Admission: Summer used to be my favorite time of the year. Days spent by the pool all day. In the summers, we would get up while the sun was still resting - the sky black. My mom would wake me and my brother up, and I would sleepily walk into my parents' room and cuddle beside my dad. Her side of the bed was still so warm, and I'd fall back asleep until my final wake-up. I'd do my morning flow, and then we'd head to the pool for swim team practice and stay at the pool until early evening - dinner time. We'd relax at the local swim club, hang with friends, go to our tennis lessons, and order lunch and a slushie.
On non-pool days, we would spend the whole day reading and attending the book club meetings (with kids in the neighborhood) that my mom created. Munching on Bagel Bites (for me) and Corndogs (for my brother). I was not too fond of school, so the summers (and holidays) were the time in my life when everything was right. So, the first year I was able to train to be a lifeguard, I did it! Days by the water, watching children, hanging out with the community. In the evenings, I could go to the pool club, where my mother would be; I would swim laps, layout read my latest book or a magazine article she would save me, and enjoy the evening until it was time to get a shower, pull back my hair, and put on my clothes and see Mike. My summers stayed this way: work, pool, shower, and Mike. Which is why teaching's rhythm was right up my alley - you mean summers off??? Yes, please.
Funny story: I was at the pool swimming laps right before I had an emergency induction for labor with Neiko. My favorite time of my life was the summer - Neiko was one. We would travel to the beaches, the pools, the library, and flow for hours on the road seeking water. Even as a baby, I found someone who matched my love of flow, freedom, and water. And so my summer flow - wake up, swim, books, shower- continued.
But then, the school year after that liberating summer, I realized I wanted to spend as much time with Neiko as possible. Daycare drop-offs got harder and harder. I yearned to work from home - experience the freedom of summers all year. Not understanding remote work was still work. So, working long hours and having natural hair, I started getting my hair professionally done, which meant I didn't want to get it wet at the pool. We were moving often. I was bringing my computer to the pool with us. And with another baby, my body image shifted. The boys began to prefer playing with Mike in the pool. I signed my boys up for camps because it's the "thing" to do. Add in a pandemic summer somewhere in there. And just like that, I occasionally sat outside the pool, watching my children swim.
But it wasn't until I heard myself mumbling on several occasions that summer was my least favorite season - the heat, the bugs, the summer clothes, that I knew this summer had to change. I wanted to swim again - feel that side of myself that was weightless, open, and free. I had gotten so rigid and self-restraining.
Swimming and The Changes
And so, I got in the pool with my family in Jamaica. Throughout the summer, I ensured my boys and I were at a swimming pool or in the ocean at least twice a week.
To be honest, this meant quite a few changes. No hair appointments this summer. I went back to swimming and then figuring it out. There were no summer camps and demands on our schedule. I had to say "no" again, which felt different. Then there was being in bathing suits. I didn't realize how often I covered myself up in the summers. And so, taking off my cover-up, getting into my bathing suit, and swimming at first felt horrifying.
I was super self-conscious, with my hair all over the place, no makeup, at times wearing old bathing suits that were not always ready for a swim! Let's say boobs and butt out on a gnarly wave 🌊.
But then, I embraced this silent but mutual understanding between myself and the community: we were all out here, sharing our bodies, sharing our families, sharing our fun, and so there were no judgments - no ruining these moments with negative thoughts and observations (for myself or others). We were all exposed, stripped down, vulnerable, receiving, and giving.
The more I swam, the greater my love for summer grew. Jumping into the water and coming out wholly undone felt like a baptism. In those moments, I saw everything about myself changing. This acceptance of myself after being smashed in the face by a double wave, with no makeup, hair everywhere, in my bathing suit - meeting the eyes of my thoroughly impressed and chuckling little boys - made me remember the summers of the past and it re-grounding me in so much of my identity.
I wanted nothing more than to let it happen in all aspects of my life. I began looking for summer clothes that would provide comfort and coolness instead of hiding my figure. I looked for ways to keep the summer fun going, and so instead of bringing out the laptop for work, I rest in a movie with my family. We would spend the afternoon doing marine biology documentaries. Shark Week was absolutely a favorite on National Geographic. Everything was so chill: library visits where we saw ocean information and even visiting the museum to watch a 3-D shark and marine documentary.
Lessons seem more like fun instead of chores. On our ocean visit, my boys knew so much about marine life that others would listen, chuckle, or ask questions. It reminded me why I wanted to do homeschool in the first place. It grounded me in my identity as this human who loves water, freedom, summer cookouts, swimming, the ocean, evenings of wet hair, painted nails, slushies, popsicles, and evenings just talking with fireflies nearby.