Our day today included much bike riding and a marathon swim date at the HQX YMCA. To my surprise the same lifeguards have been totally transformed from their demeanors during the school year. Rather than a handful of rigorous, goofy, and flighty pseudo-rules a more relaxed atmosphere of sensible regulations prevailed. It was wonderful. At first I was confused; then I realized that with summer and more children in the pool (I counted two dozen) there was not the petty energy to piss-about with “don’t touch the ladder” or “don’t lean on that”. Groups of children played freely, teenage boys doing improbably lopsy flips from the diving board and helping one another out (young men who show tenderness and comradery make my eyes sting with tears*), small tots being cared for by older kids, children exercising the fastest-possible technical “walk” on the pool deck (“WALK!”) – their legs stiff and elbows flying, and Nels and Phoenix delighting in having more child-company.
For a brief moment I considered a world where children were not institutionalized most of the year; where more children were more places I went during the day. It was a lovely vision.
I’ve written a bit about watching my son’s inspiring (to me) journey in swimming self-teaching. Today he is determined to learn to dive in the deep end. He first crouches low and hops into the water; then he bends his knees less before the jump, and so on. Over and over he tries different approaches until finally he jumps from a standing position. I’m thinking how much he will love our time at Mason Lake later this month. I tread water close by as Phoenix dives over and over and the two swim around one another like twin seals, all laughter and slippery camaraderie.
My son is such that it is entirely obvious how any amount of pressure or “teaching” agenda usually backfires and impedes his process. Yet helping when he asks and being there to facilitate safety (because truly he is enough of a swim risk-taker I’m glad he’s learning with me close by, here in the 8′ end) I have the honor of watching a flower bloom. His body is a delight, wiggling happily, not one second is he unsmiling. After watching his exertions for a time I am glad he will be sitting on the back of my bike rather than riding his own; he’s still little enough the round-trip and swim efforts would likely tax his little Self more than he’d be comfortable.
My daughter is an amazing mentor to her brother. I notice she offers advice to Nels on his backstroke: “Keep your back straight – put your tummy up,” she tells him firmly. He gladly complies and laughs in delight at the immediate improvement in his stroke. He then flips over and goes under water, emerging with his long hair across his eyes, just his perfect little nose and his big smile visible. Phoenix says, from a distance of a foot, “Do you need help?” Not at all bossy, entirely considerate. He energetically wiggles in his idiosyncratic dog-paddle to the edge under her friendly eye; she watches to make sure he is fine alone.
Typically after physical exertions the kids come home and want more sedate fare. Nels plays with an electronics kit with the neighbor boy. Phoenix reads. Thanks to our Tweep Justin our daughter has a rather impressive small library of various sci-fi and fantasy novels she’s reading (now as I type she has her nose in The War of the Lance**). Later, the kids are excitedly talking about the creatures they want to pretend to be for the evening: a female centaur (Phoenix), a river-nymph (Nels).
Then Ralph asks them, “Should mama be a harpy or a sea serpent?”
Staircase wit: I should have shot back with, “Should daddy be a tiny-dicked orc, or a tiny-dicked ent?”
But I don’t always have a quick reply.
(Nels walks to the corner store.)
It sounds like such a lovely, lovely day. So very.
It *does* sound beautiful. I gave Bishop swim lessons when he asked to do them with a friend (with much internal rejoicing, because the boy has always been fearful of the deep end), but our 7-year-old taught herself with the help of one of those life-jacket swimsuits (her concession to my fears of her drowning; the child is utterly fearless in the water) when she was four. She’s a better swimmer than anyone else in the family.
I have unfounded and intense child-drowning fears and always have. I’ll probably never get over them.
I’m looking forward to more HOT weather and outdoor swimming! I haven’t had my fill yet.
Your small people are phenomenal, partially because they just *ARE* and partially because you let them be phenomenal.
Also, I blame my own child drowning fears on watching The Wizard.
The way you describe them is just so vivid that it’s like being there watching, but also it conveys the wonder you feel when watching them. I love this about your writing. We have had similar moments in the pool this past weekend when Maeve was finally able to swim across the width of the pool with her face in the water, only taking it out when she needed to breathe. She wasn’t super elegant but she did it and she was so proud.
@Jasie and Jen
Thank you for the compliments. The Wizard, eh? I haven’t seen that one. Maybe I shouldn’t!
I wish I could/would write even more. When I had my moleskine I’d write little notes about various awesomeness. Said notebook went missing including a lot of things I’d written. Unlike files from our computer-whatzits, which we’ve always got double-backup’d or Ralph can successfully retrieve. Something to be said for tech.
Elegance in swimming is overrated – whatever works, works!
I’m glad to hear that Phoenix is enjoying the books that I brought over! Has she tried out the other two I brought?
I’m afraid I don’t know which two you’re singling out: I will say she is chewing through ALL of them you brought, sometimes re-reading and reading over again. Today she was messing about with The Hobbit and Dragons of Spring Dawning.
If you tell me the two you mean, I’ll ask her what she thought of them!
I meant The Elftstones of Shannara and Running With The Demon. The Dragonlance are hers to keep, but I eventually need those two back. Lol. No hurry, just whenever she’s done with them.
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