Summer months bring warm weather, bbq Sundays, and trips to the pool. Growing up, we would pack our swim passes and towels and head to the local swimming hole. It was a simple pool, with two diving boards and two vending machines. That’s it. No slides or hot dog stands, or even umbrellas to offer a quick respite from the blazing sun. 

It was the absolute best. We would swim for hours, racing from one side of the pool to the other, and trying our hand at flips in the deep end. 

As we got older, we made our way to different pools. They were ones that offered more lounge chairs than diving boards, as our priorities changed from summer fun to dramatic tanlines. 

Thinking back to these days of chlorine-soaked hair, I packed up Sloan’s first beach bag, stuffing more than enough swimming diapers into the side pockets as she played with the baby sunscreen. I was already nervous, not just because she had never been to an outdoor pool, but because the news had been riddled with horror stories of babies and toddlers in swimming pools. How could I guarantee she would stay happy, excited, and afloat? 

I desperately tried to push those thoughts away as we headed out. It wasn’t too busy, but there were kids of all ages splashing in the shallow end, jumping in the deep end, and everything in between. 

Beach Bag Basics


Sloan seemed intrigued and eager to check out the water, which suppressed my initial anxiety toward the other swimmers. 

Anxiety that belonged, I quickly realized, in the process of getting Sloan water-ready. 

Swimming diapers, commonly known as “swimmers,” are built like pull-ups. Trying to get a baby to stand up long enough to get the swimmer situated on their tiny booty is a chore, and then getting a swimsuit on is like extra credit. 

And then there is the sunscreen. Note to self: Put sunscreen on before their swimsuit. It’s never a bad idea to have sunscreen in places you think will be covered, and they’re more likely to sit still before you stuff them into the nylon prison that is a one-piece swimsuit. After that test of patience and agility, we were ready to make our maiden voyage to the baby pool. 

The water was chilly, which didn’t make for a great first impression of the wet world we were wading into. With a deathgrip on my shoulder, Sloan slowly looked around at the fountains and mini slide, taking in the sounds of cannonballs and lifeguard whistles. 

What I've Learned

  • Swimming lessons don’t have to wait until school-age. Check your local Parks and Rec offices to see if they offer a baby and me swim class.
  • People will offer, ask, and beg to take your baby swimming. If you don’t feel comfortable, speak up. There is no harm in wanting to be in control of your baby’s interaction with water, pools, and splashing kids.
  • If you’re nervous about other patrons at the pubic pool, she if you can find a pool that offers a walk-in area, which allows for both you and your baby to be in the pool, but eliminates big kids and their rowdy friends.

With the sun shining on her auburn curls and her toes skimming the pool’s surface, I couldn’t help but be in complete awe of my little human. 

Less than 30 minutes prior she had never been to an outdoor pool. Now she was splashing around in a one-foot pool, looking at me with enthusiasm, discovery, and guidance. 

She would reach for the fountain or move along the pool’s edge, and then look at me. It was almost as if she was saying “I’m still good, right?” 

Somehow, her hesitation had turned to complete confidence not only in herself, but also in my ability to keep her safe. 

We continued splashing around, and even spent some time in the big pool, though her koala grip only tightened the deeper we got. 

After accidentally involving ourselves in a game of Marco Polo, and before we completely turned to prunes, we retreated to the cool, dark locker room. Thankfully Swimmergate 2019 prepared me for the marathon that is getting a wet onesie off of a baby. There were tears (from both of us), but we made it through, tangled hair and all. 

Driving off, with the sounds of cabana music and laughter behind us, I felt a sense of accomplishment. 

I took Sloan swimming outside, and we had fun. 

We laughed, she didn’t get a sunburn, and it left me feeling like a proud mom—proud in her willingness to experience new things, and proud in my willingness to let her. 

And even though that may seem trivial, it takes a lot of gusto to introduce babies to new things, especially things that could potentially be dangerous. 

Don’t ignore your innate need to keep your little one safe, but don’t ignore their yearning for adventure, either. Trust yourself, trust your children, and swim on.

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