Swim Lessons / by Susie Lubell

I signed my son up for swim lessons because at some point in the last year he became afraid of the water. He used to love to go swimming but this past summer he wasn't that excited about it and preferred to watch my husband wave encouraging gestures from the pool and throw rubber toys at him from the side of the pool rather than actually go into the pool. I don't blame him - I mean they keep that pool at like 98 degrees so it's like swimming in minestone - chunky minestrone, if you're not careful of all the toys. So instead of letting him grow into the idea of swimming in a pool and maybe try again next summer, we decided to force him into it because we're mean sadistic parents.

And it went pretty much as we'd predicted. My son agreed to take his clothes off and be in his swim trunks. But then when the two other kids went in the water with Miss Beth, he refused to go in. He refused to look at Miss Beth. He wouldn't put his feet in the water. And here I am thinking, what the hell am I doing here. Why did I just waste $100 on five sessions for my son to stand next to a pool. So I told him I would put my feet in if he put his feet in. So he did. And we slowly walked down a few shallow steps. But then he retreated. Meanwhile little Bobby and Cindy Perfect are practicing their kicking and blowing bubbles and generally enjoying their time in the water. My son has now found a rubber fish, a small alligator bean bag and a giant duckie that he is playing with next to the pool. So I tell him he can't play with the toys unless he is sitting in the water. So he sat in the water. All the while Miss Beth has made several attempts to befriend my son, and has felt the sting of toddler rejection repeatedly. She even asked if she could just pick him up and bring him in the water, so I said knock yourself out, knowing well that this too would end badly. He obliged for about thirty seconds and then scrambled back up the stairs and out of harm's way.

Then he started acting squirrly in the pool and entering on the side underneath the hand rail which, of course, is a no no. So I told him as much and he wasn't happy about that and so I had to make him stand in the corner next to the locker room. Brilliant. (Don't you hate when you're "parenting" and you've gone down a really bad route but then there's no way to go back and suddenly you have your son in a time out at the public pool?) He told me to go away and when I did he hollered. It was ugly. Then I pulled out the only ammo I had left.

Me: If you get in the pool and listen to Miss Beth you can have as many graham crackers as you want when we get home.
Him: No.

By now class is over and the other kids are leaving. My son is moping at his missed graham cracker opportunity. And I'm wishing I could take Bobby Perfect home with me instead of my kid.

Him: Mommy, I want to listen to Miss Beth and get graham crackers.
Me: And do kicking in the water?
Him: And graham crackers

So I called to Miss Beth and asked if she wouldn't mind doing a few kicks with the boy. She got on her belly on the steps and my son moved closer to her. Then she started kicking and splashing him which he LOVED. And the heavens parted and God's maginificent glory shined a ray of light down on the pool. My son laughed. And looked directly at Miss Beth. And then the two of them were on their bellies kicking and I was calling out red light green light and then Miss Beth gave him a high five and for a brief moment the world was a happier place.

Tune in next week for part two of Swim Lessons.