The sky was ominous – dark, threatening, and unwelcoming. There was a stiff cool breeze that felt out of place on the first day of July. The temperature was a robust sixty-six degrees, which would have been comfortable if not for the wind and lack of sun rays penetrating through the clouds. By most standards these weather facts don’t point to a terrible day spent outside, but when you’re about to take your tender-hearted two-year-old son to his first outdoor swimming lesson in a frigid pool, these were less than ideal conditions.
To further preface this story, Isaac, the novice swimmer in question, is not fond of water on the best of days. When I took him to this same water park for a practice session in the almost ninety-degree weather last week, there were tears and screams and a real carnal fear. And little Isaac had a hard time, too. You see, my youngest son is at the stage where he is afraid of, among many other things, water. Aside from drinking it and occasionally watering the plants with it, he deems water to be vastly overrated in nearly all respects. Yet because these swimming lessons were already paid for, and because I am a stay-at-home dad with the courage and tenacity of an enraged wolverine a newborn panda, I packed up my son and proceeded very hesitantly towards our aquatic destiny.
As soon as we arrived and found our group, we undressed and listened to the instructor go over the rules and goals of the lesson. It was, I must confess, hard to focus on any details of the monologue due to the cold breeze running along our exposed flesh. When the raindrops and related goosebumps appeared a minute later, I was expecting the group leaders to triumphantly announce the cancellation of our session; we would then be allowed to don our warm, dry clothes and happily march back to the car amidst tears of joy. This did not happen. Not only that, the inclement weather was barely acknowledged at all. Clearly I had underestimated the gonads of the swimming commandos before us.
After the talk, we were warily led into the pool under the stormy skies and light rain. I tried my best to claw our way to the back of the line knowing what kind of theatrics we would soon be acting out, but alas, we were only able to secure the next to last position.
Into the pool went the pairs – child and parent, child and parent, and finally Isaac and I. The sobbing, coming with much warning, started well before the first toe brushed against the water. Not being able to get him in without the aid of an industrial strength towing device, I let the mom and child behind us pass ahead with an apologetic hand wave before trying Isaac once more. Again, more screaming and double negatives, only this time at a greater pitch. Then, with one last effort, we made it in. Success, sort of.
Although we were in, the rain had picked up and poor Isaac was freezing. So was I. So was everyone else. It was so cold that Isaac and I were specifically pulled aside and addressed for shivering so much. Thanks for pointing out the obvious, lady. How about an invitation out of the pool and a seat by a warm fire? It was so cold that I was taken by surprise when glancing down at my chest and seeing that my nipples had been replaced with elongated titanium rivets of danger, protruding in a manner that would cause me to approach the other swimmers with caution because I didn’t want to unintentionally poke anyone. Not on the first day anyway. That might be rude.
On top of all this, we were forced to get our kids neck-deep in the water. We weren’t able to tenderly hoist them over our heads, like I wanted to, for protection against frostbite and hypothermia and all-around depression. We weren’t able to sit them on the edge of the pool and encouragingly tell them to try again the next day when it would be warmer. No, we had to get them acclimated to their glacial environment. We had to submerge them. We as parents had to become as hardened as the session instructors.
We were only fifteen or so minutes into our forty-five minute session, and I was hoping with all hope to hear the distant rumbling of a thunderbolt, or see the flash of lightning that would abruptly conclude our waterlogged day. When it became apparent that this was not in the cards, I became hopeful that one of the children would shit in the water. C’mon, surely one of you adorable toddlers has to let out some steam. When it became apparent that this was also not in the cards, I second guessed my decision to avoid beans as a pre-swimming snack.
After finally (and somewhat miraculously) acknowledging the nasty conditions outside, we were given an official pardon by the swimming instructors. The session was over for the day. Case closed. Hallelujah.
Once out of the pool, a few minutes after the shivering stopped, Isaac stopped crying. His blue lips regained the normal pinkish hue. He looked into my eyes and smiled. My boy was himself again.
I didn’t have the heart to tell him about the weather conditions for his swimming lesson the next day.