I hadn’t given much thought ahead of time to the fact that our new house has a hot tub. It wasn’t exactly a feature we were seeking out; it just happened to be here, along with the rest of the house. I had too much else to think about as we packed and organized for the move to focus on the hot tub. And it’s probably just as well, since I was busy and overwhelmed enough that if I’d given it any thought at all, I probably would have imagined it as a liability: something else to clean, maintain and accrue additional expenses on.
But Rick and the kids were curious enough to take it on as a family project to get the hot tub up and running, and it took them most of last weekend. They read a lot of instructions, went out twice for supplies, and spent days filling the tub, measuring the water additives and checking the temperature.
I didn’t pay much attention. I was busy getting the rest of the house in working order. I didn’t even ask when their work on the tub would be done. But when I came back from a 5-mile run last Saturday, I discovered all of them were in the water: Rick, Tim, Holly and a friend of Holly’s who had come over to play and borrowed one of Holly’s bathing suits.
Hot tubs have never been of much interest to me in general. A few times on vacations we’ve had the chance to use outdoor tubs, and this can be a sublime experience: soaking in warm rushing water under the sky. But outdoor hot tubs are rare in New England, and the indoor kind have always seemed to me not that different from baths, which I’m not particularly drawn to.
But the one at our house has sort of an indoor-outdoor feel, because the room it’s in was specially designed for it and it’s essentially a greenhouse, all windows and skylights. It’s technically indoors, but it’s not in a bathroom, and there are views into the woods on three sides.
I jumped in with the rest of the family that day when I returned from my run. (Rick assured me that a little sweat wouldn’t upset the pH balance at all.) It was enjoyable, though it didn’t drastically change my overall feeling of neutrality toward hot tubs. But what I’ve really come to appreciate in the past week is what a great asset it is to the kids. They use it in the afternoon after finishing their homework, or sometimes after dinner. I can’t quite put my finger on what they find so entertaining about it, but they seem to find it just as endlessly engaging as kids normally find real swimming pools. They splash; they paddle; they invent tricks. They made up something called the Seal Walk. But they also interact and talk about things not related to the hot tub itself. They talk about school, and their friends.
I’m not sure what it is about the warm swirling water that makes them spend time together so easily, but I’ve often noticed that the beach is one of two settings in which my children invariably get along; the other is sledding. Swimming in the summer and sledding in the winter, they can be counted on to have fun, cooperate with each other and not argue.
It never occurred to me that having a hot tub would mean drawing out the pool-interaction effect indefinitely. And of course, it’s too early to say how long this will continue for. The hot tub, along with the rest of the house, is still a novelty to them; they’ve only had use of the tub for five days now. Maybe eventually they’ll settle into their usual patterns, which don’t generally involve a lot of arguing but are definitely not as harmonious as the past few days in the hot tub have been.
We’ll find out. For now, I’m just really grateful for this unexpected advantage: sibling harmony the minute we activate the water jets. Had I known about that, I would have been a lot more excited about the hot tub beforehand. Instead, I’m discovering the benefits now, and enjoying every minute of it.