Why One Should Never Take Three Children Six and Under to a Pool Party

David’s former kindergarten class was having an end-of-year pool party and invited us to join them, which I originally thought was kind and thoughtful. I realized too late — meaning after I already got the kids’ hopes up for going — that it was probably not the most relaxing way to spend an afternoon. Boy, is that ever an understatement!

The adventure all started when I went to pick up David from his last day of school, because if I waited for him to get home on the bus, we would be dreadfully late for the party. Pick-up required parking, getting both girls out of the car, going into the school and waiting in the pick-up line, and getting all three kids back in the car. Then I made the 40-minute drive to the home of the classmate who was hosting the pool party. We parked. I got all three kids out, threw the enormous bag over my shoulder which contained everything a mom and three kids might need for an afternoon at  the pool, or a week in a bomb shelter, and made my way towards the house.

Before we even get to the backyard, Caroline had to go potty. Naturally David thought it was a good idea and asks to go too. I handed off Rebecca to the hostess, went back around to the front door so we didn’t have to tromp through their house, and took kids into the powder room. In this very small confined space, I managed to get all three of us pottied (hey, I was there, and wasn’t  holding a baby, so I thought I should make the most of it) and the kids into their swim suits. (No, I did not put myself in a swim suit, are you nuts!?)

After that, we made our way around to the backyard. I use the term “backyard” loosely. It is more like a steep cliff graded into several tiers, which include an amazing slate patio, a set of treacherous steps created to look natural (read: rough and uneven) that lead down to the in-ground kidney-shaped pool, and below that, a grassy bank that leads down to a flat  grassy area with a swingset/clubhouse fixture. Gorgeous, but not exactly kid-friendly. Nevermind that this family has three kids ages 3 to 13. I wonder how many trips to the ER they have had this summer!

I said my hellos and immediately passed off the baby to the babysitter so I could begin the sunscreen process.

Lathered up David with sunscreen and sent him down the Treacherous Steps to pool. Lathered up Caroline with sunscreen and told her to wait for me (steps are too hazardous for an accident-prone 3-year-old to navigate without adult supervision). Lathered up Rebecca and started down to pool.

But wait. It’s lunchtime. Saved by the bell! Then I discovered that the hostess failed to inform me that everyone was brown-bagging lunches today. So . . . I made my way into the kitchen to beg a sandwich off of said hostess.

Unfortunately for us, the hostess doesn’t have a plain piece of bread in the house. Evidently she only shops at places like Whole Foods — you know, those places that ruin a perfectly good loaf of bread with crunchy seeds and nuts and other nastiness that have no business being in a loaf of bread.

Besides which, and more importantly, David is allergic to sesame seeds and tree nuts, without which crunchy granola bread could not exist. So we finally managed to find crackers that he could eat, so I made him a plate of crackers and peanut butter. I could not feel more underfoot in this lady’s kitchen while she was trying to entertain an entire class of kindergarteners and their mommies.

I took the crackers and peanut butter to David and grabbed a slice of hoagie off the adult food table for Caroline. (David couldn’t have a hoagie because hoagie buns are covered in sesame seeds, naturally.)

What? You want a drink with that? I jumped up and grabbed two juice boxes from cooler on patio and delivered them to David and Caroline.

By now I’m ready for some nourishment myself. Those hoagies really look good. But Rebecca is fussy and hot so I returned to kitchen to fill a bottle for formula. Back on the patio, I searched for a shady spot and proceeded to feed the baby out of the scorching rays of the mid-day sun.

By now the kids were done eating. I was famished, but that would have to wait. Did I mention those hoagies looked awfully good?

David was back in the pool. Caroline was begging to go in. With a 20-pound baby in one arm and holding a wriggly 3-year-old by the other hand, we made our way down the Treacherous Steps to the pool level. Only one other parent is on the pool level, and there were about 10 six-year-olds in and around the pool. What’s up with that?

I chatted with the other mom for a bit, and then the babysitter made her way down to the pool and seemed to be keeping a watchful eye on the kids in the pool, so I figure this was my chance. I made sure she would keep an eye on my kids, and I hiked up the Treacherous Steps with the 20-pound baby still attached to my hip to see if there were any hoagies left.

One lone slice of hoagie was sitting on the tray. Score!

I grabbed a plate, one-handedly filled it with hoagie and a handful of Cheetos, all the while managing to keep the baby from grabbing my food off the plate. Talented, aren’t I? Admit it. You’re impressed.

I balanced the plate and the baby and made my way back down the steps to find a shady seat at a table by the pool where I proceeded to keep one eye on each child in the pool and delicately (ha!) eat my hoagie and chips with one hand while balancing the baby on one leg.

Naturally I was not finished with my feast when Caroline decided she had an urgent potty need, so I lugged her and the baby back up the steps, through the house this time, and to the powder room to take care of that  job.

Then it was back down the steps, carefully watching each step on my descent so I didn’t roll pell-mell to the bottom, where I resumed munching on Cheetos.

All was going fairly well, besides the fact that I hadn’t completed one adult conversation in the hour I’d been here. While I was trying to hold one such conversation, I took my eyes off the pool for just a few seconds. The next thing I know, David (who had previously been walking back and forth beside the pool, shooting unsuspecting kids with a water gun) was in the pool soaking wet, clinging to the side, coughing and sputtering, obviously after taking an unintentional dip in the pool. He was crying, frightened, so I jumped up to offer some maternal comfort and encouragement. (Thank goodness for the YMCA swim lessons my husband insisted he take this spring!! He did, after all, manage to surface and make it to the side.)

At about this point, I made an astute observation. While they were all invited, no one else brought younger siblings along to this party, much less two younger siblings who needed lots of supervision. Clearly these moms have better judgment than I do.

I spent the remaining hour doing much of the same, climbing up and down the Treacherous Steps with the baby in one arm, tending to the needs of the older kids, starting but never quite finishing conversations with the other moms, all the while trying to keep the  fair-skinned baby out of the sun as much as possible.

After a couple hours of this, I was about ready to wrap it up. I start collecting our belongings and gave the kids a 5-minute warning. I was exhausted, sweaty, and hot. My back and shoulders are achy from holding a heavy baby for nearly two hours; my legs and feet were achy from climbing up and down the Treacherous Steps so many times that I lost count.

I began preparing for the departure.

Got Caroline into clean clothes. Convinced Davjd to ride home in his bathing suit. Change Rebecca’s diaper. Gathered up our stuff, said our goodbyes, and made our way to the car.

I knew Rebecca was tired and hadn’t nursed in many hours, so I decided to take a few minutes to nurse her in the front seat before the long ride home. (Nothing worse than screaming baby while trying to drive.)

Of course, she was more interested in the change of scenery (what on earth is so intriguing about the front seat of an automobile??) than nursing, so I gave up. I got out of the car again, adjusted my clothing and put her back in her car seat, where she proceeded to wage a protest. I stuck a paci in her mouth and started to shut the door, when Caroline announced that she needed to go potty.

You’ve GOT to be kidding me.

Can you wait?

Of course you can’t wait. It’s a 45-minute ride home. You’re three. You had three juice boxes.

I made my way to her door, went to get her out, only to find that it was too late. Her dress was wet, as was her booster — and it’s not pool water.

Do you still need to go?

Yes, of course.

Back to the house. In the front door. We’re baaack! Yes, we left the backyard over 15 minutes ago. No, we’re not gone yet.

There was actually a line for the powder room. We waited.

Finally it was our turn. We did our business, pulled up soggy panties. *EW*

Out the door. Again. Back to the car. Rebecca was screaming. David was thirsty.

Too bad. This train is leaving the station.

I fastened Caroline’s seat belt, replaced Rebecca’s lost paci, started the car and got on the road.

David was munching happily on Cheetos. (Somehow he managed to smuggle a whole plate of those out of the party — where on earth was I?) Rebecca was asleep before we get out of the driveway. Caroline was asleep before we hit the highway. Ahhh… the sound of silence.

Fortunately the ride home was uneventful. Traffic was bearable. Kids remained quiet. I reached for the button to turn on my iPod, and then I rethought that decision. I opted for sweet silence instead.

We arrived home, and I unloaded sleepy, sweaty kids. Sent David off to play outside. Placed a groggy Caroline to rest on the couch, urine soaked panties and all. Nursed Rebecca in the privacy and comfort of home.

Then I broke open a Very Berry wine cooler and took a leisurely sip.

I think we’ll order a pizza for dinner.

NOTE TO SELF: Never take three children six and under to a pool  party alone. Never. Again.