This summer we’re going to try things a different way.

We’re going for fun & free.

This year we said  no thank you to the country club pool membership…and signed up for the swim team at the local high school pool.  Cost:  none.  Several of us parents have decided to strike out on our own, so together we’re trying our local, low or no-cost natural resources in lieu of the club membership. 

Yesterday we went, for the first time, to find this pool, meet the coach, get the kids on the team.  It’s ironic that all the years of  driving past the high school we didn’t really know where on campus the pool was located. (In our defense, our kids are still in younger grades.)  But being the capable adults that we are, we figured that one out.  We had conferred together about making the switch from the private, country club pool, over to the public pool.  While we all do love the club and have had many good times there, lots of us are watching the Benjamins more closely than ever.  We’d heard good things about the summer swim team / city league held at the neighborhood high school.  When I called for information several weeks ago I was advised to sign up on the first day as “that location fills up quickly.”

Memorial Weekend was opening day at the pool.  We parents converged on the young coach, making jokes about our exodus from the private club. We wanted so much to like this new place, and to see ourselves happy there.   We arrived in a group, waving our checkbooks and clutching the downloaded registration forms, eager to secure our kids’ spot on the swim team.  We peppered her with questions, made self-deprecating jokes about having cut ourselves free from the monthly dues payments and high food and beverage bills. Really, though, I think we were holding our breath as we wanted this  first visit to the pool to reassure us that we did, in fact, make a good decision in leaving the comfort of the club behind.

For her part the coach handled us newbie parents in good humor.  She stifled her own smiles as we smacked our foreheads in glee when she told us there is no cost for the swim team.  That only ratcheted up the euphoria among us.

We, so accustomed to paying year round club fees that chafed at our budgets just for the privilege of swimming during the ten weeks of summer.  Now add to that about $300 for the registration fee for three kids, plus the swim team bathing suits (another $125 or so) and I’d be looking at writing a check for just over $400 for the privilege of forcing them (my kids don’t go willingly) to join the club’s swim team. We’d  practice a few times a week and endure interminably long swim meets that always cost more money because we’ve got to purchase food and drinks and snacks at whatever-club’s snack bar (or haul your own but what kid doesn’t want to order a Slush Puppy or eat from the buffet that’s being proffered?)  Being that we’re not competitive swimmers but merely a mom who’s looking for a lap lane and three kids who need to burn off some  summer energy and have a little competitive fun, this seems like the perfect fit, really.  Budget considering.

Sure there are a few downsides. The public pool doesn’t have shade.  As in, no shade at all.  No umbrella table, no table, no chairs.  Okay, I can bring my own beach chair but I really need to do something about the shade.  I see an attachable chair umbrella in  my immediate future. Rash guards for everyone. Check.  The public locker rooms are not much worse than what the club is currently offering its members.  Check.

The pool will probably be crowded.  Well, for a no-cost program, I guess we can deal with crowds.  We won’t know how that will be until it happens.  Because we’ll be  there together already with friends, we expect we’ll be laughing together regardless.  And most likely we’ll see other people we know enjoying the pool the same as we are.  Check.

There is no snack bar.  So we’ll pack our own cooler with budget-wise picnic foods. I suppose that a frozen juice bag will quickly become a Slush Puppy when that’s what your friends are having, too.  Check. 

This pool has a diving board. Check!

We conferred last night about our other plans for a Florida fun & free kind of summer. We decided we’ll plan low cost day trips once a week to lovely Florida locales.  I guess we’ve  somehow overlooked these sites during summers past, while we’ve been lolling around the club, I suppose.  We’ll go to Huegonot Park, Little and Big Talbot Islands,  and Anastasia Island beach.  Different beaches make you feel as though you’re on vacation, and when you pack up the cars and go with friends, it’s an instant party. Up to Fernandina, down to Ponce Inlet, over to Ichetucknee Springs.  

And of course, our own, ever-changing Atlantic Beach, with its shifting tide pools and and cooling sea breezes make this mom feel like she’s always on vacation.  We have a neighborhood Dad who does an ad hoc surf camp for the kids.  We can come and go without getting the car all sandy and that, in itself, is a great fun & free, summer resource.  Still, we have Dutton Island beckoning, and a walk on the Jax Beach pier and an ice cream cone spells summer fun close to home.  

Maybe this will be the summer when we actually do pack up the beach chairs and head over early to the Sea Walk Pavilion for the fun & free summer movies on the lawn, oceanfront?  Now when you live where we do, a place that offers all that we’ve got locally or within driving distance, it makes the term staycation truly mean something.


  1. Mickey Johnson says:

    …what fun!!! that is such a cool idea. we miss so much locally don’t we? we are country club people too…just for summer…we don’t do swim team, we just bask and bake. there is a snack bar of sorts, but it’s kind of small and boy the changes i could make to the locker room. anyway, i expect to see lots of pics of your local romps. xo, mickey

  2. Katie says:

    Oh I ventured over to your blog from themeanestmom. We just run out our back gate to the local community pool. Most of our neighbors couldn’t even fathom going to the local community pool because of the crowds. “FAW FAW” Well we are loyal to the community pool because they taught all of my kids to swim and we’ve learned that at 3:00 all of the kiddie camps go home and at 4:00 all of the teenagers are asked to go home because it is family swim. We’ll run over there at 3:30 w/the pool mostly to ourselves (I’ve prepared my dinner ahead of time so we’ll just run home and heat it up around 5:00) So what I’m sayin’ is you can work around the crowds, we love the people we have come to meet over there.

Speak Your Mind