Thursday, December 27, 2007

Tired of Leftovers?

Oh, so sorry to hear it, because that's what I'm serving today. Actually, this is some writing I did just before I started my blog, so consider it a little taste of summer in this cold season.

August 1, 2007

Today we went to the city pool. My son Tommy has a love/hate relationship with the pool. He desperately wants to jump in and swim, but he doesn’t quite trust his own abilities and mostly stays close to the sides and the steps in the shallow end. He watches his friends jump and slide and swim without a care, and he is just eaten up with the longing to do the same.

I'll just stop right here and say that my kids have never had swim lessons and I feel guilty about it. My friend Julie, whose family went with us to the pool, has her kids in lessons year round. They know more strokes than I knew existed and they swim competitively at the ages of 6 and 8. They are wonderful athletes, and my kids are deprived because I am too broke and/or too lazy to take them to swim lessons. There. I got that off my chest.

Today was the day Tommy decided he wanted to go down the slide like all of his friends were doing. He begged and pleaded and whined about how much he wanted to go down that slide. I told him that he could certainly go down the slide, but he needed to be able to jump into four feet of water and swim to the edge without help (and without floaties) before I would let him go over there. So he climbed out of the water, trotted over to the only slightly deeper side, and proceeded to have a meltdown on the side of the pool because he was too scared to jump in. Then he started to go back to the shallow side, but something inside his little heart called him back to the edge, and he turned around and came back.

This continued, back and forth, for about 15 minutes. When I told him to just forget it and go swim in the shallow end, his crying intensified, and I felt myself considering having a meltdown of my own. There was no reasoning with this child at this point. He was in such turmoil, deeply desiring to do something that terrified him.

Finally, he mustered up the courage to jump off. He coached me about where I need to stand, (“Closer, Mama, closer!”) and then, after much cajoling, heartily went for it. He leaped out into what he thought would be my arms, only I moved away at the last second so he would hit the water. In a moment of sheer panic, he reached out for the only thing within his grasp, which was, unfortunately, the top of my bathing suit. He used the leverage he gained after pulling my bathing suit down, which caused me to lean in toward him, to hook his other arm in a chokehold around my neck. So there we were in the water, me struggling to disengage his arms from my windpipe while making sure my girls were all covered up, and him screaming and crying over the betrayal and the sheer frustration of being afraid to swim.

Thankfully, the whistle blew for adult swim and we had ten minutes to regroup. It was past time to go, everyone was tired and getting cranky, but Tommy was haunted by that slide. I looked at Julie, and said, “I think I’ll just let him go down. The lifeguard can fish him out if he gets in trouble.” And, good friend that she is, she agreed. We also agreed that if he did have to be rescued by the lifeguard, we just wouldn’t come back to this pool for the rest of the summer. It would be too embarrassing.

As soon as the whistle blew, Tommy solemnly climbed the stairs up to the slide. I positioned myself close to the roped off area in the pool to cheer on my brave boy. He reached the top of the stairs and stood behind the giant blue tube that would transport him one step closer to manhood. And froze. He wouldn’t budge. His mind was terrified, but his heart wouldn’t let him back down. I tried encouraging him. I promised him a dollar. I begged him. I ordered him to just come back down the stairs. He would not move.

Finally, the calls of the children in line convinced him to come down the steps in humiliation. To my surprise, he walked right back to the end of the line to wait for another chance. He stood in line, smiling. “I’ll do it this time, Mama.” This continued for another five minutes or so, climbing up, freaking out, climbing back down again to wait for another chance.

At last, my loyal friend Julie looked at me and said, “Do you want me to push him?”

“YES,” I replied, sorry I hadn’t thought of it earlier. This is why Julie’s kids can swim and mine can’t.

Julie marched right up there to the top of the stairs, pried his hands off the sides of that slide and gave him a good shove. I could hear her sweet little voice saying, “Come on, you can do it!” as she heaved him into the tube. Tommy came flailing down the slide and into the water with a splash. Almost instantly, his head popped up, his eyes wide with shock, and he lunged in my direction. As soon as he reached my fingertips, he began crying. Screaming, actually. He resumed his death grip around my neck, and continued crying inconsolably as I trudged up the steps out of the pool and began trying to pack up my belongings to go home. Julie looked slightly remorseful, and I was trying to hide my smile.

Naturally, about this time, three year old Katie started crying because she wanted to be picked up, too, and my six year old, Grace, started whining because she wanted a turn to go off the slide now that she realized Tommy was getting a dollar and she was not. (On a side note, she had done the dance up and down the ladder four or five times that day and had never mustered the courage to go though with it.)

We made quite a scene exiting that pool, with all three of my children whining and crying, me threatening them with bodily harm if they don’t stop fussing, and Julie and her kids walking quietly and oh-so-well-behaved behind us.

Later that evening, I heard Tommy proudly telling his Daddy that he went down the slide at the city pool.

“All by yourself?” Greg wanted to know.

“Yeah! (pause) Well, Mrs. Julie pushed me.”


  1. oh the trauma! ;) but i love the pride at the end.

  2. I have heard this story before I believe but it's just as funny the second time. I have never met your friend Julie obviously, but I think I love her. Any friend that is willing to climb up there and throw your kid down a slide for ya, is a true friend.

  3. it is so great that he was super excited at the end like that. i loved reading this little summer story while it is so cold right now.

    and don't feel bad because you don't do as many lessons as julie--i am lazy and broke, too! ;p

    Running on empty

  4. This is truly a story of the rights of passage, when a child first becomes brave...or continues not to. It will be interesting to hear what he does next time. Congratulations on not freaking out. It takes time to grow up and facet things, doesn't it?

  5. you could post this one over at "worst mama!" LOL...did he go back down again after that?

  6. SK, He did start sliding down after that day, and acted like it was no big deal. Unfortunately, he followed the same tormented pattern with the diving board immediately after that.


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