July 25, 2013: Don't Make Mama Mad

The infamous Kingman pool a few years after the incident noted below
A friend once described an upset mother by saying "she's like a mama bear protecting her bear cubs". Yep, been there, done that. As much as I would like to say that I've always kept my cool and been the exception, my mother bear mode has kicked in on many occasions.

One of these occasions occurred on what was to be a casual night of swimming in Arizona. In hindsight, I would label this incident 50% mother bear syndrome and 50% a turf battle with a lifeguard drill sergeant.

The boys and I were visiting Mom & Dad in Kingman, Arizona. Their cousins from Las Vegas joined us for some relaxed family fun. In the heat of the Arizona summer, the decision was made to enjoy some evening swimming at the local public pool.

In my mind, this should have been an everyday occurrence at the Kingman pool; visitors to their pool who weren't local residents with a pool pass. I quickly found that our arrival was outside their radar screen, or at least outside the radar screen of the lead lifeguard.

With kids in tow, ranging from 4 years to 10 years old, I checked in our crew and we immediately jumped in the pool. A lifeguard dressed in a blue one-piece with a serious blond bob immediately blew her whistle. Confused at our violation, I looked up at her.

She went on to tell me in a very militaristic manner that without a designated pool pin, children were not allowed in the deep water. After my pointing out that the kids could, in fact, stand in the water we were in (3 1/2 feet), she reiterated their rule and that 3 1/2 feet fell under that rule.

Hmmmm. Still confused, but trying to be compliant, I asked how we could acquire the said pins as all children in tow, less the four year-old, were proficient swimmers. My attempt to explain my children's level of swim skills and passed swim levels fell on deaf ears. Her answer to my question, "You'll have to wait for me at the lifeguard stand. Remove the children from the water."

So I begrudgingly did so, but with a slight smile still on my face. As the kids and I longingly watched the other young swimmers enjoy the clear blue chlorinated water, Lifeguard Hilda proceeded to blow her whistle and yell in your megaphone "Everyone out. We are performing a water safety reenactment." As we continued to sit still dripping wet and cold at this point, Hilda carefully watched the other guards fake a drowning and life saving techniques.

A half an hour into this exercise and after the other swimmers were allowed back into the pool, I finally got Hilda's attention. I asked the question again on how we could acquire the desired pool pin. After her lengthy explanation on pin requirements which not only included swimming across the pool and back, but a week grace period of "pool time" in the shallow water (i.e. baby pool).

Now I was pissed. Trying to contain my frustration, I faked a grin and asked calmly, "But, Hilda, we don't live here. We are only in Kingman until tomorrow. Are you suggesting that visitors of less than a week aren't given the opportunity to swim in the main pool?"

Her answer to me "Well, you can swim. They can't, unless they wait the seven day grace period."

Trying not to get visibly angry, I then tried negotiating. Somehow Hilda finally consented to allow Zach, the oldest of my crew, to swim the "across the pool and back" test, but only him. He performed marvelously and was awarded his pin.

Hilda did tell me that the others were allowed in the big pool as long as I held them (due to age, they would not be waived the one week grace period rule). So as I stood in the 3 1/2 foot water, four children clung to me. Like monkeys, they were linked on my back, neck, and hip. All while we watched Zach swim in the deep water and entertain us by jumping off the boards and going down the slide.

My parents showed up at the pool late in the game to wave hello and watch our fun. Mom said she knew right away that there was a problem. Purportedly my nostrils flare and I have a death look in my eye when I'm mad. My now adult children confirm this observation.

I did feel better after telling my pool debacle tale to my mother. Of course, she agreed and sympathized. And then we laughed. It really had to be a comic moment to see me dragging four large children around the pool, mad as heck.

I have always viewed the coveted Zach pin as a trophy of sorts. My win over Lifeguard Hilda. Although Zach earned it, I did claim a bit of ownership myself.

The pin stayed affixed to Zach's swimsuit in the years to come. Neither one of us could part with it. Hilda - 4, Mom - 1. But I least I went down fighting :)


  1. Hilarious! I'll have to think about this one. I'm sure I'll have a story of years past pop into mind.


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