I made a critical error today. Today was too much fun for Monkey. Like, all-day-long bouncing happy shiny FUN FUN FUN.
Which means that tomorrow, I am screwed.
[Don’t believe me? Here’s what happened at bedtime:
Monkey: MAMA! I LOVED TODAY! Tomorrow will be EVEN BETTER!
Me: Um, well, I loved today too, Buddy, but tomorrow might be less exciting.
Monkey: No WAY! Let’s do it all again tomorrow!
Me: We’ll see.
Monkey: Maybe we can do MORE!
Me: *softly weeping*]
So if you don’t hear from me tomorrow, it’s because I decided to take Monkey to Disneyland….
So tomorrow is Chickadee’s last! day! of! school! and I’ll have one more chance to show Monkey how awful it really is, hanging out with me. Perhaps I’ll lock him in his room for the day.
I joke. I would never do that. Why lock a child in their room when there are floors to be scrubbed?
Anyway. We ran some errands this morning and then ended up having a friend come over; her mom was overextended so we just kidnapped her for the day. So much for quality time with Mama! Nope, it was puzzles, and games, and running around in the sprinkler outside, and maybe Mama will put some food in front of us periodically, but other than that, who cares! I have decided that from now on, Monkey shall only have play dates with girls. The two of them played for about four hours with nary a raised voice. There was no arguing. There were no disagreements about what to do next. I watched them leap through the sprinkler a dozen times, giggling wildly, and the next time I peeked outside they were ROLLING AROUND in a mud wallow they’d dug. But it was impossible to be upset, because they’d played together so well all day.
(On second thought, I don’t think I can chalk this up to his playmate being a girl. Chickadee’s a girl, and sometimes I have to separate the two of them before they kill each other or burn down the house. Clearly my friend’s daughter is just an ALIEN. A friendly, agreeable mud-loving alien. We’ll just have HER over again.)
Chickadee hopped off the bus, wilting in the heat, wanting to know if SHE could go in the sprinkler as well. Our friend was collected and we said our goodbyes, and Chickadee went to get her swimsuit on. In the meantime, our friends with a pool (I highly recommend having at least one friend with an in-ground pool) called to invite us for swimming and dinner. Woo!
Off we went to go turn ourselves into chloriney prunes.
The (collective) group of kids splashed and ran around and invented games and–later–ate their weight in hot dogs. A successful afternoon all around.
At one point, the younger kids were off playing on the swingset and my friend and her 11-year-old son and I were the only ones in the pool.
“J just learned how to DIVE!” she told me, giving him a friendly poke. “He should show you.”
“Mom….” I’m as sympathetic to the plight of the awkward pre-teen as the next mom, but J was in trouble here with me, despite his obvious embarrassment.
“Really, J? Show me?” He peered at me, probably trying to figure out if I was feigning interest. “Please show me?” I persisted. “You’re 11, right?” He nodded. “I couldn’t dive until I was about 14, and I’m still lousy at it. Show me your dive!”
He swam to the edge and climbed out. I watched as he ambled out to the end of the diving board, positioned his feet, clasped his hands up and out, and carefully dove into the water. We moms beamed at him.
“That was awesome, J! Really, I don’t even know if know how to dive anymore. That was great.” He blushed while his mom assured me that OF COURSE I still know how to dive. I decided to try it.
Here’s the thing with me and diving: I swam like a fish from my earliest memories. I love the water. I’m a solid swimmer–not the fastest or the strongest but capable enough. I went to summer camp every year and rose through the ranks of swim classes at a predictable speed. And then I stalled out.
Because I couldn’t dive.
I was not allowed to progress to Junior Lifesaving until I could dive, and I couldn’t dive. Everyone tried to teach me how. And the more they tried to teach me, the more freaked out I became, and the less I wanted to learn.
I forget exactly how it happened… I’m pretty sure it involved a VERY patient camp counsellor and a month of the finest ridicule my fellow campers had to offer… but I finally learned to dive. Sort of. I learned to take off with my feet in such a way that my fingertips went into the water first and my toes went in last, and if I was lucky, what transpired inbetween those two events would be quick and not too painful.
It’s been twenty years since I learned how, and I couldn’t remember the last time I’d attempted a dive.
So this afternoon, I swam to the ladder and pulled myself out of the water. I walked out to the end of the diving board and looked down. Understand, this isn’t a high dive. This is a nice pool, but a family pool in the backyard. The diving board is maybe two feet above the surface of the water, if that.
I stood on the end of the board and looked down and remembered why it took me so long to learn how to dive. “Wow, you know, I feel like a complete idiot,” I called out to my friend. “I’m afraid of heights, you know. I get queasy up here and I’m barely elevated. I suck.” I laughed and jumped into the water.
When I surfaced, my friend asked me if I really get queasy on the board. I confirmed that I do. I felt really silly. The 11-year-old was looking at me like he really wanted to laugh, but was too polite to do so.
“Okay, maybe I can start by just diving off the side,” I found myself saying. Over to the ladder again. Up out of the water again. Standing on the edge, next to the board. Looking down. Still queasy.
I hate entering the water head first. I hate being propelled deep down under the water and I hate getting water up my nose and I hate having to worry about where my legs are and what they’re doing. I hate worrying that if I don’t curl enough I’ll belly-flop and if I curl too much, maybe I’ll slam into the wall.
But mostly I hate not being able to look at the water while I go in. I hate tucking my head down and entering the water blind.
My toes curled over the edge while I studied the water, thought about where to put my arms, how to push off, where I needed to aim. I took a big breath and pushed off.
It was a sloppy dive, but a dive nonetheless. I surfaced halfway down the pool. My friend and her son cheered. J and I took turns diving for a bit–I did a few more off the side–and then he got bored.
I climbed out again and headed for the board. By now, the other kids were back, and Chickadee sat on the steps at the shallow end chanting “CannonBALL! CannonBALL!” My toes twitched on the edge of the board, and I bounced slightly. I’d done 4 or 5 dives by now. No problem. I launched.
Ow. Not quite a belly-flop… more like a face-flop. I’d not maintained the chin-tuck, and my face stung. I decided I need to get one perfect dive under my belt before I could stop. So I cycled through and dove three or four more times.
Every single time I walked out to the end of the diving board, my stomach lurched. Every time I tucked my chin into my chest, my vision narrowed.
I kept waiting for it to get easier, and it never did. But I kept doing it.
When I stopped–satisfied that I’d refined my form insofar as well possible–my friend insisted that if she didn’t know that I’d had trouble, she would’ve just assumed I’d been diving my whole life. “You looked good,” she said. “Nice and confident.”
I swam around a bit, feeling conflicted… and when Chickadee whacked her head on the edge over by the steps, I was happy to get out and curl up on a chair with her for a bit.
I wanted to be pleased with myself for practicing, even though I hated every second of it. Instead, I felt melancholy. Why didn’t it get any easier? Was continuing in the face of my fear admirable or just pointless?
As I handed Monkey his clothes to change into, he flashed me that grin of his and said, “You did some good diving out there, Mama! In the DEEP WATER!” I rumpled his hair and thanked him.
But all I could think was, why didn’t it get any easier?