Friday, February 02, 2007


I am dreading tomorrow. I am dreading tomorrow with every last fiber of my being.

Tomorrow is swim class day.

You wouldn't think that swim class cold be such a traumatic event. But for my son it is the most terrifying thing he has ever had to face. I think that he really and truly believes that he is going to drown and die.

I put off signing him up for classes again this year because he begged me to. But, well, we have a house with a freaking beach! My father has a boat. My brother has a pool. How can he not learn how to swim?

We decided to bite the bullet and signed him up for the post-holiday session. Now that he is five, he's too old for the class with the mother-type teacher who holds him close and sings Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star to calm his fears.

Now he has Mr. Nathan.

I don't know if Mr. Nathan really is a former Marine or if that's just the rumor, but he certainly has the body for it. If I wasn't going through my own personal motherhood hell, I could sit all class and just watch Mr. Nathan's muscles play under his wet T-shirt.

He also has the Drill Sargent bark down pat.

The first week of class, my son was nervous, but he was excited to have a new teacher and a new bathing suit. When the girl next to him swam back and forth across the pool all by herself, he pretty much just lost it. But Mr. Nathan wouldn't let him get away with anything.

"Put your feet in the water!" And he did.

"Let go of me, now!" And he did.

As hard as it was to watch, I figured that it was what my son really needed. He's usually so brave and adventurous. I really don't know why he is so scared of the water. By the end of the class I was hiding my tears.

For the next week, whenever my daughter would mention swim class, my son would dissolve into a watery, shrieking mess. We finally had to forbid her from even mentioning the words.

On Saturday morning, he was a wreck. About an hour before class he decided he had to go to the bathroom. He may have been scared, but he is smart and manipulative too. He was smart enough to realize that the one thing a parent really can't argue with is a kid who has to go to the bathroom.

And he really did stretch it out for an hour. When his bowels were empty, he just started peeing, little tiny spurts. I was absolutely amazed at how long he could keep that up for. And if you tried to convince him that he was out of pee, he just stated that he was going to throw up. And he'd gag and heave until something came up.

I knew that if we could just get him to class and "trust the process" that he would eventually love to swim. I figured that this could be a defining moment of his childhood. So I joked with him as much as I could, coaxed out a few smiles, and gave him a thirty-second countdown to get off the toilet.

When I finally heaved him up, he peed on me, just to prove that he still could.

"You peed on me!" I honestly couldn't believe he had done that. But I could either dwell on that, or get him in his bathing suit and out to the car. I put on his bathing suit.

With a stroke of genius, my husband called my parents when we got to the parking lot. Having my son talk on the phone to them, and tell them how horrible we were, was just enough of a distraction to get him in the door and poolside.

It took two of us to get his shirt off, and I pretty much gave myself a mental "fuck it" and picked him up and heaved him to his little seat on a turtle.

It was in that moment that I was reminded how strong women can be. My husband may have flown 22 combat missions, but he could not deal with swim class. I was okay, for a bit. I promised myself I would be totally stalwart and strong (and casual) but then my daughter started crying. Seeing my daughter cry because she feels so bad for her brother set me off. I had to dry my eyes with his crocodile towel.

Then Mr. Nathan took over. By the end of the class, my son had stopped crying and actually swam a few feet on his own. He got to ring a big bell (a reward for superior effort) and go down the slide.

As I wrapped him in a big towel and a bigger hug at the end of class, he told me, "That wasn't so bad. That was actually kind of fun!"

Any doubt or guilt I had about traumatizing my own child was gone. Part of being a parent is making your kid suffer for his own good.

But I still dread tomorrow. He's still unsure, and he's been counting the days down on his calender. I'd hate to have to get peed on every Saturday until this summer.

Oh, and yes, cameras are allowed at the pool. But I know from experience that the lens just fogs up.

No comments: