Swimming is not coming easily to Sean. Physically he is quite capable of swimming. He is naturally athletic. But he harbors some fear not understood by me or articulated by him that prevents him from mastering the water.
This summer I’ve spent countless hours coaxing him into the water with me, chiding him about preferring the baby pool, pointing out other kids his age and younger who are swimming – AND HAVING FUN DARN IT! And honestly, sometimes I’m just flat out aggravated with him for not even being willing to try. "Just try dammit!" I want to scream. But I don’t. I say "Whatever Dude" instead and try to hide my frustration.
And yes, I realize I have violated every rule of good parenting, so please don’t go to the trouble to point that out. I am aware. I’m sure it will come up in therapy one of these days.
This thing he has against swimming, it is maddening to me for many reasons which have nothing to do with the substantial amount of money I have spent on swimming lessons for this boy. What bugs me is not that he won’t master the water, but that he won’t master the fear. But what I think bugs me even more than that, is that in this regard, he is not like me. When I was his age, I was fearless. I had two older brothers to keep up with and there was no time for fear if I didn’t want to be left behind. It never occurred to me that I couldn’t do something.
In Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood , Vivi Walker tells her 10-year-old daughter Sidda Lee who is afraid to ride an elephant at the grand opening of the local mall, “Life is a beast, you just get on it and ride!”
And that is true. For some of us.
For me, life is a beast. I just get on it and ride. I just hope for the best and figure it out as I go along. And I fall off the beast – a lot – and I skin up my knees and I get on again.
But for Sean and for others like him, life is a beast that you observe at a distance and read up on and understand before approaching.
One of the hardest parts of motherhood as of late, as Sean becomes increasingly more his own person, is to allow him his own journey, his own approach to life at his own pace. He may look like me, but he ain’t me.
Sean needs to learn to swim. And I need to learn to let Sean learn to swim in his own way.