Wednesday, February 4, 2015

The Boy Who Only Swims

Me in the cold North Atlantic, somewhere around 2004
Water is my life.  It's my livelihood, sure.  But it's my life.  Some of my best memories of this life are of fishing our local mill pond, baldcypress trees dangling overhead at age 7.  Memories of the fresh brine air of the Atlantic Ocean.  The first wave I ever caught.   Years later, the first truly big and scary wave I ever caught.  Catching buckets full of fiddler crabs with my friends all summer.  Remote coastal islands with tough sand beaches and scraggly vegetation.   Catching blue crabs off my neighbor's dock...how our technique improved from age 6 to age 16.  My first beach bonfire.





My son is not me, which is to say that he is fond of animals but not terribly interested in
them.  He takes calculated risks in the outdoors, but doesn't go overboard like I did for my first 30 years.  He remembers the things he sees outdoors and can tell the story in greater detail than I could at his age.   He is a different person.  One thing we share is a love of the immersion and weightlessness of water.  It's an addiction of his that I am always excited to feed.  When we arrive at any waterfront, it is inevitable that Hank is going in.  All the way in.   I was always that way.  Staying dry was for suckers, as far as I was concerned.

While swimming lessons have provided mixed results, Hank seems to have taught himself how to swim with his face in the water and to use his hands to search for seashells and rocks.   There's no sitting on the beach with this one.   I screwed up in preparations for our Florida trip in not ordering him a wetsuit.  I don't know what I was thinking.  Luckily a local surf shop in Venice Beach, FL (Windflight -check them out!) had what he needed.

Every day in Florida, Henry swam for an hour or more.  Up and down the beach.  Out to sea, and back again.  I generally stayed really close, and he likes the company.   More and more, he gets his back to the surface and lays out a nice form to keep floating.  One problem we keep having is that other parents put life preservers and floaties on their 5, 6, 7, and 8 year old kids (parents, please don't do this unless there's a specific medical need).  This creates two problems, which I've personally witnessed numerous times.

1.  The parent becomes inattentive and the child blissfully floats out into deep water, oblivious to the fact that she is in deep water.  This is really poor parenting (there, I said it) and your child could die.  Your child is learning that they can float without effort in water, and that is obviously not true.

2.  Due to this obliviousness, the child will call to other children like Hank and yell, "I'm swimming! You don't know how to swim, but I can!"  I guess that's the nature of kids, but Hank (who can actually swim) tends to get upset because he can't float as good as they can in their PFD.

These things present a parenting challenge, but I suppose it's like anything else in life - you handle it and move on.   I'm proud that my son is five years old and has a reverence for water and its ability to harm him.  I'm terrified that he doesn't mind jumping over the line of what's safe, but again, I suppose that's normal.  More than anything, I'm ecstatic that my boy has discovered that he can find refuge for his little mind and spirit in the saltwater.  I'm excited to see what form that takes (please, no jetskis).  Time will tell.



1 comment:

Ian Bancroft said...

Great read, thanks man!