Pregnancy is a slog. For me, there was 4 p.m. nausea and 2 a.m. charlie horses. There were sore breasts, fat feet, and a humiliating resemblance to the Fantasia hippos when I slipped, foolishly, into sexy lingerie.
“Poor you,” my compassionate husband often said. “You’re going through so much.”
Each time, I told him the same thing: “It’s okay. You’re doing the swim lessons.”
Different people dread different points on the parenthood continuum. Some fear labor and delivery. Others cower from potty-training. Others cringe at the notion that someone will eventually hand their graceless offspring a driver’s license.
My personal Misery Milestone is the one that has me leaping from a soup-like public pool with a slippery toddler and plodding through cold puddles on slick cement in search of a restroom where I must wrestle with said toddler’s rubbery swimsuit and stand dripping and shivering while he uses the toilet, then looks up at me with chlorine-reddened eyes and chatters, “R-r-ready to g-go b-back in?”
Any mom who’s been baptized in the church of swim lessons, who’s donned her least revealing tankini and descended hesitantly into the wet world of “kickers” and “splashies” and other words one would never say in a board room, knows that swim lessons don’t improve as your child ages. They just shift.
Instead of being clawed at by your sinking spawn, you get exuberantly kicked in the gut. Instead of wailing into your ears in horror, they squeal into them with glee (who knew water had such extraordinary properties of amplification?).
I’m not what you’d call a worrier. My kids do flips on the trampoline, skip through parking lots barefoot, and play tackle football, all with my blessing. But when I watch my un-buoyant boys gasp and sputter for breath while a relative stranger barks at them to “kick harder!”, I have to fight the urge to leap onto the instructor and beat her severely with the nearest foam noodle. Call it instinct.
Also, I find my enjoyment of wet and my tolerance for cold have eroded over the years. I never thought I’d be the “don’t splash me” mom. I was the kid who leaped into our pool before breakfast and had to be dragged out, pruney and green-haired, when the sun set each day. But that was back when “pretty” could be achieved with just wet eyelashes and sun-stung cheeks, back before I needed luminizers and revitalizing mists to look merely “not ill.”
And at the risk of being relegated to life’s, um, shallow end, let me say this: I resent being dragged weekly into the vexing, eternal wax-or-shave dilemma.
So I’ve decreed that swim lessons are my husband’s duty. Other moms do the same — and find ingenious ways to justify it.
“Unlike soccer or ballet or gymnastics, kids have to learn how to swim. It’s life-or-death stuff. It’s a survival skill,” says a friend of mine with two daughters. “Hence, it falls very clearly in dad’s domain. Like changing a tire.
“The fact that handing the job over to dad spares us from having to appear in public in a bathing suit is a pretty nice perk, though.”
Oddly, my spouse never complains about having to go. In fact, he almost seems to enjoy it.
“It’s only half an hour,” he says, with a shrug. “And it’s fun to see him make progress each week.”
But … the incessant shivering? The deafening squeals? And all that talk of kickers??
When pressed, he confesses the task is made more bearable by the presence of half-naked women — a bonus he calls the “hot mom factor.”
Fine. Good. Would someone hand me that foam noodle?