Beaches are great. Water parks are a blast! Municipal pools and the high school natatorium are an invaluable public service. The drawback with each of these, for our family anyway, is that they are all places to which you have to go. We’re not against going anywhere—Grace has been taking swimming lessons at the local club and a few weeks ago we drove an hour to spend the afternoon building sandcastles on Lake Huron—but going necessitates finding time, planning for bathroom breaks and meals, and hoping everything comes together. If you’re waiting for the a guy to come and pick up that  coffee pot you posted on Craigslist, going is not an option.

That’s why we indulge in the simple aquatic pleasures that the wife and I enjoyed in our youth: swimming pools and the ol’ Slip ‘n’ Slide. (That’s right, plastic is our friend, in this arena anyway.) As a kid, I remember getting so excited about the idea of running through the sprinkler or the octopus that flailed water every which way. In practice, water from the hose is painfully cold, and there was as much avoiding the water as diving in, but it was fun all the same.

It seems the simplicity of playing in the backyard with a hose and a shallow pool has been lost for some people. A sprinkler is all that’s needed for a good time with kids. Throw in some cheap water guns and suddenly it’s a social event. But searching online for backyard pool gear and you will find that some parents are maxing the plastic for… plastic.

The variety and they have out there these days is pretty impressive. Large inflatables like the “Rainbow Ring Pool Play Center” and the “Banzai Splash Blast Lagoon” seem like a lot of fun. And since we can’t really afford those kind of toys, it’s easy to criticize. But not having resources to burn also makes you think a little harder about what your kids really need. Then you start to think that maybe it’s even better this way. Maybe being outside is about feeling the wet grass beneath your feet, green blades stuck to your legs when you’re ready to go inside. Maybe it’s about feeling the bumps beneath the slide. Or maybe I am trying to romanticize a lame economy.

In any case, summer is winding down. School starts soon. This afternoon get the kids gussied up in their bathing suits and turn the hose on ’em. No planning necessary.




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