Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Swimming lessons, life lessons

It’s really hard watching Harrison at the pool.

When I was a little girl, I took tumbling and twirling classes at the local daycare. We had our classes in the evening in the back building that was used for the little kids during the day. There was a mirror that ran the length of the wall and we watched ourselves dance and twirl as Miss Margaret showed us our new skills. For tumbling, we would line up along one of the side walls, she would show us our skill—cart wheeling, flipping, whatever—and we would take turns repeating the skill across the length of the room. Once we were on the other side, we were to go to the back of the room and cross back, getting back in line and repeating as many times as she instructed.

At the time that I was taking this class, Staying Alive, the (in retrospect really terrible) sequel to Saturday Night Fever, was out and was very popular. There’s this scene that shows John Travolta and Cynthia Rhodes practicing for an upcoming audition. The music is a ballad, some love song, and the dancing has been slowed down to emphasize how in love these two characters really are.

I didn’t really care about how much in love they were—I was eight years old, after all—but I was very interested in Jackie’s (Cynthia Rhodes’ character) dance moves. I wanted to be like her and tried very, very hard to emulate her moves. During tumbling class, when Miss Margaret showed us what to do, I’d do my cartwheels or my round-offs or whatever all the way across the room, just like I was supposed to do, but when I was supposed to go to the back of the floor and walk quietly to the end of the line, I would instead do these flying leaps that were straight out of Jackie’s repertoire.

I didn’t get in trouble for them, because I wasn’t really causing too much of a disturbance, but I remember being noticed because of them, sometimes not in a very positive way, by my classmates.

I mention this because when I watch my son in swim class, I can see that he’s excited to be there. I can see that he’s full of exuberance when he does his Kung-fu/Voltron moves at the end of his turn. I’m excited for him.

But he will not listen to his teachers. They ask him to get on the wall and wait for his next turn and he instead wants to jump and kick. They try to show one of the other kids the move and he’s dancing over around them, shouting “Look at me!”

I’m torn between going into the pool area—parents are banished to the sidewalk outside the fence so we don’t distract the kids—and getting his attention so I can straighten him out immediately or letting him finish his lesson and just taking him home so that he misses the free swim at the end when everyone gets a toy and plays.

He’s already telling me that he doesn’t want to go back to swimming class because he keeps getting in trouble. I don’t want him to associate swimming with trouble and spankings. I also don’t want him to quit something just because he thinks it’s too hard to do. Mind you, he’s doing fine with the swimming—not great, but for a kid who has had very little exposure to swimming in his past four years and 50 weeks of life, he’s doing pretty good. He just can’t won’t listen. I know he can. He just won’t.

We’ve had this same problem for some time now at his preschool. Every time he starts a new class, he has what I’ve come to call his ‘adjustment period.’ He’s always been somewhat hard-headed and has had to go the hard route to get anything done. There have been many, many orange notes sent home. Many nights spent on the green carpet. Many spankings. He always usually gets his stuff figured out eventually and learns how to get along in the new surroundings. This is only a two week class, though.

I’m worn out.

I had hoped that he would want to do the next level of lessons after this one, but I’m not sure he’ll even finish this one.

Maybe tomorrow’s lesson will be better.

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