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Life Vest

My kid swam across a lake yesterday. I thought she may drown. I watched helpless from a stand up paddleboard too far away to rescue her if things went awry.


This week in Arnold has been a very different experience than in the past. Just a trio of 3 mellow peas in a pod (Tom, Charlotte and myself) vs a gaggle of gregarious loud but loving psychopaths talking over each other 24/7 (add Abby, Bella, Emma and Cosette to the mix).

When you have 4 kids in 5 years, the chaos is background noise. 5 kids demanded that we be packed up and onto our day trip by noon, or children start breaking shit. Many summers, because Tom was working, I would solo this trip. Looking back, I’m surprised any of us made it out.

Some of our most fond memories found us exploring Big Trees State Park (thanks Uncle Rick), floating at Lake Alpine (thanks Uncle Rick), or paddle boarding at White Pines Lake (thanks Uncle Rick).

Tom, Charlie and I did these very same trips, but it was unrushed and held an undertone of “we’ll get there when we get there” vibe. Without her sister's aid, Charlie successfully navigated the rope swing over the course of the week. On Day 1, she scraped her butt pretty good. By Day 5, she had become an expert at jumping up, swinging out, and dropping in. We traveled by way of paddleboard, with Mama steering and Charlie riding perched on the front, or sputtering with kicking feet in the rear. She even stood up on the paddleboard and steered us on our last day.

Now back to the part where she almost died.

Everything was going according to plan. As we made our way back to the beach from across the lake, I asked if she would swim beside me.

Now mind you, she had been wearing a life vest everyday. But not this day. Although Charlotte can swim, Tom and I know enough to know that it’s always a good idea to wear a vest. Because stuff can go sideways in a second.

By the time I turned my head, she was 10 feet away from me, then 20 feet. She swam, I panicked. She doggie paddled, I was freaking out, but tried to portray “Calm Mom”. By this point, I resembled a giraffe on a stand up paddleboard, as she continued to swim.

Finally, I get to her, and she has the nerve to say, “I’ve got it, mom.”

Well, I’m glad one of us does.

Lessons learned:

  1. ALWAYS have a life vest

  2. See number 1

Although the experience itself is something I NEVER want to repeat, the education was epic. If you’re a student who feels like the learning in Life School just doesn't quit, me too.



* It feels vulnerable to share this, and I just want you to know if you have ever made a horseshit maneuver as a parent, I see you.

* Thank you Liz and Nick Brugioni for allowing us the time at the cabin. The fresh air, deck sitting, and tree hugging were salve for our souls.

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