We call him “Pablo” when he dons the suit. That was the first name out of my mouth when we first put it on him. And it stuck because it’s so fitting. It feels like the right name for the cabana boy rocking the swim briefs (“Speedo”) for any purpose other than competitive swimming or diving.
Pablo just turned two. He is the alter ego of our second child, Hudson. When he hits the pool or the beach in that suit, he becomes a different little person. His long, unruly, curly hair slicks back into a mullet or wide rattail, and he is suddenly single-minded in needing me to facilitate his favorite water sport.
He stands up straight, submerged to his chest, his back to me, the bottoms of his feet cradled in the palms of my hands. I crouch down to where only my head is above the water. Then I push up, first straightening my legs and then my arms to raise him up out of the water in what amounts to a squat with overhead press until he is standing directly over my head. Hudson then tries to remain standing on that high perch as long as he and I together can maintain his balance.
Pablo wants everyone’s attention while he’s up there. It’s hard not to notice a toddler with a wet mullet in his Pablo pants perched five feet above the surface. But he flaps his arms and squeals with delight to make sure. I don’t think he would get quite as much of a kick out of all this if he didn’t have an audience.
We repeat his trick over and over until we’re both worn out, sometimes alternating in turns for his older brother, Davis. Hudson learned the routine from watching Davis perform it. But he’s even more addicted to it than Davis ever was—and that’s saying a lot. Plus, that little bitty swimsuit on our little bitty man certainly adds flair to the performance.
Pablo can’t always perform in his full glory. Well, he could, but that would mean even more of the liberal latherings of sunscreen than we already subject him and his siblings to prior to time in the sun. So especially when the sun is at its fiercest, his ensemble includes a hat with a wide brim and a swim shirt.
The swim shirt is an ingenious invention featuring a mock turtleneck and either short or long sleeves. These replicate the surfer’s rash guard, and they represent a drastic improvement over the heavy, wet t-shirt I was required to wear as a kid when I was deemed to have already soaked up too much sun. Swim shirts offer our kids protection from the sun’s rays while also taking some body parts—their torsos and at least parts of their arms—off the sunscreen reapplication watchlist.
Once we reach the relative cool of a summer evening, if we adequately have applied and reapplied sunscreen, have taken a couple of much-needed breaks in the shade, and have kept on the hats and swim shirts as much as possible, we end up with happily exhausted kiddos rather than miserably uncomfortable ones. And Pablo can go back to performing in just his signature swim pants.