The Completely Unexpected Way I Got My Kids To Open Up

I have been obsessed with hot tubs for as long as I can remember. They’re soothing, cozy, and calm my overactive brain. I have sought them out on family vacations, always requesting that we book a spot with a hot tub on site. I know they’re considered high maintenance and dated, but I don’t care. And as I’ve embarked on my 40th year on earth, I’ve decided to embrace some big YOLO and IDGAF energy. And so, I got one for myself. And I’m so happy I did.

Listen, you all know how it is: with young kids, relaxing is essential but feels impossible. And there are a few things I’ve found that work quite as well as lowering myself into a giant cauldron of bubbling water. At 5’10, I don’t fit comfortably into my bathroom tub, but the hot tub offers plenty of space to spread out. And there’s just something about the fresh outdoor air, too. But one unexpected perk doesn’t have anything to do with relaxing: It’s also providing the perfect setting for a little bonding time with my now middle-schooler.

In case you don’t know just how unwilling middle school boys are to spill the tea, I liken it to wrestling a porterhouse from the jaws of a starving tiger. My son, who was once an unabashed chatterbox, has kept things much closer to the vest since entering his tween years. I can sometimes score a quick bonding conversation at mealtime or in the car on the way to practice, but finding consistent, regular catch-up moments has felt like trying to catch lighting in a bottle. Until the hot tub.

Now, I take a break from my solo dips every couple of nights and grab my son for a quick pre-bedtime turn in the tub. We chat about school and sports as I sprinkle in questions that promote deeper and more meaningful conversation. He asks me questions about life, gives me the latest middle school gossip, and shares complaints about friends or coaches. I do a lot of listening, hopefully he feels heard in this new safe space we have created.

We usually end the dip with a game of “All Time NBA Draft,” where we go back and forth drafting professional basketball players from all decades to create a super team. It’s my favorite part of the day. It is so lovely to have fun with him in this way.

And my other kids love it, too. We pile in some days after school and some weekend mornings after breakfast. We play question and rhyming games as my youngest changes the colors of the LED lights, creating a wonderfully fun family party scene.

The downside to it all, you ask? Well, the chemistry, of course! Sold to me as a “low maintenance” piece of equipment, it has proven to be anything but. Over the past two months, it has required endless test strips, YouTube tutorials, and a few trips to the store with a water sampler, and to be honest, I still don’t really have it down. But it is getting a bit easier and most definitely worth it. Because for a few nightly moments of mom-peace or son-connection, there is very little I wouldn’t do.

Samm is an ex-lawyer and mom of four who swears a lot. Find her on Instagram @sammbdavidson.

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