Money Well Spent

We are spending about three or four hours a day at the pool since coming to Tahoe, usually a morning session and an afternoon swim.  Babyman loves the pool here; for the first time in his life, he can (barely) touch the bottom of the shallow end, and he spends a great deal of time on his tiptoes gasping for air.

My husband and I, of course, would love to see some real swimming.  For the past year or so, Babyman has been taking private swim lessons, and the kid’s got skills.  Seriously.  But, as with all things Babyman, they depend massively on his mood and inclination to oblige.  So we wade out to the middle of the pool and holler, as enticingly as possible, “Hey Babyman, show me your airplane arms!  Show me those splashy kicks!” and he either swims to us (accolades!) or shouts “Not now!” (okay! when you’re ready! we’re keeping it positive here!).  At which point, we mosey on back to the steps of the pool where Babygirl has planted herself, the better to wave flirtatiously at the other swimmers in her floppy straw hat.

I’ll level with you here and say that these private swim lessons are not inexpensive.  I would estimate we’ve spent close to $1,000 on our moody little Michael Phelps in the past few years.  But we feel strongly that swimming is a life-saving safety skill, so we’re sticking with it.

About a month ago, I thought that the lessons were really clicking.  For one thing, Babyman had finally mastered the art of coming up for air.  On an uncrowded weekday at our local pool in San Francisco, I could even let him splash around in the water solo while I sat right next to the pool in a chair.  But then he started lessons with a new Teacher, a funny young guy who seemed to connect with the boys in lessons we’d observed, with a bunch of tricks up his sleeve: Tub toys!  Diving sticks!  Goggles!

Oh, the goggles.  Babyman is rather particular about things on his head.  He is not fond of hats or sunglasses.  But we found some splashy Spiderman goggles and he finally allowed Teacher to put them on.  Suddenly, he was off like a dolphin, kicking and pulling his way across the pool.  I was cheering from the pool deck, taking video footage, and thanking my lucky stars my boy can swim.

Babyman being Babyman, however, then found a way to foil the system.  Here in Tahoe, where he first purported not to want goggles, he located a forgotten pair at the pool.  Forgotten on purpose, perhaps, given that they are broken.  They have no straps.  But my resourceful little munchkin took care of that in a jiffy, dunking them in the water and then suctioning them to his eye sockets.  Voila!  No straps necessary.

Until they pop off.  Which is often.  And usually after Babyman has scissor-kicked his way to the deep end or leaped off the wall, arms outstretched, “To Infinity!  And Beyond!”

So inevitably at the most dangerous and compromised moment, the goggles pop off and suddenly, instantly, Babyman can no longer swim.  It’s as if they are magic goggles: wearing them, he can do laps.  Without them, he sinks.

If you are wondering how to alienate the largest number of people as quickly as possible, consider the reaction when you joyfully throw your kid into the deep end of a pool only to see him burst through the surface in a screaming panic: “Help me!  I can’t swim!”  Other parents will judge you.  Sunbathing retirees will judge you.  Teenage lifeguards will judge you.  You will judge yourself.  And then, minutes later, when everyone has recovered from the scare and Babyman has successfully affixed the magic suction goggles to his face anew and can once again swim like a little otter, you will feel a teeny-tiny bit of resentment: Damn Those Goggles!

I have tried to lose the magic goggles a few times, but Babyman keeps finding them…in the debris traps in the pool, floating in the deep end, drying on a deck chair.  And because we are on vacation, and vacation is supposed to be fun (even when your 4-year-old is practically drowning himself trying to stick strapless goggles to his face while treading water), I am really making an effort to keep a cool head and just let him enjoy the goggles while we’re here.  But know this: when we get back to San Francisco we will once again sign up for swim lessons.  Probably with a new teacher.  And definitely — most definitely — with no goggles allowed.

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