The Swim Test

26 May

Whine: School is out for the summer. I am now the mother of a first grader, which is frightening on so many levels.

Cheese: There’s a whole summer ahead of me, plenty of time to face reality. Later.

Yesterday was our First Day of Summer Vacation. Wahoo! Except I spent the morning wandering aimlessly around the house and the afternoon losing Brother Bear over and over again at Chuck-E-Cheese. So I asked for a do-over and we tried again today with much greater success.

Today we headed to our local YMCA and its pool. When we walked in there was a group of senior citizens on the side of the pool doing, you guessed it, the Y-M-C-A. ¬†Apparently the Silver Sneakers class decided to exercise poolside today. I was so tempted to go over and join them, but I wasn’t brave enough to do the Zumba in my swim suit.

Brother Bear and I alternated between walking the perimeter of the swim area and stopping back at our lawn chair for snacks. Which suits me just fine as I prefer not to actually get wet at the pool. Don’t get me wrong, I love to swim, but I spend most of my time shuttling people back and forth to the restroom, so I prefer to stay dry.

Lil’ Sis stayed in the shallows and practiced her ‘moves’. Watching her brought me back to my early swim days, where I felt like a ballerina and a mermaid and an acrobat all rolled into one.

I made five trips to and from the restroom with various children, then foiled Brother Bear’s attempt to climb up the stairs to the water slide and passed him off to Mr. Dad, kicking and screaming.

Big Sis begged me to come to the deep end with her and “catch” her while she jumped in. She’d jump in and I’d turn my head to avoid to the splash. Then she’d doggy paddle over to the side and wait for me to push her soggy seat up onto the ledge so she could jump in again. I tried to make her get up by herself, but she turned all spaghetti legs on me every time, so I just kept pushing her up there.

But then the lifeguard blew his whistle to invite anyone who wanted to take the Swim Test to come over. You have to pass the Swim Test in order to use the water slide or to swim in the deep end without an adult. Sophie marched right over and sat down with the other Swim Testers. No fear. No doubt that she could swim.

The lifeguard said you had to swim or dog paddle the length of the pool, then tread water while he asked you some questions. I watched as all the other, older, taller kids easily made their way down and hopped out of the pool. Big Sis sat on the stairs waiting her turn. Then he called her and she flopped in the water and started paddling.

My eyes were locked on that little pink puppy. I wasn’t worried she’d drown–the lifeguard was right at her shoulder. I just didn’t know if she could actually make it the whole way. I wasn’t sure that her shaky dog paddle could get her that far. I held my breath when she stopped mid-way, hoping she wouldn’t stop or give up. But she got her breath and kept on paddling along.

But then she had to tread water, and I’m pretty sure she had no idea what that meant. But there she was, kicking her feet and keeping herself up as the lifeguard asked her questions. I walked over to her. And he’s looking at her, waiting for her and I realize that in order to pass the Swim Test she’s going to have to get out of the pool. By herself.

Crap.

She throws an arm up there and heaves her body, only to slide right back in the water. Next, she hoists her knee up on the side and hangs there a second before realizing she can’t quite get the rest of her body to join her. I’m standing there, helpless, just waiting to see if she’s up to the task. She tries a couple more times. All the other kids have passed their swim test, so both lifeguards are standing there now, watching her. The other lifeguard says “Look. Do it this way. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.” So I squat down and repeat the mantra “Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee.”

And I’m squatting there, watching her, not being able to get through to her how it’s done and memory after memory flash back to me. Of Big Sis not being able to climb up the stairs to the slide while all her friends are scaling walls and furniture, not to mention the stairs. Of having to push, convince and cajole her into trying to pedal a tricycle. Of the struggle of these motor-skill milestones and how I hope she’s not going to be the one who can’t keep up.

And there she is in the pool, still trying to get out. I tell her that if she wants to stop and try another day, that it’s fine, but that she won’t pass the Swim Test today. And she’s tired and there’s been no breakthrough, so she scooches over to the stair and hops out.

I tell her we’ll have to work on it this summer, and not to worry because she’ll get it if she practices enough. But honestly I’m having visions of pushing that polka-dotted bottom up out of the pool about 200 times before she figures it out. Which is OK, but that might be a lot of Swim Tests to not pass.

So we go back to the deep end where (since she didn’t get her Swim Test Wristband) I am instructed to always be within arms-reach of her. And she jumps in, with gusto. And of course, she splashes me in the face. As I wipe the drops off my face, I watch her swim to the side of the pool.

And then in one fluid motion I see: Elbow, elbow, tummy, knee. She’s standing up beside the pool.

I yell to the lifeguard. I want him to see that she did it. He comes over and looks at her, but indicates that it doesn’t count since it wasn’t during the Swim Test. And I want to look at him like he’s crazy, because I don’t care about the stupid Swim Test. I only want him to know, want someone to know, that after all that wriggling and slipping and struggling, that my girl got out of the pool. Just like that.

And now she’s snoring on the couch next to me, completely wiped out from her moment of triumph.

It’s gonna be an awesome summer.

7 Responses to “The Swim Test”

  1. kristiana May 26, 2012 at 2:36 pm #

    love it. crying. laughing. xo

  2. Aunt Linnaea May 26, 2012 at 5:08 pm #

    Hooray for BOTH Sophie and Mommy!

  3. Debbie May 26, 2012 at 6:00 pm #

    love this… for many reasons… I truly miss you…

  4. Lindsay May 26, 2012 at 7:07 pm #

    Way to go big sis!!! Needed
    A laugh today, sure have missed me some whine and cheese:)

  5. Gail May 26, 2012 at 10:52 pm #

    Awesome!

  6. Karen May 27, 2012 at 12:28 pm #

    Way to go Soph!!!!!

    p.s. You’re an awesome mom.

  7. rachellemariesoule May 27, 2012 at 4:33 pm #

    Yay! Big Sis! I was just telling Go Daddy that it’s okay if our Big Girl doesn’t really swim until next year. This stuff is happening too fast.

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