Learning to Swim

I have escaped the Maryland heat for an extended vacation in the Adirondacks, but for the past couple of days we have joined the rest of the east coast in this stifling heat wave. This is the place where I spent my childhood summers, diving into the cooling waters of Lake George, playing on the town playgrounds and wandering around with small gangs of kids in search of tootsie pops.

Life here centers around swimming lessons, nap time and chasing after lots of new summer time logistics like sippy cups, sun block and missing sandals (and that is just for the S words). Things have changed very little here since the 70’s, and I even ran into one of the kids I grew up with. It turns out she grew up too and is similarly busy keeping sun block applied, sand toys sorted and children hydrated. And to confirm that things stay the same, Smurfs are making a comeback and there is a full display of the little blue guys in all their poses in a local store.

Each morning, I join a group of parents and grandparents standing on the dock or knee deep in the water during swimming lessons. We cheer, cajole, coax and comfort our children as they learn to put their faces in the water and swim with bright yellow kickboards. Some of the children seem fearless, immediately swimming under water like giant fish. Others will take all summer before they will put their whole heads under, one week refusing to leave the dock, slowly going in up to the nose, up to the eyes and maybe the full bob by Labor Day — or next summer. There is no rush really, but as parents we stand by to witness each kick, each leap forward and each set back.

I know that this time will go quickly and soon my children not need me standing so close cheering and clapping. Already, when my 4 year old went straight down a slide that scared him last year and I clapped, he said, “Mom, don’t do that, clapping is for a baby”. He was right, I overdid it, and maybe next summer I won’t be able to cheer quite so much at lessons either. In the mean time, I am happy to stand shoulder to shoulder with the summer of 2011 group of beach mama’s — cheering for our small group of future swimmers as they experience their first face dips, doggie paddles, ladder climbs and jumps off the dock.

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