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Duty free

February 28th, 2005 · 5 Comments

I didn’t post my results from the personality survey Beth Grigg linked last week because I didn’t like them. I scored strong in emotions and intellect, but also strong in dutifulness. Duty. I don’t like that word. It brings to mind a robot executing orders or a legalist lacking love. I do have a dutiful side. It’s probably part personality and part latch-key kid in origin. But I also hope I am growing in creativity and flexibility. Personality test results seem to depend on my mood and the type of questions. This week though, I’ve seen the duty in me.

Yesterday I didn’t want to take my daughters to the pool. Months have passed since we have practiced swimming. Various excuses including Ted’s travel and Michaela’s surgery have been effective on previous weekends. Although I felt too tired to go, even falling asleep suddenly mid-morning, I knew that I should take them.

I don’t like swimming for its inefficiency. As a runner, I’m used to lacing a pair of shoes, going out the door and on the road fast. Yesterday, it took us 50 minutes to go from inside the kitchen to inside the pool, and another 30 afterwards to shower, change and come home. Since we only spent 35 minutes in the water, it took us twice as long for preparations as for exercise. Part of the delay in our arrival was due to our inexperience, remembering what and how to pack the swim bag again for three people. I also misplaced our swim pass and had to purchase another one.

Frustrated and desperate, I mumbled a prayer as I drove out of the neighborhood, hoping someone would stop my grumbling. I am dutiful but I can also be miserable. Mostly I felt tired, too tired to take two kids through the acrobatics of locker room and swimming pool. But I also felt guilty: I wanted to want to spend time with my girls, but I wasn’t able to make myself have the right emotions.

Once we were in the water, somehow I forgot to grumble. We floated and splashed. We blew bubbles. The girls jumped. We took turns curving a blue noodle. I carried Michaela on my back and Abigail by the hand through several rounds of the lazy river, letting the current pull us along, pull us together. We had fun. I wanted to be there. Duty had disappeared into joy.

While playing with my girls, I noticed many mothers sitting on chairs at the pool side, staring out at the water, some consciously counting the clock. The number of parents swimming with children was much lower than the number seated. I could have envied those poolside moms. They didn’t have to get wet. Instead I wondered why they were sitting there by themselves when they could be enjoying their children. I wanted to shout across the pool and invite them to join us. After all, it was my duty to let them know what they were missing.

Tags: family

5 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Anita Rowland // Feb 28, 2005 at 6:42 am

    taking my grandson to family swim has just been great this winter! But it’s true about the time it takes to shower and get dressed afterwards seeming inordinately long.

  • 2 ilona // Feb 28, 2005 at 10:03 am

    DUTY is not a four letter word! Oh wait…it is… but as you point out it gives safety and consistancy and often leads the way to freedom of joy. Thanks for showing me this so clearly:)

  • 3 Bob V // Feb 28, 2005 at 10:40 am

    Julie, your initial reluctance to be called dutiful says a lot about its definition.

    Duty – things we don’t want to do but we feel bad about not doing.

    We never invoke the word “duty” to refer to things we want to do. Calling the other parents into the water is not duty, which is why your calling it duty is humorous. Your use of duty in that case isn’t consistent with the above definition. Duties are necessarily chores.

    Wouldn’t it be nice though if the things we once considered duties became things we wanted to do? Your experience at the pool is just such an instance. How perfect would our lives be if we actually wanted to do all the things that we had to do? How can we come to love our duties?

  • 4 jenny // Feb 28, 2005 at 9:54 pm

    I am too amazed at the time and prep it takes to swim… but I love it. And “duty”… I definitely struggle with the joy of “doing” versus the “should” part…

  • 5 Julie // Mar 2, 2005 at 8:11 pm

    Personality test results definately depend on the mood you in when you take them.

    I admire you for getting in the water to enjoy your children. I’m not a “poolside sitter” either. They grow up way too fast.

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