June Underwater

By Ian Anderson

My parents have a picture of the three of us when I was just a baby; it’s an underwater picture, and our eyes are open, our lips pursed, and we all have that look that’s unique to humans submerged in water — I don’t know how to describe it but to write that we seem out of place.

Photographs have that quality, of course, because they capture people in a moment’s time, but add to that an underwater stillness and the frozen effect is doubled somehow.

I enjoy the memory of that picture and my mom and dad’s fond recollection of that day. It marks the beginning of a long history of swimming both in pools and the ocean, and I still like to play in the water.

There’s a peace about being underwater, too, that I can enter even as I write about it. I think that has to do with the quiet of it all that’s part of the slowing already described above.

Now that summer is upon us, pools open, and we’ll soon observe herds of children migrating to the local watering hole on a daily basis. We call them pool rats. I don’t know how that phrase came to be, but the image of a rat doesn’t fit. I’d like to see more children at the pools every day — and I can’t say I’ve ever wanted more rats.

My point is that children are busy at so many other things; in fact, I have many students who are relieved when school begins in the fall because it’s then their calendar isn’t so full.

Of course the younger generation is judged by the older ones, but this time the actions of the young aren’t altogether their fault. I’m sure in some instances it’s not their fault at all.

I genuinely want to know when — and why — our culture began to believe that our children needed calendars at all. I remember long bouts of boredom during the summer months, and it was great!

My wife and I will soon have to deal with the temptation to shove our children into activities they “need,” and they’re at the age when they will want to engage in sports and other organized events. I pray we’ll give them some underwater time, too — time to be still and let the quiet and the peace of a summer day wash over them. I pray we’ll let them be bored or even let them feel out of place at times because everyone else will be running, running, running. I pray that for us all this summer.

Ian Anderson is a teacher, a husband, and a dad. He lives with his family in Central Kansas. Occasionally, he tweets here: @ian_writes.

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