Tuesday, July 14, 2009

In an attempt to save Jamie...

... from my fate, that of a non-swimmer, he and I have been pursuing the arts aquatic for several months now. My parents tried repeatedly to get me to learn to swim, starting with my mother's ancient Hawaiian traditional method of instruction.
She threw me in a pool.
I sank.
So much for that thing about people knowing instinctively how to swim.
My father sent me to swimming lessons at the park district, where, after six weeks, they convinced me to hold my breath underwater for five seconds, but not to venture beyond an arm's length of the edge.
"You don't have to be a great swimmer," my father kept telling me. "Hell, you don't even have to be a good swimmer, you just have to be able to swim enough to save your life." He was in the Navy during World War II, and when U.S. forces accidentally sank his ship, he (obviously) was able to swim enough. (I also think he might have had some floating wreckage, too.)
My parents sent me to swimming lessons at summer camp for three years. I tried to learn to swim in high school, in college and when I turned 30, each time getting a little closer.
So each week, Jamie and I suit up and go off to the gym and get in the pool with the rest of the Diaper Dippers, and sing songs and play games, and go underwater, and each week, I am greeted with solemn tolerance from someone whose pants I have to change every two hours. Those are the good weeks.
Last week, when we were running late, and I splashed down the steps and over to our class, Jamie tucked under my arm, he was Not Amused and grumbled loudly for the entire half hour, while clinging to my left side like a barnacle.
This week, when I sat Jamie up on the side of the pool for "Humpty Dumpty," which ends with "One, two, three, jump!" I got the same look from him that I used to get from my father, especially in his later years, as I tried to jolly him into going to the doctor, or something similar - an expression that basically said, "I think this is stupid, but I'm humoring you anyway."
That stopped me cold for a few seconds. No one expects their father's face on their small kid.
Then we recited Humpty Dumpty, and after we counted to three, all the babies got to jump in the pool (or in Jamie's case, get lifted), and go underwater, and he came up wide-eyed and yelling mad and stayed that way until the end of class.
Today, we went to a kiddie water park with our playgroup, with fountains and showers and a rubberized surface to run around on, and Jamie was cautiously interested, until a big kid stepped on a small burbling fountain, and like putting a finger over a garden hose, sprayed everyone nearby. Jamie emerged wide-eyed and yelling mad, and clung to me like a barnacle for 15 minutes before I could even suggest he might want to put his feet in a puddle.
Luckily, there were ducks hanging around the picnic tables, waiting for kids to drop sandwich crumbs, or else I think he would have considered the entire day a waste. Oh, and he got to eat a whole kiwifruit when we got home, so more to the good.
I had something to say about knitting, but I can't remember what.

(On a weird note, I was taking a shower tonight, and Jamie tottered into the bathroom, pulled the curtain open and watched me for some time. I explained the whole thing, how showering involved standing under water, and how it felt nice, and how it was pretty rude to watch people take showers, so could he go find something else to do, which was more directed at the Fool, and which actually meant, "Can you come in here and take Jamie away with you and shut the door, too, because I would like five unsupervised minutes of my life today." Point being, he didn't mind the water then.)


Julie said...

This might be proof that nurture can't overcome nature. :) Kudos to you for fighting the good fight though.
We had mandatory (well, mandatory per our parents) swimming lessons from babyhood till lifeguard certification (aka guppies to Swimmer II, I think). I got a mom exemption. At 12, I wasn't allowed to advance to the next class till I was 15. Something about Red Cross rules. My mom couldn't justify making me take the same class for four years, so she let me skip out. Phew!
I have a theory though. You dance well. You do good in oxygen. Me, I'm awkward in oxygen, but great in water. Basically, Jamie's rejection of water means he's probably going to be Fred Astaire.

meg said...

Just as long as he doesn't get a cruise ship gig waltzing with widows, I'll be fine.

Scott said...

Thoroughly enjoyed this post. I feel fortunate to have two good writers as friends.

At age 15 or so I nearly drowned in a lake, but was pulled to safety by a stronger-swimming pal. The next morning I was hesitant to get back into the water, but my dad insisted on my practicing the dead man's float as a surivial strategy, which I then mastered. Allus felt grateful to him for that.

Nevertheless I didn't go swimming much for many years, but in Korea after we were married, Gwynam schooled me in some basic strokes, which I have kept up sporadically ever since.

Greetings to Jonathan.

yarndork said...

Odd isn't it, how kids pick up on even the teeniest level of uncomfortable-ness we feel?

JustApril said...

Yeah, always shocking to see a grumpy man face on your toddler, lol!

Hope the water wars calm down eventually