Thursday, November 6, 2008

Swim Lesson Flunkees

I hate the last day of swim lessons. In my opinion no one should have to stand and be judged while wearing a wet bathing suit. And my kids never pass. Well, they never legitimately pass.

Take our most recent experience. Sweet Abby is shivering in her towel, standing in line with other towel-clad students, and she gives me a hopeful little thumb's up. I feel sad for her, so filled with seven-year-old optimism. Didn't she notice at the last pool party that she was the only child there possessed of permanent teeth and a swim noodle? But still, maybe this time.

Each child in line before her is handed their blue certificate and runs to their Mom. "I'm in level FOUR now!" Abby makes it to the front of the line and her teacher motions for me to come over. Not good. Being stuck in level 3 when everyone else in the class is moving up to level 4 is hard. Being told that level 3 probably wasn't the right place for you to begin with and level 2 might be a better fit makes for a really rotten day.

Luckily for Maya she can't go any lower than preschool 1. And preschool 1 is probably where she'll stay until her mom does what she always does---move her to the next level when it seems too embarrassing to do preschool 1 for the fourth time.

Which may be the root of the problem. But I really don't think it is.
It goes back. WAY BACK.

Idaho Falls, Idaho, circa 1974

Lyle (actually at this time I believe he's still called Vernie) is at the community pool when he realizes the rest of the family is gone. (Lyle has 7 siblings and the fact that this is an isolated incident is impressive). He gets teary-eyed and nervous and hugs his towel a little closer. A woman at the pool takes his hand and brings him to the pool manager who attempts without success to locate his family. The woman leaves her phone number with the manager and says she'll just take young Vernie home with her (take a gander once again at the date and place) and when his parents realize he's missing and call the pool, they can be given her number. Vernie leaves the pool in the stranger's car and remembers eating chocolate chip cookies and playing with toys superior to his own.

Vernie's father walks through the door that afternoon and asks about his oldest son. The family realizes that they haven't seen him for a very long time. "Vernie! Vernie!...... I know he was at the pool....."

Vernie's a little hesitant to leave Mom at his next swim lesson.

San Jose, California, circa 1980

Eileen is at a swim party at Courtney's house. Courtney is a blond-haired, tan-skinned, swimmer who belongs in California. Eileen is a brown-haired, pale-skinned, freckle-faced, swim lesson flunkee who is in California by mistake and belongs in Washington.

Courtney is in Eileen's class at the swank Carden El Encanto Day School. Courtney's family owns a thoroughbred horse named Drop O' Honey. (Courtney whispered to Eileen one day that Drop O' Honey rhymes with Lots O' Money.)

Eileen is swimming in the posh black-bottomed pool, swimming along gracefully as she recalls, when a pot-bellied, fully clothed dad dives into the pool. He's swimming with some impressive speed in Eileen's direction. "Oh please," Eileen prays, "let him be rescuing Courtney."

Eileen is drug from the pool by the dripping father who checks her pupils and mercifully doesn't administer CPR, but does plop her non too gently into a lounge chair while he sloshes off to the pool house in squeaking shoes with boxer shorts showing through his khakis.

Silverdale, Washington, 1997

Adam's first swim lesson. He's been looking forward to this for weeks; asking about it multiple times a day. He hikes up his red swim trunks and with a body rivaling his mothers in paleness, struts out to the teacher. I take my seat in the bleachers and pull out a book. Adam enjoys swim lessons immensely until he gets in the pool. At that point he screams like a wild child, "I'm a NON SWIMMER! A NON SWIMMER!" The teacher seems to agree and a career bubble blower is born.

Silverdale, Washington, 1999

Two years later, Madeline joins her brother in the preschool 1 class. Both kids get into the pool without incident and all is going perfectly. You might even say swimmingly. Near the end of the lesson, the whole class gets out and moves to a deeper area of the pool to jump out to the teacher. The teacher is busy catching a cannonballing toddler, when a fellow student (not her brother thankfully) gives Madeline a little nudge. Into the water she goes amidst much splashing and arm-waving. Another teacher swims to her rescue. She cries and cannot be consoled. She refuses to put her face in the water for the next three years.

Burley, Idaho, 2000

Vernie Lyle is on a health and fitness kick and decides to enter his first triathlon, the SPUDMAN. This involves a 1 mile river swim, 26 mile bike ride and 6 mile run. Lyle takes a few swim lessons to brush up on his skills. His teacher asks him to put his arms out in front of him and kick.

Lyle goes backwards.

The teacher comments that he's read about that type of thing but has never personally seen it. He asks him to do it again. And once again off he goes backwards. It really defies all logic, but seeing is believing. The teacher thanks him for the enlightening lesson and wishes him well in the open water.

On race day over a thousand swim-capped, wet-suited athletes leap into the Snake River for the swim downstream. I hope to see my husband again.

At the finish, swimmers are exiting the water in droves. Men in the hefty "Clydesdale" division are lumbering onto the beach. Old women are tearing off their wetsuits and jumping onto their bikes. Handicapped athletes are being applauded. And still no Lyle. I wonder if the race day excitement has gotten to him and he started kicking. He's probably now back at the starting line.

He does finally emerge and has no trouble at all finding his lonely little bike.

So you can see that this is too much to explain to the girls' swim teachers. I don't have time to give them the whole history, but now you know. You know why Maya's favorite part of swim lessons has nothing to do with the pool but everything to do with the bathroom hand dryer,

and why this is the closest thing to the deep end that these two will be seeing for a very L O N G time.


Jen Bay said...

It's always comforting when you can blame your weaknesses on genetics.

akwebb3 said...

Are you sure we are related???

Lisa said...

Eileen...I awarded you an HONEST WEBLOG AWARD. You totally deserve it. Just wanted you to know and if you check my blog tonight after 5pm EST, you will see what it means.

Love you!


Casey Gilliam said...

Eileen from Carden? Wow, I'm the kid dead center in your 3rd grade class. My father was the one who owned Drop O' Honey. I don't know who Courtney is? We should catch up. My email is: