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!”