Goodbye, Guardian Swim, Hello ALL OF THE FEELINGS

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

I have been dreaming about the day when my kid goes to swimming lessons and I sit on the deck WITHOUT a suit on since his first Guardian swim class three years ago. Kerry wrote about her farewell to Guardian Swim a while back and it has been my touchstone for all those days bouncing around the shallow end making starfish and singing Ring Around the Rosy. I love swimming, (CLEARLY), but I hate Guardian Swim, a semi-free-for-all with barely-there instruction and teachers who insist you dunk your clearly petrified child under water or tell your 5-month-old to kick his legs (psssst, he doesn't know what his legs are...)

BUT, this week, it arrived. Solo swim classes. I brought a book. And no bathing suit. I was so excited.

And then my little guy walked onto the deck, looking so small against the backdrop of the pool. He followed his teacher, "Coach Brian" as he's known around here, into the shallow end. My first-born is hesitant around water (unlike my running-off-the-dock-at-any-given-chance second born), and to see him stand on the water table and blow bubbles, his small hands on his small hips, so clearly nervous and so clearly brave cracked me open.

Usually when we are swimming, our bodies are touching. I'm holding him under his arms, or he's balancing on my hip. We blow bubbles into each other's bubbles. We chase after toy zebras together, his legs kicking. It made my body ache, seeing the water up to his waist, blowing bubbles with an entire shallow end between us.

I was back in Parklawn Pool, and it was 1984 and I was standing on the table in the shallow end, desperate for my Yellow badge. I too was terrified, but also trying to be brave. I was him and I wasn't him at all.

I tried not to look so he wouldn't see my fear, or delight, I wasn't even sure what it was.

I opened my book and pretended to read, watching him out of the corner of my eye. I'd read a word, then glance up and he'd be kicking with a noodle. I'd read another word and glance up and he'd be giving Coach Brian a high five.

I've felt shades of this before, this heart-bursting, teary pride and clear distinction of him being his very own unique person in the world. It happened first when he ran into his classroom at daycare and was swept up in a hug by his caregiver, Yordanke, and again when he's played soccer with a skill I can't quite fathom and gone to birthday parties and fallen in with his pals with such ease and joy. But this was different. He looked so vulnerable in his little green whale trunks, his shoulder blades so tiny and delicate. This was so visceral.

I swam in the very same pool the day I gave birth to him, just hours before, though I had no idea then. I told him that on the way home. "Did I like Smarties when I was a baby?" was his response, eating his swimming bribe, I mean reward—one red and one orange Smartie.

I shook my head and tried not to cry.

He has swimming lessons again next week, and I will bring my book and try to read, but I know I will probably just stare at this beautiful, incredible body that once did flip turns inside me while I swam, flutter kicking against my ribs, and I will burst with pride and ache with nervousness, that line between us still a bit blurry.

One day this line won't be blurry and he will swim and I will read, but now that I've graduated from Guardian swim, I'm no longer in a hurry.

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