Keeping Your Head Above Water When Parenting


I've been held up at gunpoint twice in a retail store setting. My hands were ziptied behind my back and I counted silently to myself to try to determine how long I needed to wait to try to get help. A home invader in Texas was scared off by my dog while my infant son sat in a car seat nearby. I shudder to think what he wanted with me. These moments have left me fairly confident that I can deal with difficult situations. I feel lucky and blessed and appreciate the levelheadedness that I bring to tough times. And then this morning I'm running on slippery tiles alongside a heavily chlorinated pool in flip-flops with my 2 month old still attached to my boob yelling "Hey, hey, HEY!" to the instructors during free swim.

I put my son in swim lessons because I didn't want him to be like me. I can tread water for hours, I am a fairly strong swimmer, but I can't go under water without holding my nose. I know, lame. It definitely became awkward at pool parties in high school where I'd be hugging the wall furthest from the pool so that no one would throw me in. And the one time I did get thrown in I hacked on the side of the pool like a wet cat for 20 minutes. Very attractive.

It was the last day of swim lessons. The little kids were already out of the pool eating cupcakes and drinking juice boxes. My son's group was jumping into the pool. I was settled on a bench nursing the baby and listening to shouts of "Cannonball!". They were all shoulder to shoulder in the pool and I noticed that one boy in the class, who spent the first few days holding the side of the pool, was reaching for Ry's shoulder. And in the next instant Ry was underwater and the boy was nervously scaling him and flailing. For one second I was frozen trying to figure out if they were playing. And then I could see that Ry was frantically trying to wave his hands and was pushing on the bottom with his feet. The boy's father was watching them too and I thought for sure he'd say something. After all, he was right there and I halfway down the pool with a tiny barracuda on my breast. If I could see the struggle surely he could? But nothing happened. The adrenaline kicked in so I ran, nursing shawl streaming, baby bouncing, yelling my brains out. And a tiny sane piece of me was scanning other parents on the sidelines as I ran trying to figure out who looked like they would catch a tossed 2 month old the best if I had to jump in. Luckily, the instructor realized they weren't playing around and she hauled the boy off of Ry and got him to the side of the pool. I helped him out and everything in my body just oozed with manic mommy energy. Struggling to hold Sohayla, I got him near a window and he hacked up half the pool and sobbed.  It took every single ounce of my willpower to not sob with him, I was already shaking, but I didn't want to scare him anymore. He sat on my lap for a bit. I dried him off limb by limb like I do for my toddler, thinking about how big he's gotten.

In the midst of my thankful thoughts I noticed that the boy's dad was hovering. I tried to kill time because honestly I wasn't ready to say "It's all right" yet when the apology came. Well, silly me. There wasn't to be an apology. "Is he all right?" the boy's father asked. I let him know that he was pretty scared and his throat hurt a bit from the pool water but he would be ok. And then the moment came, the one where he should have just quit while he was ahead, he started talking about how they were really both all over each other trying to stay up out there." I'm sorry, WHAT? Are you really making it sound like both of our kids were floundering and having trouble and reached for each other? My son hacked water on the side of the pool for ten minutes and is now asking to stay home from day camp (which he loves) and your son just put three cupcakes in his mouth!  Seriously? I understand completely that it was not your child's fault. He panicked and he's learning to swim. He didn't do it intentionally. It was an accident. But have we really become a society where we try to spread the "blame" so that our kids don't "feel bad"? Because that will be a sad place to live.

Tonight I'll cook my son shrimp (his favorite), give him an extra hug and kiss when I put him to bed, and drink a glass of wine (my favorite). And tomorrow I'll try to get him into the pool again.


  1. Oh girl...drink two glasses of that wine. And make sure that kid is on the other end of the pool from your son tomorrow. I would have happily grabbed your barricuda, your drowning child, or the father who needed to be slapped to come to his senses.

  2. Thanks Des- I may have that glass of wine. But luckily my son is done with swim lessons and I'm bringing the toddler now. I did notice that the kid is now in Level 1 swim starting all over again.