I need to find a new workout.
Earlier this month the city drained the pool where I’d been slogging through my usual exercise routine. They say it’s because they need to renovate that part of the community center, but there’s a good chance it was out of mercy for me.
I wasn’t swimming.
Well, I suppose for the odd few moments I was, but mostly the workout consisted of being dragged flailing through the water by my two sons.
It didn’t start out as a workout. In fact, the boys lured me into it with promises of a quiet, relaxing couple of hours one evening when I came home from work too tired to hit the gym.
Since I wasn’t going to work out at the community center, they reasoned, I should take them swimming there instead. I was almost finished with the book I was reading, a true story about a dad who was shipwrecked off Alaska with three of his children, and the boys convinced me that lounging poolside with the final chapters would be a peaceful way to end the day.
“Oh,” one of them added, “but wear your trunks in case you want to come in,”
Now if there’s one thing young boys like better than splashing in the pool, it’s tricking their old man, so I should have seen what was coming from across the street.
They convinced me to float just one lap with them around the lazy river before I started reading, and I would have spotted the ruse if I hadn’t been so tired. So there I was, floating blissful and ignorant between a scheming 9-year-old and his 11-year-old brother.
Then, as I started to follow the flow out of the river, a shout told me I was in for a drastically different evening than I’d been sold: “Dad’s escaping!”
Before I could turn around, I had one boy on my back trying to tackle me in the pool while the other one was tugging me backward by an ankle for another go-round.
The worst thing you can do when you’re under attack by children is cede control, so I splashed, kicked and twisted for freedom the whole time they dragged me, inch by inch, back into the flow.
“Lazy” river, my foot.
Around and around that river the three of us went, with me lunging for the exit every time we floated past, but blocked, tackled and dragged back in without fail. I did make it out of the lazy river a couple of times and at least halfway out of the pool itself, only to be knocked down and captured like a calf at a rodeo.
The boys were playing for keeps, but so was I, and the time eventually came when I managed to barrel past the big one, shake the little one, and swim and then bound completely out of the water.
As I fell gasping into a chair, all three of us a little bruised up, I realized that I’d had a workout to rival my usual exercise.
So the next night, and many nights afterward, the three of us were back in the “lazy” river for round after round of me wrestling for my freedom until I was sure that I’d built up a good underwater sweat.
When my brother and I were little, our uncles used to have us lie still while they lifted and lowered us as bench press weights, and then we’d walk on their backs for a rough post-workout massage.
That ended abruptly when we got too heavy for more than one or two reps, and too big to walk on them without breaking something.
My uncles gave up way too soon.
The real potential of a workout with kids doesn’t start until they’re big enough to overwhelm you in an attack and still wild enough to show no mercy.
Richard Espinoza is a former editor of the Johnson County Neighborhood News. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.