Swimmingly, And Not So Much

The lifeguard warns us parents, "Some of your children may scream at first when coming into the water."

The orange-haired, tramp-stamped, flabby-bellied-whilst-in-a-bikini woman off to my left waves a fishbelly-white arm and points theatrically toward the sullen-looking baby she's holding with her other arm.

"THIS ONE HERE!  OH YEAH!  THIS ONE!  SHE'S GONNA SCREAM!"

You don't say.

___________

Swimming lessons are among those things that either you had –formally or informally, does not matter– or you didn't as a child; but if you did, they marked you for life.  How can they not?  Even if they left a favorable impression, it was the first time for most of us that our parents willingly lead us to a place where we could die.

The chlorine smell and that particular pool smell, they all remind me of good times and vacations and summer, and of heartbreak and ear infections, but they also bring back vividly those first times I had to blindly trust and let go and attempt to float or hold my breath.  That salty sting in the eyes reminds me of trying to learn to do handstands and pretending to be a synchronized swimmer.

And getting an accidental gulp of pool water always brings that little bit of tinny dread to the forefront of my mind, like a lash of lightning to my conscious mind.

So now that Herr Meow is starting to take swimming lessons, I am keenly aware of my own misgivings and likes; and I realize that as much as we may project our own fears onto our children, some things are truly and universally scary for all, even if there is much enjoyment to be derived and an innate ability in some.

And so, when the young boy dressed in red and white reminds us all parents that being in a pool will be scary enough for some to scream out loud, I remember and I hold on to my kid as tightly as he wants me to, and then some.

_________

Herr Meow is a little scared of the water, but he is also excited.  He refuses to try to ride the floating board that the boy lifeguard offers him; however, when the pretty girl lifeguard offers, he gets over his fears and goes on ahead, telling me and whoever will listen afterward how fun it was and how he rode the board and how BRAVE he was.

Because he's a brave boy, right mommy?

Mommy nods.

As I hug my brave boy, I look at the shallow end of the kids' pool.  Orange-hair is there with her mother, both of them laughing uproariously as, right on cue, her child is wailing.

The swimming lesson started twenty minutes ago, and the child is still sobbing and screaming.  And her mother is dunking her periodically in the two-foot-deep water, happily dragging her child in and out of the pool.

The little girl flails her arms all around and keeps on shouting, reaching out to her grandmother who seems delighted to continue this torture and swirling her granddaughter's tense body in and out of the pool.

Both women have separated from the main swimming lesson and are taking turns dredging the unfortunate kid in the water.  As the forty-minute lesson wraps up and we leave the pool, I can still hear the screams.

_________

I'm not sure what else to say here, except that if in about forty years' time Orange-hair is wondering why her daughter won't trust in her and won't confide in her, or perhaps why she won't talk to her, I am willing to bet she won't remember that June day where she let her daughter scream for forty minutes straight and laughed in her face at her fear of drowning.

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This entry was published on June 22, 2009 at 5:45 pm and is filed under Herr Meow!, Parental Samsara. Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

3 thoughts on “Swimmingly, And Not So Much

  1. I took swimming lessons in a lake. The only way you “graduated” out of the program was to swim to a floating dock half-way across the lake. I did it, but I wouldn’t do it again.

  2. Vixen on said:

    I learned to swim in a class without any of my family around. Of course I was also 10 at the time. I had already had 2 near-drowning experiences by then and my family finally decided it would be a good idea to give me lessons. *rolls eyes*
    Surprisingly, I love being in the water although I get nervous if I can’t touch the bottom.
    My daughter’s first experience in a pool was when she was about a year and a half. I took her to a pool and sat on the edge with my feet in the water for a bit while she watched everyone. When she seemed relaxed, I let her sit on the edge while I slipped in then, when she reached for me, took her in while holding the edge. She didn’t scream and she actually let go of the edge of the pool after a while. As long as I was holding her she was content to splash in the bigger bathtub. *grins*
    I took her for formal lessons when she was about 8-9 and, even though I stayed there through the lessons, she had trouble relaxing enough to go under water. I couldn’t figure out why she was now scared of being underwater.
    She hadn’t told me that at a friend’s birthday party she had been pushed into a pool. If I had known that then I could have helped her deal with the fear before taking lessons. I was also furious because the mother had never told me about the experience either.
    My daughter can swim as long as she doesn’t have to go under the water. I can swim although I still get nervous when in deep water.

  3. Hey, your posts have inspired me! – I love the way you directly get to the point, and then work outwards. I’ve been trying to do figure out what I want to say about ,that would allow me to do exactly the same thing.

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