Every summer we spend a few days in a small town in central Texas. That's right every summer. Yes, it's a million degrees out. Yes, it's too hot to do much that doesn't involve air conditioning. Yes, we're a little crazy. But Texas has one thing that California doesn't (not counting the grandparents), and that is THE CITY POOL.
Oh, we have pools in California. Tons of them. We also have enough rules and regulations to take all of the fun out of going. Our local pool doesn't have a diving board. The one that does will only let you jump facing forward, no flips, dips or tricks allowed. They have two lifeguards for every swimmer and the air is thick with whistles as they tell you what you are doing wrong. Yes, it's safe. It's also really, really boring.
In Texas, all they care about is that you don't kill anyone. At least not intentionally. City pool has not only a bouncy low dive, but a wicked high dive and they don't care much what you do on them. Want to learn a twisting backflip? Go for it. A 1 1/2 dive? Do it. Play follow-the-leader-off-the-high-dive? No problem. The kids spend four or five hours a day flinging themselves off the diving boards and then climbing back up to do it all again. The lifeguards keep a wary eye on everyone, but unless you actually jump on someone, they pretty much keep to themselves. I love it. And I bet their accident rate is just as low as those super-safe pools in my neighborhood.
In a ridiculously litigious society, it is a breath of fresh air to see a place where kids can be kids. They can learn tricks, face their fears and have a great time without being told that they can't do this or that. I'm so tired of our bubble-wrapped lifestyle where they take out all of the fun playground equipment only to put in safe, plastic (read boring) new stuff that pretty much guarantees nobody will get hurt. Or have any fun.
I let my kids walk to school alone. I let them meet their friends and ride bikes without me along. I let them go play a pick up baseball game in the park. I also let them fling themselves off a high dive repeatedly to perfect that twisting backflip they've spent all day working on. Yeah, they might break their arm riding a skateboard (I did) or scrape their chin trying to work out that difficult trick on the monkey bars. To me, it's all a right of passage. Shit happens.
My biggest fear is that one year we'll come to City Pool and the diving boards will be gone. Some city official will drop by one day and decide that it's just too dangerous to let people learn how to dive. Heck, that big hole in the ground full of water is dangerous too. They should probably just pave it over and make it a parking lot.
But until then, we'll keep coming, and my kids will keep flinging. I might even try it myself in the 100 degree heat. But not off the high dive, 'cause that's too scary.
On this date: In 1846, the Smithsonian Institution was created.