When Life Gets You Down, You Know What You Have to Do?
Theo is squeamish about the water. Last summer my parents put out a kiddie pool for him where he proceeded to play with the water – while sitting outside of the pool, on the grass.
On Sunday we were at a family social gathering at a large park that has a kid-friendly pool. Theo had recently gone in a swimming pool with Daycare Lady, but he often does things for her he won’t with me (like go on the potty). But I decided to leave the family group for a bit and give it a try.
We walk a mile from the car to the pool. We are already in our suits. I put his life vest on him and take him over to the pool with him whining the whole way.
We get in the pool. I get scolded by a lifeguard for not having a coast guard approved life vest. This was frustrating, not because I disagree with the rules or think I’m exempt, but because I had tried to look them up beforehand and found no information.
I had a coast guard approved life vest in the car. I was hoping to use the less bulky one since we’re not, you know, on a fucking boat but in a pool where I’m holding him the entire time.
So I get out of the water. Theo is still whining and crying. I am about to start crying, mostly at the thought that he’ll go in the water and have fun with his favorite person, Daycare Lady – I have pictures, people – but not with me.
And then I realize he’s, amazingly, crying because he wants to go BACK IN the water.
“You’re going to go in the pool?” I said. “I’m not walking all the way back to the car and back here and risk having all of our stuff here stolen and then you’ll refuse to get in the pool?”
So I made my way in my sneakers and very stylish maternity bathing suit to the car, got the vest, came back, told Theo I was punching the lifeguard if she told me it wasn’t coast guard approved (it says it is right on it), and got back in the pool.
Just Keep Swimming, Just Keep Swimming…
We had to sit on the edge of the pool. For awhile. I was not allowed to get into the pool, in the one foot of water in front of him. Eventually, I did. Then I held him. Then we moved deeper into the pool.
I encouraged splashing (but not other people, of course). I kept pointing out kids his age in the pool, having fun. I bounced him up and down and said “Boing!”
And it worked. Eventually, he was laughing and loving the water. Still cautious, but absolutely loving it. And it was amazing.
It makes me think of a parenting book I read when I was pregnant with him, All Joy and No Fun: The Paradox of Modern Parenting. I didn’t get it before he was actually here, but now I do.
Being a parent isn’t fun. Your day to day life and the things you do are just not generally FUN. But the joy you experience in those moments, like me in the pool with my son, are absolutely unparalleled.
I wish Dan had been with us so he could have taken our picture and captured the moment, but you know what? It’s almost better this way. Now I don’t have to look at the picture and think about how gross my circus freak large pregnancy boobs look in my suit, or get annoyed about some inevitable imperfection in the photo.
Instead I can look back on that day and just remember the feel of the water, the smell of the chlorine, and the sound of my son’s laughter as I twirl him around and he grips me tightly.
And I will hold onto that moment in time years from now, when he tells me he hates me and squirms away from my touch.