Tuesday, October 18, 2005


Swimming in angst

You're gonna laugh at me for this one.

You know what? This parental angst thing doesn't end when you get them potty trained. After going through all that worry, there's still even more things to worry about. Hard to believe, isn't it?

We're on the cusp of bigger things to fret over. I can't believe I'm going to look fondly back on the day when the worst daily stress was how to keep him from splattering the strained peas across the kitchen and onto the dog.

(Do you see this fancy deke-and-feint thing I'm doing? Kind of dancing around, avoiding the topic. It's cuz I know you're going to laugh at me and I don't want to get to it just yet.)

I've noticed that I have a lot of my own self esteem invested in my kids. I dress them in cute clothes because I see them as little extensions of myself, representatives of me. When people admire how adorable they are, how smart they are, how tall they are, I like to take at least a little bit of the credit.

I just realized that street runs two ways. When they are not entirely successful, it must be some failing on my part. Yah yah, I know, I know. Probably not healthy, they're their own people, not possessions. Yadda yadda. Whatever.

(takes deep breath) I think Tristan is going to fail his level one preschool swimming lessons.

There, it's out. Oh, the shame! A child of mine? Failing?? Say it ain't so!

It was parents' day at swimming lessons, so all the parents were in the pool with the kidlets. He showed us how to hold the kids to encourage the basic front and back floats, and he explained the criteria for passing this level. The troublesome one is that the kids need to be able to keep their faces in the water for three to five seconds, and I know Tristan (just like his mother, in fact) hates putting his face in the water.

I also have a whole new respect for the teacher. For four weeks, I've watched from the side of the pool as Tristan obeyed the teacher, waited his turn and listened to instructions. With me in the pool, it was a power struggle to keep him within arms reach while trying to listen to what the teacher was saying, and rather than float or blow bubbles on cue, Tristan just wanted to do his own thing.

The teacher said he needs to see the kids perform each task three times successfully, and with only four classes left and Tristan nowhere near keeping his face in the water for more than a second, it doesn't look good. In crisis management mode, I started writing an action plan in my head:

1. Start desensitizing him to putting his face in the water. I got right on that one by holding his head under water and counting to ten. Three to five seconds of his own volition will seem like a cakewalk after a week of that.

2. Hire a tutor. Consider former Olympian athlete as personal swim coach. Wonder if Mark Tewksbury needs a job.

3. Sabotage other swimmers. Whisper to other kids that there are poopies and boogers and vegetables in the water, so be sure not to put your face in no matter what.

4. Start letter-writing campaign to the community centre manager, city councillor, local newspaper and Member of Parliament saying my son is being discriminated against for his water-phobia. Demand rules be bent to accomodate his special needs.

Okay, so I'm playing this up for dramatic effect. God help me, I'm not one of those parents yet. But there was a moment when I caught myself wondering what I could do to make sure he passes this session. A fleeting moment, I promise. Then I shook it off and remembered that we're doing this for Tristan, not for me.

Damn. It's not always about me?

Just when I think I've got a handle on it, I realize I still have a lot to learn about this parenting thing.