Boys jumping in pool

Summer means activities and playdates and all the fun things. It also means preparing in advance to handle five kids all day long for any given activity. No matter how many times I’ve been through this, I am always surprised at the amount of work it takes for a single outing.

Bags. It’s all about the bags. So many bags. We look like one giant gypsy family as we haul our excessive number of bags to and fro.

Let’s take the pool for example. My purse, of course, with my wallet and keys and mom-necessities. Then there’s the actual diaper bag the 19-month-old requires filled with diapers, wipes, the change of clothes, the emergency applesauce pouches, etc. That’s our base. Every time we leave the house we must at least have those two things. And since the baby isn’t the best walker or listener, I end up performing a sweaty, wobbly juggling act as I try to balance everything, including him, at once while keeping an eye on the other four children.

Then there’s the snack bag. You can’t go anywhere without the snack bag. I’ve never seen kids eat more than my kids inhale during that small 10-minute break. They’re like locusts, just voraciously mowing down anything that comes individually wrapped.

However, the snack bag is only made complete if it’s packed full of water bottles. Because, you know, hydration. Except full water bottles are heavy! And it takes between six of them to get us through an afternoon. I might just start filling mine with gin. Don’t judge me. It takes body-builder strength to get our snack sack poolside.

Once we’ve got the basic necessities down, we still need the towel bag. This requires its own separate bag because of the sheer number of towels we need. Particularly because this summer I bought towels from Costco, making them industrial-size. They’re double the length and width of normal beach towels, but asking my children to share one is essentially inviting the four horsemen of the apocalypse to join us for the afternoon. Sharing is not an option. And logistically, by the end of the afternoon, it’s not even practical. They each need their own.

And then there are the toys, goggles, water balls, diving sticks and innumerable odds and ends it takes to entertain theses small humans. Because heaven forbid the pool itself be enough for them.

Picture this for a moment.

I pull into a parking spot and then children start fleeing the minivan like clowns from a clown car. We lug out the stroller and start loading up. Baby first, then the rest of the bags. Eventually we run out of room, so I pass out what I can. But the children’s wimpy biceps aren’t strong enough to carry each of the 1,000-pound bags, so I also load up.

There we are pulling, kicking, pushing and dragging all we need to survive for a sum total of four hours through the disgustingly and sometimes mysteriously wet locker room in 100-degree weather as we race as quickly as we can to snag some loungers and set up camp. By the time we make it poolside, I all but belly flop into the water for desperate relief from the heat and muscle strain.

And yet, I keep going back. We love the pool. And we love summer. No matter how much work they both take.

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Rachel Higginson is a married mom to five kids. She is a New York Times and USA Today bestselling author who has received a Utopia Award for Best Contemporary Romance and Penned Con Award for Best Novella Series. She lives in Omaha. To read more from Rachel, click here.

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