Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Swim Lessons, Part II

On week two of swim lessons I was more aware and prepared myself for the day ahead. It was still cold then; I wore boots, jeans, and under-eye concealer to hide the fact that I don’t actually sleep, but merely worry with my eyes closed.

We arrived at lessons and both children were excited to be back. I wish I could say the same. I only wanted us to get what we came for: learning.

While Caroline’s class swam, Cyrus and I watched, and vice versa. It was this week that Cyrus noticed the kiddie pool. Just off the main pool was a large, shallow pool painted with sea characters. He asked if he could get in and my heart sunk.

Cyrus doesn’t fear water like I do. Cyrus doesn’t fear anything except being drug to my home extension meetings and sitting still while we discuss current events and volunteerism.

I told him he could get in the water, then I proceeded to pace the edge of the kiddie pool. There was another family enjoying time together. Cyrus started off slowly, cautiously, trying to figure out balance in a body of water alone (remember: no bathtub at home). Then he got confident. He began running laps around the pool, splashing, embracing the freedom.

Suddenly he slipped on the bottom of the pool and couldn’t find his footing. His arms flailed back and forth. His whole body was under water. This lasted for about 6 seconds which was plenty. I yelled for him but of course he didn’t hear me. The mother sitting on the edge of the pool leaned all the way into the water and grabbed his arm. She brought him back to a place where he found his footing. I couldn’t thank her enough, but tried.

Minutes later Cyrus was back in the pool. Having that under his belt, he was ready to move on. That made one of us.

It was not ten minutes later that the scenario repeated itself. This time, he was across the pool from help. He flailed, he sunk, I screamed. My heart was in my feet. Then I did what any mother would do.

Fully dressed, I jumped into the pool and ran (is it still called running when in water?) to him. By the time I reached Cyrus, he’d found his own feet was already above water. Using two hands to wipe his eyes, he was unsure of why Mom was in the pool in jeans and a sweater.

“What you doing?” he asked out of breath.

“Helping you, buddy!” I said, more out of breath.

“I was playing shark.”

Well of course he was.

I waded back to the edge of the pool and had one heck of a time getting my body out of the pool with my jeans, sweater, and everything else completely saturated. I tried to play it cool but the family ushered their kid to the locker room, confused as to what just happened. Weren’t we all? The lifeguard, paid and trained to do what I just attempted, re-focused her attention back on the big pool.

I’d publicly transitioned from Bathing Suit Mom one week to Fully Clothed Baywatch (more like River-look) mom in front of a whole group of people. I just wanted to be the mom on the sidelines watching her children learn to swim.

I found a chair and wrung out my pants then switched kids; Cyrus got in for a lesson, Caroline came to sit poolside with me.

“What happened to your clothes?” she asked, drying off with a mermaid towel.

“I went swimming,” I told her while rolling my jeans like Tom Sawyer.

There was a long, judgmental pause with observation.

“If you wanted to swim you should have worn your bathing suit again.”


Wednesday, July 13, 2022

Swim Lessons, Part I

Swim lessons are finally over, so I’m willing to talk. There was a time when I wasn’t sure I’d ever be capable.

I’m afraid of water.

I grew up running through nettles in order to play in the Greens Fork River, and I’m afraid of water.

I took swimming lessons at the Splash Club in Hagerstown and jumped off the high dive, and I’m afraid of water.

I passed PE in high school which required swimming, and I’m afraid of water.

When the Golay Center opened enrollment for youth swim lessons, I knew it was time to enroll both children. Caroline was in infant swim lessons five (!) years ago, but that was before she could understand the aqua world around her. It was time for both kids to get acquainted with the waves. And it was time for me to get brave.

Five days prior to the first swim lesson I began laying out materials: trunks for Cyrus, a suit for Caroline and nothing short of a body bag for myself. With no ability to recall the last time I frolicked in a body of water, I was having a hard time finding anything suitable for myself to wear to such a lesson. I settled on a top and bottoms, both with elastic older than my barn socks. That’s old. Really old.

We arrived to the Saturday morning swim lesson and all three of us reported to the women’s locker room to get undressed and changed into our swim wear. I was nervous as all get out, anticipating fully that the discomfort I was about to feel in the water was a complete sacrifice for our children to learn how to take care of themselves in any crisis situation.

It wasn’t until we walked out into the pool area that I realized I was in a crisis situation, myself.

There were parents sitting poolside.

There were parents sitting poolside on their phones.

There were parents sitting poolside on their phones fully dressed.

There were parents sitting poolside on their phones fully dressed and in full make-up.

There were parents sitting poolside on their phones fully dressed and in full make-up, enjoying coffee from Café Neo.

I was, in fact, the only parent in the facility who was in swim wear, hanging off my left leg as though a dog had shredded the tired elastic.

When the lesson prior to Caroline’s was over, I oh-so-non-discretely walked over to the edge of the pool and asked the instructor in a whisper, “Don’t I need to get in the water with them?”

“Only for infants. Are they infants?” she responded with a gentle smile.

My “infants” (forever in my eyes) stood upright next to me.

I sent the children into the water took an awkward seat next to the other parents. There was not a towel big enough to conceal the awkwardness I felt.

The kids did fine during lesson one and seemingly 58 hours later we all reported back to the women’s locker room.

“Mom. Why did you wear that swimsuit today If you didn’t have to learn how to swim?” Caroline asked me while I tried to shimmy undies up her half-dried legs.

“Well,” I tried to reason within myself, “Mommy was trying to be prepared but I didn’t read the directions, I guess,” I responded somewhat surprised she even noticed.

“Yeah, Mom. That was weird,” Cyrus remarked, putting the final nail through my drowning heart.

Stay tuned. That was only week one. I regret to inform you that it gets worse.