Recently Sean and I were at our neighborhood pool making the most of a late summer afternoon. Sean is still not a confident swimmer. Swimming is just one of those things that he is going to have to come to terms with at his own pace. I have come to accept that. I have learned and backed off. The most I do now is encourage him to experiment more, to be more adventurous. To this he firmly says, “No danks!” No. Way. And we leave it at that.
After we had been at the pool for awhile, another family showed up with a little boy who is a full year younger than Sean, but a better swimmer. He has a beefier build. He’s more boisterous and aggressive; he’s one of those little guys who love to rough house and punch and karate kick and that kind of thing. That’s all well and good, but it’s not our style. Sean and his daddy rough house, but our policy is that you don’t put your hands on other people.
The other boy wanted to play with Sean, and at first Sean was interested, but it wasn’t long before he grew weary of being punched. A couple of times I saw Sean stiff arm him and say “Stop it!” but I figured it was a good opportunity for Sean to work it out for himself so I stayed out of it. Although honestly? I really wanted to go over and kick some four-year-old butt. I’m not proud of that, but it’s true.
At one point, I looked over at Sean and we locked eyes. I could see he was looking for a rescue. “Dude! Come here for a minute,” I called. It gave him a dignified out and he came over to splash around with me on the steps of the big pool. For 38 seconds.
Then the little guy followed. He did cannon balls within inches of Sean. He shoved Sean off the steps. He continued to try to agitate him. Sean tried to politely ignore him to no avail. Finally he resorted to going underwater to get some peace. At this point, the little boy grabs Sean around the waist and holds him under water. Right in front of me.
Sean thrashes and panics.
I look over at the mother and she is reading a magazine and talking on her phone. She is oblivious.
At that moment, the ire of every mother bear that ever existed rose in my chest and filled my throat. It’s a feeling that I can’t really describe. I wasn’t mad so much as stirred by something primal. And frankly, that kind of scared me.
I bent over and pulled the boy off of Sean, and as I am setting him on the edge of the pool, I whisper a warning in his ear — but the voice that rumbles out of my throat is not mine but Darth Vader’s. “Keep. Your. Hands. Off. My. Boy.”
“Or I will hurt you.” No, I didn’t say that part, but I was surely thinking it.
I give him a look that makes it clear that I mean business. He stares back at me with eyes as big as pancakes. I narrow my eyes like Clint Eastwood to punctuate my point. He gets up and wanders over to his mother.
And I wish I could say that was that. But that was not that.
He continued to come back and pester us. So we called it a day and went home.
So then, no tidy moral of the story other than don’t mess with my kid and no happy ending other than I am not writing this from jail.