July 7, 2011

The little Korean boy leaps into the pool, arms flailing, and collides forcefully with a cousin. There’s lots of  cousins to whack into; between two families, there are nine children in all.  No wonder both wives radiate exhaustion. They have those dead shark eyes that scream: stone-cold-fucking done.

But this afternoon there are no wives. Just the husbands–brothers–shepherding the entire wolf pack from the safety of deck chairs. The little boy’s face dissolves, scrunched in wail. Despite the sharp and high-pitched sound, the men sit, talking.

I look up from my book and lock eyes with a woman–in an enviably chic red swimsuit–sitting a few chairs away from me.  She heard, too, and is also on haunches, at attention.

We have a conversation, but neither of us speaks a word.

“Do we stay or do we go?”

“His father is right there.”

“I know, but that child is howling.”

“His uncle is there, too.”

“I know but, Hello? They’re just sitting there. Jesus. This is probably none of our business.”

“True. None-ovva-our business. They’ll get up soon. That kid is really working those pipes.”

Our eyes click to the men on the deck chairs, then to the boy. Except for the open mouth, he’s immobile. Whether it’s from pain or outrage or surprise is unclear,  but he’s frozen just the same.

When I look at Red Swimsuit again, something flickers; I can’t even really tell you what shifts, but something does, and we know we’re heading for that child. The minute we launch, the father rises,walks reluctantly over to the Wailer. Red Swimsuit and I lower ourselves down.

“Nathan. What happened?”


“You landed on his head?”


“Where’s Brooklyn?”

A quick scan of the pool confirms that Brooklyn is just fine–he’s spiritedly playing water volleyball with 6 other members of the wolf pack–all of them male, running the gamut from acne-scarred teenager to floatie-sporting preschooler. Not one of them has missed a beat. They’re spiking, splashing, hollering with familial aggression.

“All right, let’s have a look,” the father sighs, and reaches for Nathan’s chin.


“Nathan. Open.”

Nathan cringes from the outstretched hand and makes clenched-jawed animal sounds, and in that moment, I understand the father. I get it. Nathan gets hurt a lot. Nathan isn’t coordinated. Nathan brings the drama. Nothing about Nathan is easy.

“You chipped a tooth on the bottom.”

“Whatdoesthatmeanaretheygonnahaftapullitisitgonnahurt?”  His voice rises.

“Just get out of the water. I need a better look at it.”

It’s only then that I notice her. The lone Girl in the wolf pack. She’s not much older than Nathan–maybe a year or two. She’s standing a few lengths away, watching the whole business unfold. She’s got a fat braid of black hair running down her back and her stocky thighs hint that puberty isn’t far away. She hops out of the pool, grabs a towel from a nearby pile and holds it out for Nathan.

“Did you say he chipped a tooth?”  Red Swimsuit peers over her Allure magazine. “My husband is a dentist, believe it or not. I can track him down if you’d like.”

“He’s fine. Thank you.”  The father leads him over to where his uncle sits, studying a lunch menu. “Nathan, you need to calm down.”

Nathan’s shoulders heave and he doesn’t calm down. Not after five minutes. Not after more than five.

“It’s too bad his mother isn’t here,” Uncle says, scanning the pool area as if she’d just appear, out of the ether.

Both men remain standing while Nathan weeps on a deck chair. They shift from foot to foot, embarrassed or baffled or stunned by the way a good thing goes South in a blink.

The braided girl quietly seats herself on the lounge chair beside Nathan. She scans her cousin quickly out of the corner of her eye, then studies her feet.

“Nathan. You need to calm down. We need to leave in a few minutes for the barbecue station.You don’t want to miss it, do you?”

Nathan folds into himself, his towel like an envelope.

“Look, I need to use the bathroom,” Nathan’s father says to his brother. “I’ll be back.”

Uncle looks around nervously. “So…Nate, you can’t be using your mouth as a weapon, man! Brooklyn’s head is like a rock!”  He laughs at his own joke but Nathan still cries, so he wanders over to the koi pond.

