I forgot to bring Sharkie. I remembered the suits, the towels, the swimming diapers. I even remembered to shave my legs. But it’s been months since I’ve been to a pool. I was out of practice with the mental packing list.
Our extended family owns a condominium. In the center of the complex is a building equipped with a party room, kitchenette, and pool area. Our kids love it when my cousins host the spring get together, cause any party with cake and chlorinated water is a good time.
Sharkie is the floating device Reece wears on her arms and around her waist. It is a wonderful invention that gives a kid confidence in the water and a parent some peace of mind while the kid kicks and splashes and giggles. It has been a necessary item on the checklist ever since Reece decided she wanted to keep up with her older sisters at the pool.
I needed Plan B. Reece was bummed by Sharkie’s absence the same way she might be if a friend decided not to come to the party. She didn’t want a Plan B. But on the deck of the party room is a large container of noodles and pool toys, and ta-dah!, life jackets. Luckily, there was one that would fit Reece.
She stood by the stairs ready to enter the pool. I walked fast to get caught up to her. I said, “Reece, you need to put this on.”
“No thanks,” she said, her little hand waved me off. “I fine.”
“This is not negotiable. You will put this on.” If she felt intimated by my authoritative voice, she indicated nothing. Instead, she moved to the other side of the rail, took a step in the water. I told her to stop.
She made her own face look authoritative. “No, I fine, I said!” She took another step. Water covered her shoulders. I moved to the other side of the rail, and as I got closer to her, she pushed off into the pool. The water was four feet deep. Her legs started kicking, but her little body balled up, her face stayed under water. I saw her back, the pink and black of her swimsuit, her winter pale skin.
She is the only one of our three daughters who started off comfortable in the water. She loves a good splash, a chance to jump in. Would she naturally find her way as a swimmer, too? I wondered if I wasn’t there if she would straighten herself and turn her face toward the ceiling and relax into a back float.
I didn’t want to wait to find out. I reached in to the water and pulled her to safety. She said, “I didn’t like that.” She cried.
She didn’t resist this time when I wrapped her up in the life jacket, clicked the buckles, and said, “You’re fine. You get back in there.” And I gave her a little push back to where she was trying to swim seconds before. She straightened herself with the help of the life jacket and kept her face dry. She struggled to find her confidence. “You’re fine,” I repeated. I hugged her.
I pretended not to be bothered by the sight of my kid underwater. “You’re fine,” I said. “Get back in there.” I set her on course to kick and splash again.
Inspired by the letter W in the A to Z Challenge for the month of April. What is your water story? Scroll past the media buttons and comment below.