Monday, July 10, 2006

I don't know anyone in San Francisco with a pool in their backyard. I'm sure there are such people, but they stay clear of me and my kind.

Thankfully, people in the suburbs are less discerning. One such family actually invited us to their house yesterday to frolic in their pool. After a brief effort to wash off our city grime and urban flava, we bridge-n-tunneled it to the fair city of Lafayette for an afternoon of splashing and barbecuing.

We had a lovely time, but Daisy was a bit frustrated by the swimming. Although she has logged quite a few lessons under her tiny belt, she's still not a functional swimmer. If you tossed her into a pool, it's unlikely she'd be able to swim to safety, unless she was maybe two feet from the edge, and she had her goggles on, and no water managed to leak into her goggles, or nose, or ears, and she forgot that she always freaks out, and mermaids nudged her gently, then maybe she'd make it. Maybe.

She had been making progress (slowly) in her lessons, but she was often in tears during class, either from the lack of success or just from the effort. So, we decided to take a break for a while. This troubled me.

You see, I never learned to swim as a kid. Apparently I just freaked the hell out when my parents brought me to my first lesson and they couldn't bear to watch me cry that much. My father then tried to teach me himself, but during each session I'd howl and beg him to hang onto me, ensuring that I never slipped underwater. He never did break my trust, but I feared it each time. Whenever my family took a trip to the community pool, I badgered my father to skip the lessons until my family just caved. They figured that I'd learn when I was ready. They underestimated my stubbornness.

My inability to swim was a great source of embarrassment to me, so I never told any of my friends. I approached the end of each school year with great trepidation. Although I looked forward to a school-free summer, I knew that summer came with pool parties and other swimming invitations. Each year I'd construct a variety of excuses and lies for why I couldn't join my friends at these events. I convinced myself that I couldn't possible take swimming lessons at that point, because people would find out that I had been lying all those years. I hated it. I don't think I was actually fooling anyone, but I hung onto that facade desperately.

When I was about 24 years old, and living by myself, I realized it was time. I signed up for some adult swim lessons at a nearby pool and was finally ready. I was really nervous that maybe I was going to be the one person on the planet who couldn't actually swim. Over the years I had developed a pretty good theory about the potentially dense nature of my very skinny body which I was fairly certain would drag me down to the bottom of any pool, but I was willing to at least test this theory in adulthood.

The first moment that I had my face in the water with my eyes open was a revelation. I think the underwater darkness was what had freaked me out all those years. I had never tried to open my eyes before. Once my eyes were open, being underwater seemed much more natural. I was amazed to be able to swim and float on my back by the end of a few classes.

I'm still a really crappy swimmer, but I enjoy it now. I don't know if my parents should have forced me into those lessons or let me be. Maybe it would have saved me years of grief, or maybe it would have traumatized me. Who the hell knows. Parenting is a dark art.

So, on the car ride home from the 'burbs yesterday, when Daisy said, "I'd like to sign up for more swimming lessons." I sighed a big sigh of relief.


Will said...

I was definitely spoiled by googles because I still can't open my eyes for more than a second. As for being tossed in, I remember being quite scared of the 'deep end' until my swimming instructor kindly knocked me into the 12' end. I remember doggy paddling to the edge to keep my head above the water... I was suprised I survived, but that's what it took for me.

Janelle Renee said...

What a great story!

carey said...

Nice post. You probably learned how to swim just when you were supposed to.

Tasty said...

Parenting is a dark art. Fabulous. And so true, as I understand it.

Mike said...

Will, my father has a very similar story about learning to swim. If that's what Daisy requires, then she'll need someone else to knock her into the pool. I don't think I'm up to the task.

JR, danke.

Carey, I wasn't supposed to learn until I was 24? Damn, I'm a wuss.

Tasty, it truly is. Eye of newt helps.