Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Deep End

Jeremy is with Zeni in Colorado this weekend so I have been playing "I am mother to one reasonably well behaved 6 year old and that is all".  It's been nice, just Hayden and me for awhile.  I realize the things he *can* do but doesn't get to because his sister can't, and he is basking in the attention and the getting to sleep in my bed.
I told him we could do whatever he wanted this afternoon and he chose to swim at the local pool.  We usually don't go because it can be a bit of a zoo.  Zeni has no fear of water and is prone to plunging in and hanging out on the bottom of the pool waiting for someone to fish her out which is not a fun game for me to play, and particularly not when the water is cold and the pool is overfilled with other kids playing their own versions of these games (although usually more buoyantly).  But today, with one kid who can swim and a high of 80 which foretold a relatively crowd-free day I said absolutely, and we biked over.
Then, Hayden got in the water.  And I did not.
I sat in the shade with my book and I read.  And he swam, and went down the water slide, and made friends and was reminded to "WALK" by the lifeguard.  And I read my book.
He did not need me.  Not a bit.  Maybe if he had gotten hurt, or in a argument with another kid, he would have, but he didn't.  I culled through my emotions:  Was I sad?  Was I wishing he needed me in the pool with him?  I was not sad.  I was happy for all the times he had needed me and I had been there, and for all the times in the future that he will need me, but I truly felt content with him becoming more independent.  I relaxed and closed my eyes, feeling the cool breeze on the backs of my legs.
"Mama?" His bare feet padded over to my towel leaving wet prints behind, "I want to try the diving board.  Can I?"
"I think you have to pass a swim test first, let's go ask the lifeguard".  
There was indeed a test which involved swimming a length of the deep end and back without touching the sides, which he completed in his spazzy, half dog paddle half freestyle fashion.  He climbed out of the pool, chest heaving, eyes gleaming, and turned to the lifeguard:
"I did it!  Did I pass?"
"Not this time buddy, keep working at it and I bet you will next time you try."
I glared at the lifeguard, his barely pubescent body, collar bone and shoulders jutting out, skin pasty white:
"He swam the whole way, what else does he have to do?"
"He did swim the whole way, but he was making a weird face, kinda like he was drowning, so he needs to not do that, it might freak the lifeguards out."
In my alternate fantasy world I regaled the lifeguard with a series of razor sharp one liners and then pushed him into the pool.  What the hell are you talking about??  He swam it with no problem,  and his face always looks like that when he is exerting himself.  And you were busy staring at that girl over there anyway, who is never going to be interested in you as long as your stomach remains concave and you have that one gnarly chest hair..."
In reality I thanked the troll lifeguard and put my arm around Hayden, who was in tears, leading him back to our towels.
"I swam it!  I did it!  Why didn't I pass?  Stupid lifeguard!"  He spat out in between shivers and snot.
And I rubbed his back and agreed that it was a silly reason and encouraged him to practice some and come back and try again.  I reminded him that it takes hard work to be good at something and that he would be able to pass the test soon.
I thought about talking to the supervisor, arguing with the decision, but decided to return to my book and let Hayden return to the waterside.
Failure happens.  Unfairness happens.  If Hayden is old enough to swim in the deep end alone he is old enough to find this out.  Not without love and support and consolation and encouragement and agreement that the lifeguard was stupid, but old enough to experience it and not have his mom attempt to bail him out.

My mom, who is the chair of the music department at a University, tells me that the school has an "Office for Parent's Affairs" which exists only to handle all the parents who are hovering around, complaining about grades being unfair, jostling to get their kids into the best classes, dorms, frats, whatevers.  She tells the story of a student who was having trouble with a roommate so her parents rented an apartment for the semester, moved in and moved the student in with them until the situation was resolved to their satisfaction.
I don't want to be that parent.  I don't want to have a child that can't handle a situation that isn't going the way he wants.  My kids are getting older.  I will need to get in the pool less and less.  It sounds relaxing and freeing but I have a feeling it is just as hard to watch your kid struggle through social and academic minefields that getting older brings as it is to watch them get a toy grabbed out of their hands, or fail their swimming test.
So I will try and remind myself to relax and get a good spot in the shade and make sure they know where I am when they need to find me.

Thank you so much for your sweet comments and emails about our surgery week - everyone is recovered and we are all good.  And since the health care reform was okayed by the Supreme Court all the bills are taken care of.  No, wait... wrong legislation.  Since health care reform was okayed we are still beholden to an insurance company who now must cover us but has no restrictions on how much they can charge us to do so.  Phew.:)


caroline flanders said...

So good, Lisa! I think about it too, how parenting never gets easier. The challenges continually change and evolve. Watching your child experience unfairness, or confusion when another kid/person does not react the way they expected... my heart aches each time. I keep my fingers crossed that I can help my child develop a strong, confident, thoughtful and understanding person.

On another note, my dad can relate to your mom! He talks a lot about how his students expect As and that they and their parents are very vocally unhappy when they don't get them.

Amelia said...

It's something I worry about often, when to stand up for her, when to let her learn a hard lesson.

MommyOver40 said...

My John & Joseph went to Gran's & Grandad's to play with their cousing Jacob, who is 7-almost-8. The boys fought and argued all day and I was a wreck. My Dad, bless his heart, came out of his office late in the day, and comforted me. "They need to do this and to do it often," he said. "It builds their character and confidence. They need to learn to fight and argue and defend and forgive and to let go." Oh, boy. I need to learn all that, too.