Monday, August 23, 2010

Swimming at the club

(3 years 11 months)

Dear Trevor,

Sunday night showed just how silly a set of parents can be—we didn’t get much sleep. Mommy decided to stay home from work on Monday so she could spend your first ever day of summer camp with you at the Nyack Field Club. We have concerns about your ability to take care of yourself. The children at the club are not all darlings, and you have no unchaperoned experience with peers. In the sandbox you encountered many boys, a little older, a little bigger, who would have gladly left tractor tracks across your little body had I not dissuaded them. The voice and gestures you use with Mommy and me when you strongly disagree with us would be sufficient to avoid harm in all but the most violent encounters, but you lack training in their proper use. It’s interesting that the forceful expression of your needs and wants to us seems to have come to you naturally, but you do not seem to detect approaching danger in the form of a malevolent kid. Both your mommy and me are hyper alert, as are most of the people I treat in therapy. People raised without violence in their childhood are different.

Something just occurred to me: Right from the beginning people have responded to you differently than they do to most children. Every adult in whose care we have left you, even for a few hours, has commented positively on your deportment in a way that implicitly includes comparison to other children they have experienced. If I put this next to my recent musings about the perception of innocence as beauty, to which we are all drawn, and which I’m coming to think is the lure of the pedophile, I wonder if this isn’t a hidden factor of your effortless charm.
Anyway, so there we are in bed Sunday night chatting away to dispel our fear. I start to drift off and your mommy just starts speaking as if I am wide awake, which, of course, I become. I finally resort to a vodka and soda, but I think your mommy didn’t sleep all night.

I drop you both off at the club Monday morning and pick you up at noon. Watching you walk away through the parking lot holding hands, the little tennis racquet swinging at your side, was a charming moment.

Yesterday was my turn. Mommy gave me a favorable report about yesterday, and I especially wanted to watch your swimming lesson, hoping to pick up ideas about how to teach. I was late getting up and we had to fly through Brush-Teeth, Fe-Fi-Fo-Fum, and Get-Dressed. But we made it on time, just.

Your swimming lesson surprised by being an organized, professional presentation of a well thought out technique. I was impressed. At one end of the pool the water is three feet deep, but quickly gets deeper. A wide staircase of deep, shallow steps is set into each corner like a fan. There you sit, ten of you, facing your instructors who are standing in water up to their waists. First thing to learn is how to blow bubbles. To do this you must put your face in the water. You pick your head up to inhale, and put your face in the water to exhale. After practicing that for a while you add wind-milling arms. And then it gets fun. Your teacher stands off about five feet, and says, Come to me Trevor, and you leap forward toward her. Before you need to take a stroke, she scoops you up with all the appropriate squealing and congratulatory sounds that let you know you’ve just pleased her beyond her wildest expectations. She then turns you around and launches you back to the steps. The names of these sweet eighteens, your teachers, are Dawn and Jessica, and they are a couple of clever lasses.

In conversation Dawn refers to you as an angel. Jessica calls you angelic. As your swimming instructors they have a close, personal relationship with you. Now I’m not saying you run a number on these sweet things, but how do you manage not to show them any of you other facets? Are you never cantankerous with them? Aggressive? Obstreperous? Furious? Stubborn? Obdurate? Uncooperative? Utterly selfish? Well, not yet anyway.

We eat lunch in the shade of some oak trees, and then you have your tennis lesson. It’s a group lesson. And it resembles nothing so much as a Laurel and Hardy routine. There are four contiguous courts in the practice area. This is where the pro gives lessons, or a person can use the ball throwing machine, or a large number of kids can run around like positively and negatively charged sub-atomic particles careening off each other in a hilarious dance of tennis wand waving—to the goddess I assume.

After that we go swimming for an hour. Then we play in the sandbox till four. We then go home, take a shower together, which is always a hilarious time, and prepare supper. You’re an ace at peeling and chopping garlic. Not a bad day!

Three Weeks Later:
I'm blown away by the progress you've made in swimming. The fact is that you have learned to swim in three weeks. When, at the end of the first week you were still unwilling to put your head under water, I was concerned. Then suddenly, toward the end of the second week, we went into the big pool and you swam to me under water. This is how they teach all the children to swim. I was absolutely delighted. You launched yourself off the stairs and swam to me as if you'd been doing it all your life. But equally impressive, was your delight. You were thrilled with your ability.

The water is just deep enough at the end of the pool that by squatting I can form a shelf with my thighs. You swim to me, pull yourself up, turn, and launch back toward the stairs. Then, on Friday, you showed me you could swim all by yourself by coming off the stairs on one side of the pool and swimming in an arc to other side.

Your teacher is impressed with your progress. She told me that it is unusual for a child still short of four to use his arms like you do. I think you will be swimming on top of the water very soon.

Love, Daddy

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