I get up from my lounge chair and crouch down with Nathan. Braided girl looks at me, then back at her feet.

“Nathan? Hi. You got a pretty good whack there.”

He nods through his towel.

“Nathan? Are you crying because it still hurts or are you crying because it scared you when it happened?”

He peers out, eyes leaking. “Hurts.” He returns to his envelope.

Red Swimsuit riffles for her phone, starts dialing.

I touch his back; his scapula is sharp underneath the towel.

“How old are you?”

“Eight.” Braided girl speaks for him.

“How about that? I have a nine-year old. A girl.”

“So,” I ask the towel, “you’ll be a third grader next year?”

“Fourth.” Braided girl. “He skipped a grade.”

“Wow, that’s—”

I’m stopped in mid-sentence by Red Suit and the dentist, who arrive in a whoosh, and we sit and wait for Nathan to open and his dad to return and his uncle to quit watching koi.

“Do you know this boy?”

Red Swimsuit, the dentist, Braided Girl and I look up at the hotel security guard. Nameplate reads: Justin.

“Yes, Justin. Yes. We do.”

{ 43 comments… read them below or add one }

annabelle July 7, 2011 at 11:13 am

Great – GREAT- story telling!

And yeah, been there. It may be a cliche, but The Dads just aren’t going to handle things the way The Moms do.


Katybeth July 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

I have been at that pool so many times…judging…wanting to helping…wondering if I should help. Do you dive in or sit back. Men do handle it differently but isn’t that sometimes a good thing–or will they ever learn the chance of joking a kid out a true crying spell is lower than winning the lottery.

Great read.


TKW July 7, 2011 at 6:07 pm


That’s something I hoped to convey–that it’s not BAD the way Dads handle things. Just different. And I am guilty–SO guilty–of stepping in too soon. I tried not to slant it, because I know we all do our part.


Gale @ Ten Dollar Thoughts July 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

Mercy, can you tell a story!

My favorite moment was when you asked him if he was crying from pain or fear. When kids cry and we know nothing serious is wrong, it can be so easy to dismiss the tears. But fear is every bit as compelling a reason to cry, and yet wholly abstract and difficult for a little mind to articulate. It’s on us as adults to help them navigate their way through their emotions (Lindsey at ADSV is brilliant at this), and even though Nathan was crying from pain I’m sure fear played a role and your question was spot on.

As always, a wonderful read. Thanks for sharing this little impromptu moment of community. A village indeed.


TKW July 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm


You are so right about Lindsey. She makes me feel like a shit mum sometimes, but I learn from her. I truly do. Cindy Kane at BadMommyMoments and C. Harkin at NaptimeWriting do the same thing for me–I read, sit speechless, and hope to measure up to the way they thoughtfully parent. I won’t. But the gauntlet is thrown.


Jennifer July 7, 2011 at 11:37 am

This is why moms rule the world.

Beautifully told. Of course I would expect nothing less.


Cathy July 7, 2011 at 11:54 am

Ah such a great read on society. How men treat kids differently than women. How men react differently. How women are more in tune with a child’s emotions. And one thing I will extrapolate – my guess is if it was a girl that got injured, the response would be different.

While I think the dad was not responsive to the child’s emotional needs, I think that he did assess the situation and it sounds like this boy has a propensity for a bit of drama which tempered his reaction. It’s easy to tire of the drama.


Jenna July 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

Ditto on the comment above–great story telling! You ended it the perfect way.


Christine July 7, 2011 at 12:11 pm

I’m with Gale, can you ever tell a story!! I was, as usual, rapt and feeling like I wanted to inject myself into that situation too. I wouldn’t have been able to stop myself.


Erica@PLRH July 7, 2011 at 12:45 pm

Kitch, I love the way you tell a story. :)


bryan July 7, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Very well told my friend, I can almost smell the hotel pool now. I have been in similar situations (yes and I’m a guy). I always have to stand on the side of the uncoordinated nerdy kid. go figure


TKW July 7, 2011 at 6:13 pm


You are a guy. True. I hope you didn’t feel attacked by this post; somehow, I know you were right there with me.


