When My Children Took Me Swimming

On Friday last week, we went to the new, fancy swimming pool in town. We’ve been swimming in oceans, rivers, inlets, hotel pools, and all sorts this summer, but it was our first trip to the new pool. The thing I notice when taking my kids swimming is that most of the other adults are standing in the water, waist deep, but not doing very much actual swimming. In fact, the last time we went to a public swim (rather than family swim), I was the only adult in the pool. This makes me sad, but probably not for the reason you think it does.

This time the older kids dragged me along to the deep end. My daughter wanted to dive off the edge, but she was a little nervous. My son wanted to show me how he could touch the bottom in the deep end. And then they wanted me to try.

It happens that swimming is one of my things. One of my fathers-in-law (in our large, extended, re-blended family) told me that I “swim like a dolphin”. So I got on the side of the pool and dove in, made it to the bottom, discovered that I could stay down there for a while, spent some time retrieving weighted objects from the bottom of the pool, practiced doing flips with my daughter, and generally had a rollicking good time.

In the car on the way home, I found myself thinking about summer camp, and swimming lessons when I was a kid, and how much we played on the raft and at the pool, and how all the other little girls were right there with me, diving, doing handstands, somersaults, holding our breath… “Mummy! Watch me! (deep breath)” “Hey! How long can you hold your breath?” “Can you do a somersault and then swim to the bottom of the pool?!?” Sometimes I see the fathers playing, diving, jumping about in the deep end, but the mothers that I see (when they do swim) are swimming lengths with me during the lane swims. Back and forth, back and forth… checking our lap times, trying to maintain our rhythm… all very earnest.

You know that line in Finding Nemo? Where Marlin says, “I promised that nothing would ever happen to him.” And Dory answers, “Well, if nothing ever happens to him, then nothing will ever happen to him. Not much fun for little Harpo.” I find myself thinking about that line a lot. We seem to have traded in security for joy. Nothing will ever happen to me… but then… nothing will ever happen to me.

So, come on all you mommies (and daddies, and aunts, and uncles, and single people who grew up to the seriousness of the “real world” and… and… and…) who find yourself wading about in the shallows. I invite you. Join me in the deep end. If your children are too small, go to a public swim with your friends from childhood, your cousins, the women that you just know in your heart used to know how to do all this. Get the pool toys out. Stand on the edge, or (even!) go to the end of the diving board, and loudly call out, “Hey, everybody! Watch me!”

Then leap.

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4 Responses

  1. Beautiful post. One thing I always challenge myself to do (literally, not metaphorically) is an underwater handstand. Nothing like that to take you back to girlhood and help you not take yourself so seriously. Especially if you make your legs do a scissors motion once you’ve found your balance!

  2. Swimming is not my thing. I learned to swim when I was 45 years old, because I wanted to do a triathlon. I rarely enjoy a swim. But it’s great cross-training (I run, cycle, and play soccer and squash, too) and I feel good when I stop, plus my S.O. loves swimming. So I swim 2 or 3 times per week.

    But I think your point here is for mothers (because for fathers it’s always been OK to run around and play pond hockey or softball with the kids) to PLAY. I play soccer. I love soccer. I tried out for soccer in Grade 7 and was cut from the team. Fortunately there were no tryouts for senior womens’ soccer 2 years ago, and I made the team because a few years of competitive running had made me very fast. In the winter I play soccer with a team where the age range is 19-55. In the summer I play with a team where most of the players are in their 20s, there is one girl in her early 30s and then there’s me. When we call up my 14 year old daughter to play for us (which we do occasionally), the age gap on our team is 34 years (so now you know how old I am).

    Playing soccer on a team gave me some street cred with my teenagers (my son plays and is a game official), and also lets them constantly instruct and compete with me – playfully. It’s not unusual to find my son and I having a conversation in the kitchen whilst passing a mini soccer ball back and forth. One of my best memories from our trip to PEI (for a soccer tournament) this past summer is of my son and I going for a walk down a long, red dirt back road while passing his bright red ManU mini soccer ball back and forth, and the laughs we had as I tried to intercept his passes (he’s so much stronger and bigger than I am now) and he kept booting mine into the shrubbery. It was fun.

    • This sounds great. And you are quite right, it was really about playing, not necessarily swimming. I’ve just found that I’ve been so *earnest* for so long, and I’ve lost the knack. And I’m pretty sure I’m not alone. :)

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