Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
The swim teacher handed me two dripping and giggling girls. I led them over the lollipops for their post-traumatic reward. Both girls focused on getting to the bowl of suckers. As I toweled them off, they decorated the poolside with Dum-Dum wrappers. Another swim teacher, Kelsey, questioned me on what I’d fed the girls prior to lessons. Not because they tore into the candy like starved lions, but because they actually made it through the hour without the neighbors mistaking them for ambulance sirens. You see, my girls hate swim lessons. Hate is a strong word, you’re thinking, dislike would be far godlier language. No, my girls hate swim lessons. Maren protested with a panicked wail for the entire thirty minute drive earlier in the week. Sometimes we don’t tell them where we’re going until we’re close. That works less and less as Summer now recognizes the airport and surroundings schools as signs. “No, Kelsey, no Kelsey.” This starts composed and evolves into a whimper. By the time she sees the red paved driveway, you’d think we just told her that Chik-fil-a was tearing down all indoor playgrounds and canceling chicken nuggets. Parents are not allowed to sit poolside during lessons for obvious reasons, so we hide on the other side of the fence and peer through the cracks. Our orphans frantically search for their redeemers while the swim teachers splash, throw, and dunk them. Okay, that’s a little extreme. But only a little. Trust me, the headmaster of the program has earned the unofficial reputation as Swim Nazi. To end the class period, the SS force the young tadpoles to walk the plank otherwise known as a diving board. In this simulated accidental drowning exercise, the kids must roll over onto their backs. Thankfully for our girls, they keep the piranhas out of the water until the students turn three.
So you have a small picture of the terror we subject our girls to during Shark Swim Week. All of this to illustrate the context for Thursday’s miracle: the girls may have actually had fun. I peeked in a couple times to see the girls resting on the pool’s edge, up to their own mischief. They traded life jackets back and forth, clipping and unclipping them. Kelsey even asked Maren what she was doing. “I’m cleaning the house!” she replied. Later, the girls walked over on cue to the diving board. They had to be restrained from climbing up. When it was their turn, they launched themselves like frogs off lily pads.
On Wednesday, the girls liked the water about as much as the Wicked Witch of the West when Dorothy melted her with the bucketful. On Thursday they more resembled Michael Phelps. What changed?
During Wednesday’s commute, we talked about swim lessons: how they would only last an hour, how much fun they normally have in the pool, and how the world wasn’t going to end. “Talked” sounds more like a dialogue. My attempt at encouragement evaporated into their cries. On Thursday, we talked about Grandma’s birthday party, the candles that would need to be blown out, the presents that would need opening, and the family that would be there. Summer even reminded her sister at one point, “Guess what Marsie, Grandma’s birthday!” Upon arrival at swim lessons, we went over the plan for the day: swim lessons, lunch, nap, and the birthday party. One hour later, I pulled two girls from the pool, not as their rescuer but as their chauffer to Grandma’s Ball. Maren laughed.
“I don’t think I’ve ever heard her laugh,” exclaimed the teacher.
Sometimes we just need to know the bigger story.