That prams and art are not mutually exclusive.

Swimming Up The Deep End

Boy Charlton was a world champion Australian swimmer during the 1920s and 1930s. Though my eldest Boy Charlton has always loved water,  his water skills bare no resemblance to that of his namesake. When it comes to the pool, he is frantic and awkward.

This week the Boy was back into swimming lessons after the school holiday break. It was a new class, new level, new teacher, new day and time. Normally the boy is right into new. New toys, new adventures, new playmates and his mind is racing. New challenges also make his mind race, but in an entirely different direction. Panic!

We arrived early and took our place poolside. I could feel his sweaty, sticky skin against mine as we sat on the wooden bench and watched the classes before his. He pulled on his goggles and turned to me for help. His face was all nostrils and exaggerated goggle features: his mouth was tight-lipped as his breaths wheeshed out in strained, audible breaths.

The classes finished on the half hour and the pool emptied. In a flurry of towels and parental arms wrangling small, wet bodies, I craned my neck to look around for his new teacher. As I reached the tiled edge of the pool, I heard someone call a name, “Lisa!” Lisa: this is not our woman. We are after someone called Sam.

I did a head check. There were four classes in the pool. Toddlers: no. Babies: no. Lisa in the middle: no. Oh crap. His class must be up the deep end.

I did my best to be cool and calm. He’s never been up the deep end before: he’d be in way over his head.

“Hiya, are you Boy Charlton?” the teacher spoke in a singsong Yorkshire accent.

He nodded, goggles still on firmly, his mouth breathing now very apparent, like a snorkeler, sans snorkel.

“Boy 1, this is your teacher Sam. She is going to teach your lesson and I am going to sit here with your brothers and watch. Ok?” The singsong accent is catching.

He hovers in a puddle by the pool edge. There are two other students – both girls, both older – already in the pool, swimming. Actual swimming! He hesitates before he enters. There is no step, no ladder. Just as he bends forward to slip into the water, he rises and goes to the other side of the lane.

“OK Boy, jump in!”

A moment of hesitation, followed by Splash! He holds the rail as the girls carve up the lane with confidence. He can’t touch the bottom, instead he bobs up and down in their wake like flotsam.

“Ok Boy, your turn.”

He pushes off the side and his legs trail behind him like seaweed. His head stays above water – just – as he does his best impersonation of freestyle. Sam encourages him to keep his tummy up, but he is bottom heavy, and struggles to get momentum to lift his body, while kicking and stroking and breathing. So much to remember: he looks like he is limping through the pool, awkward and unbalanced, like a windmill with a missing blade. I realise I am holding my breath. He makes the end of the 10-metre lane, and we both take a big breath.

The girls glide through the water. Clearly they are more advanced. But as the lesson progresses, I realise something is happening. He doesn’t cling to the lane rope. He always does the full lap before stopping. And he is listening intently. He seems determined and calm, despite being well above his head. By the last few laps, he spends more time with his head above water, and he’s managing to breath in between strokes.

After the lesson I ask him “Were you worried about being in the deep end?”

“No. Can I have a snack?”

What kind of swimmer are you? Do you jump in the deep end, or do you hover by the edge?

13 Responses to “Swimming Up The Deep End”

  1. Bree DeRoche

    Your boys are going to thank you one day for these beautiful snapshots of their lives.

  2. Cat

    I do believe that I am totally in love with your blog and the way you write. You bring words to life, truly. I held my breath with you. What a wonderful awakening to have happen in front of you with your child.

    I am an absolutely shocking swimmer, both literally and metaphorically. A girl in my Girl Guide troupe held me under water too long at a pool party (I wasn’t a well liked child) and I very nearly drowned. I never went back to Guides after that. Mum’s remedy to this was to send both my younger brother and I to swimming lessons and my brother is definitely a deep end swimmer, literally and metaphorically and I never felt comfortable so I did the bare minimum and whined my way out of it after 6 months. I think that’s why I need to make the effort to be brave because I am in no way shape or form built that way naturally.

  3. Tammie coady

    Love it, Bella has only just gone up last term and I dread the day she is in ‘over her head!’

  4. In The Meantime

    Fantastic story…and telling. What a brave Boy #1 and isn’t he just growing up so fast and mastering the male elements of personality. ‘Scared?’ ‘NUP, lets eat!!’

  5. Jodie

    I could SO picture Boy 1 swimming his little heart out. Brought back memories of my first swimming lessons – the teacher used to hold a pole and push us back out if we stopped to hold onto the edge for a breath. Needless to say I dreaded going there – was a place called Gloria’s goldfish in Bentleigh. Will NEVER forget that name. Great post!

  6. the rhythm method

    Sounds horrible! Isn’t it amazing how this brings back such vivid memories?
    All four of us kids had swimming lessons at the local high school 50 metre outdoor pool. The deep end there really was the deep end, you could hardly see the bottom. It was cold and tough, and I hated it. Except free time at the end.

  7. Maxabella

    Good job, Boy!!! They constantly surprise us with what they are capable of doing. I am trying very hard lately to not ‘label’ what they can and can’t do because it seems I am always very wrong. x

  8. Vicki

    I love this…the anxiety leading up to the big swim, the moment you can see that he is going to be just fine and then his reaction at the end. Isn’t the snack always the most important part? What a brave boy you have! It’s hard to dive right in the deep end and see that works out, but sometimes its the best way to figure things out. Thanks for sharing!

  9. todd

    I’m a “dip my toe in the water” type of swimmer, when I eventually get in I usually just float on my back. A good book on the beach admiring the volleyball players is usually my sweet spot. love your blog…..visiting from the rewind.

  10. imamysteri

    The deepend. Hated it. But it’s the next step isn’t it? It’s so hard to watch them take one more step (or stroke) away from us.
    Stopped in from the Fibro.

  11. life in a pink fibro

    Love this! Mr7 hated the whole idea of the deep end – until he got there. Now he thinks he’s Ian Thorpe – without the size 15 feet and the, er, swimming style.

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.


Leave a reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Basic HTML is allowed. Your email address will not be published.

Subscribe to this comment feed via RSS

%d bloggers like this: