Dear moms at the pool today for swimming lessons: although I was sitting far back in the shade, if you happened to witness my smiles or snickers, please know that I wasn’t laughing at your kids or laughing at you. I was laughing with you. You just don’t know it yet. It’s just that you don’t realize that it’s funny. One day you will.
I’ve been a mother for 19 years now. I’m finally at the point where I can take my kids to the pool and I don’t have to stand in the shallowest part hovering over a wobbly toddler. For years, I was there and I was in your shoes.
Holding my breath each time my kids would hold their breath and go under the water. Nervously standing behind a little one about to fall back on his bottom with a splash (and praying that he had an empty swim diaper and that nothing would surprisingly ooze out as his bottom hit the bottom of the pool.) Worrying about my child bolting on the hot cement and ending up with road rash. Wondering if my kid would be the one wandering off during a swim lesson, refusing to participate.
It feels good to have passed that phase. As much as I miss the baby years and as much as I miss the toddler years, I am glad I’ve passed that phase. Oh, so glad. I can finally feel comfortable watching from a chair. I don’t feel like I have to be in the water right next to them the entire time. In fact, visiting the pool with my kids isn’t the stressful event it once was. It’s now a relaxing activity, as it should be.
So, today at swimming lessons with my son as I sat back away from the pool under the shade of the umbrella, thumbing through an issue of Food & Wine magazine, I peeked up long enough to see some familiar sights. I can find them funny because I’m on the sidelines, but I’ve been there and I know that when you’re in it, it’s embarrassing or irritating or humiliating or annoying or stress-inducing or maddening and it’s far from a laughing matter.
I know what I’m talking about. One of my most embarrassing parenting moments happened several years ago when I was taking one of my boys to the dentist. Our regular dentist noticed how reluctant my son was to let them do a simple cleaning and recommended we take him to a pediatric dentist. My son was pretty freaked out. So, when we went for our appointment, I went up to the front desk and was filling out forms. I heard the door slam shut behind me. I turned to look and the kid who had just been next to me was gone. He was about 6-years-old at the time.
The receptionist saw the panic on my face as I raced out the door to the front of the building. I looked around and didn’t see him anywhere. I went back into the lobby and looked around. He wasn’t there. I checked the washroom. No sign of him. The receptionist came to check to see what was going on and soon we were both out in the parking lot frantically looking for this little guy and calling his name.
After a few scary minutes and just as I was about to give up and call the police, the receptionist pointed to the bushes. I leaned over and looked and caught a glimpse of his foot. He was so terrified of the dentist that he had run out and hid in the bushes. I was relieved, yet mortified. Needless to say, I never entered that dentist’s office again for the sake of my son’s nerves and my sanity.
Now that there’s some distance between that event and now, I can look back and see the humor in it. It wasn’t funny at the time. It is now.
Believe me. There will come a time when your kids are older and you’ll be able to laugh about today. Yes, I’m talking to you – the mom with the kid who would rather just float on her back than go blow bubbles with the other preschoolers, the mom of the kid who finds it more entertaining to play hide and seek behind the slide than participate, the mom of the kid whose fingers had to be literally pried off the bar on the side of the diving board one by one and then pretty much physically pushed in.
If you saw me smiling, please know it’s a smile of sympathy. It’s a been-there-done-that-i-know-what-its-like-and-thank-God-I’m-not-there-anymore smile. Please don’t think I’m judging you. Don’t think that I’m thinking something is wrong with you or your child. I was judging no one today (okay, I might have slightly judged the fashion sense of the mom wearing a cute flowery swimsuit top with a set of mismatched, wild-patterned obviously men’s pair of board shorts on the bottom.)
Chances are if my parents had put me in swimming lessons at age 4, I would have preferred to hide under the lawn chairs than learn to swim. My kids were often the ones at swim lessons who had to be coaxed and encouraged – and sometimes even bribed – to get them to do what they I wanted them to do. I’m laughing with you. I really am. And one day you’ll laugh, too.