Stacia July 7, 2011 at 1:32 pm

Sounds like the poor kid just needed a hug and some positive attention … and maybe Red Suit’s dentist-husband. Glad you were there, Kitch.


Andi July 7, 2011 at 1:39 pm

Dana, you have a talent in writing and telling a story.


Cheryl @ Mommypants July 7, 2011 at 2:38 pm

Perfectly told. Every bit, especially the first eye contact w/ Red Swimsuit.

Loved it.


mary lee July 7, 2011 at 2:55 pm

If you ever feel unloved and unappreciated, please refer back to this post and know that you not only have blogging friends who like you… love you… you have FANS who think you’re awesome.


TKW July 7, 2011 at 6:31 pm

Mary Lee,

FANS? Whoop! I feel like Andy Gibb now. Aww, shit. I am officially old.


Amy @ Never-True Tales July 7, 2011 at 4:39 pm

Wonderful storytelling! I pictured myself right there, poolside.


Tiffany July 7, 2011 at 6:11 pm

You are a wonderful writer—I was right there with you!


MommaKiss July 7, 2011 at 7:04 pm

This is written so true to life! I’ve been at the pool, the lake, the park – watching, wondering…who will speak up if not me?? I love this!


Maria July 7, 2011 at 7:49 pm

Dads handle things differently. I suspect that that little boy needed a good hug from his momma and that tooth repaired ASAP.

We too often judge harshly. We act with our hearts, and then try to measure ourselves by the actions of others. I think that we are often much too hard on ourselves. I think that when we act with open hearts, there isn’t too much you are going to fail at in parenting…

So glad you were there for him, for his embarrassed/frazzled daddy, and that Red Swimsuit Lady had a partner in crime…


TKW July 8, 2011 at 10:23 pm


What a generous and thoughtful response. As if that’s a surprise. :)


Heather July 7, 2011 at 7:51 pm

Dana you should go on vacation more often if this is the stuff you come back with! This was a beautifully told story. You left me hanging on the edge – as I suspect most mothers are – at what happened with the tooth. And did someone give the poor kid a hug? And, you’re right. There was nothing wrong with the way the guys handled it. It was just different. It’s those differences that add to the people that we are. You’ve amazed me, once again.


koreen July 7, 2011 at 9:11 pm

Dang. You had me on the edge of my seat. Great story. Sad for the little boy. Poor little dudes when they get hurt still need a little attention. (I have a little guy like that who gets hurt a lot. And cries easily. It’s hard.)


TKW July 8, 2011 at 10:26 pm


Miss D. is clumsy queen and drama queen to the 4th power. It IS hard. In many small moments, I feel like I fail her.


Camille Brightsmith July 8, 2011 at 6:11 am

TKW – I love how your stories leaving me feeling so pensive. Nothing is really black and white is it? Raising children is especially a constant push and pull of bitter and sweet bitter and sweet. You have a way of capturing that, with that voice of yours…..that tough as nails, yet filled with panic, sweet as honey yet witchy witchy voice!


TKW July 8, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Love you, Camille. Isn’t it weird how we start the day strong, get beaten down by degrees, and end the day feeling small–and yes, panicked–convinced that we don’t know shit. But we do. At least that’s what I tell myself. Bring Max and Chloe over soon, Jody in tow? Mojitos on me. xo


Sherri July 8, 2011 at 7:51 am

Love your stories – they resonate with so many of us, I think. I’ve been away for a few weeks – and missed your stories :-).


Kristen @ Motherese July 8, 2011 at 1:27 pm

You have such a gift, lady. When Sarah and I had lunch last month, we talked about what a brilliant storyteller you are. Such a keen observer (a watcher, if you will) with a tremendous gift for conveying what’s going on with so few words.

You’ve got a book in you somewhere. I know it.



TKW July 8, 2011 at 8:02 pm


Can you and Sarah write it for me? I’m too damnscared and lazy, to boot. xo


Naptimewriting July 8, 2011 at 11:29 pm

Don’t get me started on goddamned dads and goddamned uncles who don’t do their goddamned jobs. Because if you do I’ll tell you I’m unnaturally happy when goddamned dads and goddamned uncles *do* their jobs, which is just goddamned unfair, because goddamned moms more often than not do their goddamned jobs but don’t get the same unnatural praise and attention as goddamned dads who actually do their goddamned jobs.
Crying kids need hugs, yo. And some goddamned understanding. How goddamned hard is that?


TKW July 9, 2011 at 8:12 am


You’re goddamned awesome.


shannon July 9, 2011 at 5:33 am

I love this story! The lack of urgency my husband has in these types of situations is astounding. That said, this summer he has been the only one to bring the two older kids to the pool while I stay home with the very new baby. I’m guessing that onlookers span the range of “Where is their mother?” to “Look at that incredible Dad who is taking his kids to the pool (again)!!! How does he do it?!?” Honestly, I can’t say my thoughts would be different if I was looking on.
There is a chapter in Deborah Tannen’s book “Talking from 9 to 5” that addresses how men and women handle a crisis differently. Although this book is about the work place it translates. Basically Tannen talks about how women tend to anticipate a crisis and manage it incrementally, while men bust in like a “White Knight.” If it hadn’t been for the woman in the red bathing suit, there would be no dentist husband to assess the boy.


TKW July 9, 2011 at 8:15 am


I love Tannen! I haven’t read the 9 to 5 one, though. I’ll have to pick it up. I think she’s right–which is why my husband will leave the house without the huge bag of juice boxes, snacks, band-aids, and emergency lollipops that I always insist on carrying. :)


Shannon July 9, 2011 at 5:36 am

And what’s more “White Knight” than being the one to answer the call “Is there a doctor in the house?”


Barbara July 9, 2011 at 10:28 am

While I agree Moms and Dads handle things differently I rarely interfere with a crying child (unless I see obvious abuse and even then I would be more apt to find someone in authority rather than take the situation on myself). Interference in a minor matter (and this WAS minor) like this wouldn’t be appreciated (which I can also understand) but also there may be some other things involved here. The kid cries all the time over nothing or is accident prone (I had one that had 137 stitches at various times and a broken leg before he was 12). Better to butt out. Leave, go tell someone if you must.
Great story, Kitch!
(Don’t worry so damn much about being a great mom. You are. All we can do is use common sense and our love. It’s a funny thing, when I was raising mine, I never gave a thought as to whether I was a good mom or not, I just did the best I could. Everyone survived.)


CK July 9, 2011 at 3:16 pm

Amazing writing, Kitch. Nathan was lucky to have you and Red Suit there…

Nice shout out to Badmommymoments and Naptime Writing in the comments as well. Totally agree!


Jody July 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm

My first reaction is to say, fine, I’ll be the one to say that the Dad in an ass and you cannot leave strangers to attend to your child. Even if he brings the drama, which I do know a thing or two about. If he needed to pee so bad, he should’ve taken Nathan with him.

But then I recall the thank-god-she-was-there mother who jumped in, brought ice and distracted my injured boy with a steady stream of small talk while my husband held the broken arm still and I tended to the authorities and the forms and the ambulance and my other ( totally freaking out) child. I sure hope she’s not out there telling someone I am a bitch for letting her distract my own howling little boy.


TKW July 9, 2011 at 6:54 pm


I doubt it. I’m betting she understands. I was hoping to let readers know that I did understand the father. As you know, we have Queens of Scream over here.


Jody July 9, 2011 at 10:08 pm

But Kitchy, you would never stroll away for a pee and leave a screaming Queen. Even if you thought the screaming was unreasonable, you would distract her and remove her from the scene before you would let other people feel they had to step in and take care of your child.


Privilege of Parenting July 10, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I love this, the vivid humanity pulsing through every perfectly rendered detail… and the pathos and the just-so-ness of it all. Oddly, it brought to mind the interiority of you making your way up that frozen muddy hill in grade school, a sort of equinox counterpoint across seasons and life-stages…


camilla July 11, 2011 at 3:05 am



From Belgium July 11, 2011 at 3:54 am

Very recognizable.


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