No Fear of the Water Logged.

I had a good parenting experience this weekend. It was one of those moments in parenting where you find yourself thinking “Holy shit, I might have some parenting skills after all!” It was one of those moments where everything I do wrong or half assed could possibly be eclipsed for a few minutes in his future therapy sessions when the boy’s therapist asks him to recall positive mom moments that couldn’t have possibly have contributed to his current issues. It’ one of a few things I really hope he remembers, above and beyond what I can only hope would be a lifetime of lessons and embarrassments from the likes of me.

I went tubing on a lake. Simple enough, yes. But let me break down a little bit my feelings on water and my place in it in general.

I have never been particularly keen about water. As a child I knew swimming in a pool on a hot summers day was a lot of fun, and I spent summers near a big lovely lake in Wisconsin where I would paddle boat, fish, and jump off of piers into the unknown. It was just a way of life and something I did, and I am sure I had fun. But over time I began to realize that I didn’t like it much. I didn’t like pools that much because I just kept thinking of them as crowded toilets. I hated water in my ears or in my nose. I hated the feeling I would get when I felt like I was being consumed by all of that water, or the highly ridiculous and farfetched idea that some criminal mastermind was going to cover the top of the pool with a heavy piece of Plexiglas and I would die there. I hated the feeling of walking around wet and touching things while wet. To this day I have to go to bed with my hair bone dry. I hate seeing wet towels anywhere near fabrics or on beds, and there is this scene from Will & Grace where Grace breaks up with Woody Harrelson and goes right from the shower dripping wet into bed under the covers. If I could surgically remove that scene from my head and replace it with visions of dogs pooping day in and day out, I would.

Lakes were no different, though my stance on lake swimming was a bit more nature-conservation based from a very young age. I stopped fishing once I hit a certain age, not from an animal rights point of view or affectionate feelings towards worms or fish, I just felt like it was sort of an unfair advantage on humanities part. There was an entire civilization of creatures under those waves, out of sight, minding their business, and here are all of these people teasing them with worms, catching them, killing them, or even worse, throwing them back. I felt it was such an invasion of privacy, if that makes sense. I hated that boats and jet skis dumped pollution into the lakes too. They are out of our sight, so I feel that they should be out of our minds too. And don’t get me started on sharks, and my completely absurd fear of them in any kind of water, salt, chlorinated, lakes, puddles, dunk tanks, etc. Interesting side note: I found out my grandfather never took actual baths in his lifetime because of the same fear, and my cousin also harbors the same stupid issue as well. Come to think of it, this is the same grandpa who threw us into deep water as children to teach us how to swim. Maybe he is to blame. I will jot that down later for therapy purposes. Back to the subject at hand here.

We spent the weekend with family at their lake house, and went for a ride on their pontoon boat. It was really quite lovely and I have to say very relaxing for what it is. I appreciate things as they are and I am not personally offended by much. Just because I wouldn’t do that type of thing every day doesn’t mean I don’t appreciate the beauty of it overall. I want to enjoy everything life has to offer me, and this weekend, it offered me family time on a lake. It also offered me going tubing. Yikes.

The boy is developing a fear of water and not being able to touch the ground when we are in a pool. He fell off some pool stairs at a party and took in a lot of water and now is visibly nervous and shaky at the thought of being near water. I hate seeing that. After his initial fall, I held him for a while, put a life jacket on him and took him to the deeper part of the pool so I can just hold him and let him float and learn to trust me. It wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but I owed it to him to not run out of the pool and never climb back in. I gave him a few minutes and then we got out of the pool. It’s been shaky ever since but I don’t regret that decision. The tubing, I felt, could be a great example for me to show him that you don’t always have to like something, but you should never be afraid of it. As part of my life appreciation project, I decided to kill two birds (or fish) with one stone (or one chunky girl in a seal black swimsuit) and teach both myself and my kid a lesson.

I got on the tube.

I don’t have a lengthy description of what this was like for me. I got on, I got knocked around, I laughed, I put my head down, and I peed myself a little bit, but honestly, I probably would have done that anyway. I heard the boy yelling “hi mommy!” for about 3 minutes until he got bored and went about doing other things. My shoulders felt like they were going to fall off, and I just spent the rest of it killing time until we came to a stop. Silly me, I thought we were done. They took off again, and the tube went underneath the water, the water went up my nose, down my throat and over my head. The rope connected to the vessel of doom wrapped around my ankle, and I panicked. In my mind, the fish were pissed I invaded their privacy, sharks were hungry and found lake life boring, and perhaps this whole zest for life thing was just a precursor to me dying out in the middle of a stupid lake. I made my way out and uttered a string of obscenities at my cousin, who only replied “she’s done, let’s reel her in” and they got a picture of my face as I was cursing up a storm. I looked like a beauty queen while in labor compared to that picture. But I kept a smile on my face, kept staring at my son, and climbed up and gave him a hug. I told him that water can be fun too. He was thrilled. I was feeling accomplished, for the both of us. I won’t do it again though.

We went to the nearby beach and the boy promptly ran from the beach into the water and jumped. No bickering about sand or weeds, no nervous tension other than walking on the rickety pier, and no tears. He was having a blast and didn’t want to leave. He even proclaimed to have found a chunk of ham on shore. I was initially completely afraid of both real ham on the beach, or whatever it is that looks like ham on the beach. It was giant chunk of driftwood, thanks be to Ariel. When we left he just kept singing “the beach is closed, the beach is closed” and “I love hot dogs”. Just as it should be for a 4-year-old, right?

I touched on this when I wrote Inflatable Metaphors for Life as well. I really have no clue what I am doing a lot of the time with him. But sometimes, big lessons do happen along and I am so grateful to know them when I see them, even if that means him having the memory of his mom looking like a manatee on a tube on a warm summer’s day.  

He may not like water as he grows up, but he sure as hell will no longer be afraid of it.