, it was a small price pay for that level of comfort. Almost as awesome as relaxed fit swimwear is the best lifeguard accessory ever – the whistle.

There are so many wonderful things the whistle can do besides alerting people to stop running or scaring 10-year-old boys from going off the high dive with a dozen swim noodles. The whistle is your lifeguard swagger. The way you work your whistle let’s everyone know your status in the pool hierarchy. If you chose to keep your whistle around your neck it says that you’re either timid or bored. Two things no lifeguard should ever be. If you, sort of, swing your whistle, it shows a little more dedication to your job, but if you want to really let everyone know you mean business than you do the swing, walk and roll.

This is when you stroll the pool area swinging the whistle on your very own personalized lanyard. (It doesn’t matter if the other lifeguards made fun of me. To this day I still know I was super cool with my monogrammed whistle.) Large circular swings denote I’m surveying everyone. Small, tight swings, that involving rolling the whistle cord on your index finger mean someone’s in trouble and it could be you. A good lifeguard by the end of the summer doesn’t even need to blow their whistle. All the pool participants should be able to read the swings to figure out what’s going on.

I, as you can imagine, was beyond excited to share my mother lode of lifeguard knowledge with my daughter before she started her job. I assumed she would be grateful and perhaps on the edge of her seat as I regaled with her tips and stories of my life guarding prowess. She was none of the above. Apparently, life guarding has changed since I was rubbing in Hawaiian Tropic SPF 0 sun tan oil on myself. What I thought would be a very one-sided conversation that was me talking and my daughter respectfully listening turned into her correcting everything I said.

I started out the conversation with my best lifeguard story – my first save. There I was perched in the lifeguard chair when I noticed a dad that had gone off the high dive wasn’t coming back up. I dove in, pushed the lining of my swimsuit down as it rose up and acted as a personal flotation device, and swam to the bottom of the pool. My lungs were bursting as I grabbed the man in a lifeguard hold and fiercely flutter kicked my way to the surface of the water. I couldn’t exactly remember if people were applauding when I got the dad out of the pool, so I just went ahead and assumed they were and added that to my story, which was so moving, even I got a little teary eyed.

My daughter was unimpressed. One would have thought she was a forensic water safety expert as she shared, “First, you don’t dive into a pool on a rescue. You jump in feet first. Second, you always have your rescue buoy or tube. Third, your main job is preventing rescues from even happening. You need to ask yourself this question mom – what could you have done to stop that man from hitting the bottom of the pool?”

She went on and on, but I’ll spare you the lifeguard lessons. I’ll just take my memories of relaxed fit swimsuits, monogrammed lanyards and whistle twirling and see if my husband wants to relive the glory years when seersucker suits were all the rage and lifeguards were all about the dramatic rescue.


Summer Bragging Rights

Screen Shot 2015-07-13 at 10.44.05 AMOne of the downsides of raising kids today is that parents have turned everything and I do mean e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g into a competition. For example, what do you call a second grade student who enjoys kicking a soccer ball and is half way through his summer reading log challenge? In 21st century parenting parlance that child is “gifted scholar/athlete.”

Still not catching on? Okay, let’s try another one. What do you call an 8th grader who babysit her siblings for free one night while her parents went to a movie and has twice volunteered at a food bank? Well, if you’re a mom with a delusional disorder that teenager is a “humanitarian.” All right, all right I’m exaggerating. She actually said with a straight face and to my knowledge she had not been drinking that her child has “humanitarian leanings.”

Once my son graduated high school I thought I had seen the worst of it. I mean really what is there to compete over anymore? Yeah, in a couple of years it will be all about who got into what grad school and in another ten years after that I have no doubt I’ll get accosted in the produce section at grocery store because some mom wants to gush about her daughter the neurosurgeon or her son the tech startup billionaire. (Dear Lord, hear my prayers. Please, please can I be that mom.)

But really none of that is a big deal because it’s not the day-to-day trench warfare that is parenting a school age child where everything from student of the month to getting the Sunflower citizenship award is plotted and strategized more meticulously than Eisenhower planned the amphibious D-Day invasion.

All this is why I was surprised and oh so very disappointed when I was introduced to the latest parenting brag for those of us with college age kids. The summer internship and/or job.

Unbeknownst to me now your kid just can’t come back home for the summer and have your basic, no frill, minimum wage job at a fast food joint to make some much-needed cash. Oh no, that is so, dare I say, common. For your child to be on the fast track to awesome he or she must be doing some sort of interning, job shadowing, profiling or apprenticeship.

What this really means is that you, the parent, will be shelling out thousands of dollars in transportation, lodging and food this summer for your child to go to New York, D.C. San Francisco (etc) so they can “work” for free. Now, while I have no doubt “valuable” contacts are made (as in you sure paid a lot for that connection) I must share that I think this all wrong.

The bragging rights shouldn’t go to the parents with the kid doing a “summer exploratory of Capitol Hill with the assistant to the junior legislative aid of a Congressional Representative.”

Nope, the “all hail my amazing child” belongs to the parent with the kid that has a super crappy summer job.

I believe there is nothing more beneficial to a college student’s education and future success than a summer job that sucks. Every human needs to, at some point in his or her life, work in entry-level positions in the food industry, retail, or do some hard labor.

In 1983 when my husband was a student at the University of Texas he spent one entire summer painting curbs at gas stations. The average heat index was 110. To this day he still talks about that job. He says it taught him to cherish the gift that is a college education and air conditioning.

That same summer I was working in fancy pants (literally) ladies clothing store. It had air conditioning, I’ll give it that, but the boredom was soul crushing. Not only did I spend hours hanging up clothes, steaming clothes and folding clothes I also had to wait on some seriously snooty women who were slobs.

There was this one woman who frequented the store at least twice a week and as she constantly stroked her, what Texas folks would call, Barbara Bush pearls she would demand a level of service that would make HRH Queen Elizabeth blush.

This woman would try on almost every item in the store and then throw all the clothes on the floor. You could even see her standing on the clothes she had tried on from the bottom on the dressing room door. Who stands on clothes and more importantly who stands on clothes that they don’t even own? Someone needed to call this lady out. I thought there’s a story for the local paper – former Junior League president who can’t figure out how a hanger works.

(To make a long story longer she came to mother’s funeral three months ago and when I saw her all I could think of was “Ugh, there’s Mrs. Pig Pen.” P.S. She was still wearing pearls.)

What I learned from that job is that I wasn’t cut out for any kind of career that deals with the public unless it’s me tattling on them. So, I became passionate about becoming a news reporter. (It’s the grown up and socially acceptable version of tattling.)

My son currently has a summer job working at a big box store. Everyday he comes home with a new story. The saddest one to date is when he had to mop “like pretty much all day.” His father and I just smile and tell him it’s character building. He doesn’t get what we’re talking about, but he will and he’ll be a better person, employee or perhaps future CEO for it.

*Attencover_1.3-2tion Snarky Friends, I have a brand new book out. It’s the second in the Snarky in the Suburbs series – Snarky in the Suburbs Trouble In Texas. You can buy it for your Kindle or in paperback on Amazon.  It’s also available for the Nook or you can get it for your Kobo reader. Click on a link and give it a test read.  I hope you like it! 🙂