Posted by: jeannineatkins | July 22, 2009

The Lifeguard: Thoughts on Point of View

I was doing lazy laps at the lake, keeping an eye on some children jumping off the raft. Twirling as they leapt. Doing cannon balls. Twirling as they did cannon balls. And me, trying not to think that one was bound to injure something, turn the lake dark with blood, never live to adulthood. A lifeguard sat on the edge of the raft, spinning his whistle on its rope over and over and over. He apparently thought they were safe.

I thought of my struggle with my mom-voice when I write, that voice that wants to protect, to say: please please stop or at least watch your fragile heads. Maybe the lifeguard, staring through his sunglasses, spinning that whistle, would be a better sort of narrator than the safety-first mom.

Nope, I realized. No panicked mom, no nonchalant lifeguard. I’ve got to stick with the children. Jumping with no thought of the future. Just a little reckless glee.



  1. I saw some little kids running and jumping off a rock wall and then running and jumping back up on to it. The wall was not much shorter than they were, and it looked like trouble. As I walked by, I said, “Hey boys. You probably shouldn’t do that. One of you is going to get hurt.” The shorter of the two looked up and me and said, “You someone’s mom?”
    “No, that’s just dangerous. Be careful” I concluded, and walked away. As soon as I was about 25 feet down the road, they were back at it. As I continued walking, I thought to myself, “Wait a minute! I’m NOT someone’s mom. Where did that come from!” It was one of those times I felt like an adult, quite unexpectedly.

  2. Alana, that made me laugh. “hey, wait a minute…. I’m NOT….”
    And that boy: I’m going to put him in my head when I’m writing a character into danger: You someone’s mom?”
    Yeah, but not yours, buddy, and you may gonna get hurt.

  3. Yes, reckless glee. It IS a challenge to keep the proper perspective, isn’t it. But I think your point here is a great one … we’ve got to remember to try.

  4. Thanks, Loree. Hope things are going well at your computer. Don’t forget to throw the field assistants a snack now and then (I know you won’t).

  5. It would be cool to see that scene written from everyone’s perspectives. Now there’s a great POV exercise!

  6. Sticking with the kids’ POV was easier when I didn’t have one myself!
    But you’re right: You have to try. (And I wouldn’t be surprised if keenly appreciating that POV helps me as a parent, too.)

  7. I like this. I’m trying to stay in the head of my 15-year-old teenage girl, too. For some reason I feel further away from her than I ever did my 12-year-old boy. Probably I spent too many years trying to forget that age, as a girl!

  8. I didn’t realize how when you became a mom you kind of become mom to the world, too — wanting to scoot everyone into a safety zone, which is sadly impossible.
    While the author needs to push people into danger.

  9. Yeah, being fifteen isn’t pretty. Dive in, Becky. You can come back to the present at the end of the afternoon!

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