Today was not at all what I planned (once again) but I should really be used to that by now.
DH and his Indian Drum group decided to get together for a potluck/cookout and drum practice today. The whole family was invited so we bought enough hot dogs for 20 people and headed out to a suburb on the other side of town. I don't normally have a lot to do at these get-togethers. The drum is loud, so I have to wear ear plugs to prevent a headache. It also means that casual conversation between songs isn't really possible. I attend these things because I like to show support for the things that DH is into, but they really aren't my thing. The people are nice enough, but they have much more in common with DH than they do with me. Today, we brought MIL and FIL with us so I would at least have MIL to hang out with. I can think of worse ways to spend the holiday.
Anyway, the meeting today was somewhere new. The house belonged to one of the drummers that had never hosted a practice before. That was probably why we were surprised that there was a pool and everyone was swimming when we got there. We didn't bring swim suits, and I don't even own one that fits. One look at my little girls faces and I knew what I had to do. I left everyone else there, and took MIL to the big, cheap, super store that is in every little town these days. Having bought swimsuits for my girls recently (twice, actually) finding something for each of them was actually pretty easy. I eyeballed a few suits and grabbed some that I decided were there sizes. Then, I snagged a pair of trunks for DH and the easy part of the trip was done.
Now, it was time for me to find a suit.
I can't remember the last time I really went swimming. I haven't worn a tank top in public for a long time, let alone a swim suit, certainly not since I gained the last 40 pounds. Finding a swim suit in my size was both humiliating and depressing. Finding one that not only fit, but didn't also make me look like a large, brightly flowered, pear was near on impossible. Since, I had MIL with me and she was suit shopping, too, I at least wasn't alone. MIL is roughly my size, so we were aiming in the same direction. It actually helped because we were able to make suggestions and criticisms of the suits without fear or embarrassment. We have different tastes, as well as comfort levels, but it was still nice to have the camaraderie. In the end, she chose a sporty and flattering one piece suit, which I also happened to think looked good on me. However, I refused to show up in the same suit as my Mother In Law, no matter how cute or flattering it was.
I tried on several other suits and made three trips to the fitting room. Two piece suits didn't have the, uh... support I needed on top, or bottom. One piece suits were better, but it was hard for me to find anything that was nearly the size on top that was needed. The embarrassing part came when I realized I was shopping from the wrong department. I needed to shop in the Women's section. This is also known as the Hefty or Plus Size section. This was where there were suits that had a little more coverage and a lot more support. Even though I decided long ago that the day I wore a dress in the swimming pool is the day I would drown myself, I found myself considering the style. The benefit of this style is that the suit has the style of a one piece with an extra added skirt around the hips. They are also a little more forgiving around the middle and a lot more supportive around the top. I have always associated them with older ladies or very large sizes. This is still the case, but the suit makers have been making them much nicer and in much smaller sizes these days so they are losing the label of "old lady wear" that they used to have.
So, after much deliberation, I found one that wasn't too frumpy, was one of my favorite colors (turquoise), and didn't have a skirt that went down to my knees.
While I was still nervous heading back to the party and donning my suit, I was a little comforted by the rest of the group that was swimming. I know it shouldn't really matter, but I was encouraged by the fact that everyone else who was swimming was at least the same size as I am, if not larger. If all these guys can sport their bare beer bellies and the other girls can swim around showing off their cellulite, so can I. So, I squeezed into my suit and walked out confidently to the pool.
There was another reason I decided to swim today. It was actually three reasons. None of my girls know how to swim. This is primarily due to the fact that I am such a terrible swimmer, which leads me to fear having my little ones around me in the pool. With DH nearby, it isn't so bad because he is a great swimmer, but there is still only one of him and three of them. I tend to hover around whoever isn't right next to DH and keep them trapped in the shallow end with floatees instead of letting them experiment and learn and gain confidence. As a result, I have a (nearly) 13 year old (as well as a 9 year old and an almost 7 year old) who can't swim or even float by themselves.
Today, I was determined I would not let my fears prevent them from enjoying themselves and missing out on a valuable part of their lives. I had already decided to visit the pool once or twice a week this summer. Now, I am realizing that is a much more important endeavor than I originally thought. I have changed my plans to include the regular pools instead of just the shallow, splash pools. It means letting all three girls in the deeper water all at the same time, but that is something I need to do. They need to learn to sink or swim.
This is much easier to say than to do, but it was still not as hard as I thought it would be. First of all, there were several other life guard trained, life time scouters swimming with us today. Secondly, there was a plethora of pool noodles for the girls to cling to. As long as they were gripping the noodles, they would be (for the most part) safe. For those who have never seen one, a pool noodle is a long, hollow, foam tube that are usually four foot long, and as big around as your forearm. They are also extremely buoyant. One of these noodles will support a fully grown (or overgrown) man completely. As far as fun pool toys go, these are top. The best use if them, in my option, is as a swimming aid. They can be used sort of like training wheels to let a new swimmer practice the movements and learn how to float without a teacher hovering over them.
I know they are not life-saving devices and that they should only be used with supervision, especially by non-swimmers. However, my girls were able to "swim" from the shallow end, to the deep end, and back again without any assistance other than the noodle balanced under their arms and across their chest. Letting them go that far away from me was more painful than I can actually describe. At least, at first it was. As the other adults in the pool encouraged them and kept a sharp eye for any signs of struggle, I was able to slowly relax. By the end of the afternoon, all three girls were happily kicking their way, fearlessly around the pool learning how to use them to blow fountains of water at each other.
The only issue that cropped up was from LH. Apparently, the drop off into the deep end was more steep than she realized and the confidence she had gained from paddling around with the noodle did not totally translate into true swimming skills. All I heard was a small splash and yell and she was bobbing under the surface of the water. I lunged for her at the same moment I realized that if she was drowning, I wouldn't be much help. Thankfully, within three seconds there were three sets of hands helping her out of the water and she was even carried carefully out of the pool.
She was safe. She never swallowed or inhaled water, so she never actually choked. In fact, she nearly didn't need any help at all. She had already managed to get her head above water at the same moment she was "rescued." As soon as she realized she was in too deep, she held her breath and started to kick. This was exactly what I had been telling her to do all afternoon. If you get scared, hold your breath and just keep kicking. You will make it to the surface and you will be alright. I know I kept repeating this to her and her sisters as much to make myself feel better as to impart some wisdom to them, but for once, it was well placed advice. In fact, had no one been there, I bet she would have continued kicking until she grabbed the edge of the pool and she might have rescued herself.
After she was safe on the ground and I made sure she was okay, I gave her a hug and backed off. She was still a little shaky, but the last thing I wanted to do was baby her and feed into her fear. Gramma was there to do that, which I had no problem with, but I wanted to try to show her that I was not as worried (as I truly was) so that she would not associate the water with more fear. I felt so awful staying in the pool while she recovered. How could I abandon my baby right after a near-death experience. I know it wasn't that bad, but in those first minutes after she got out of the water, my mind worked things up to be much worse than they had been. She sat with her Gramma for awhile, and I was a little afraid that she was going to sit pool-side the rest of the afternoon. However, she proved me wrong and impressed me when she was back in the water within 15 minutes. In spite of nearly drowning (in her mind at least) she returned to jumping in off the side and doggie paddling across the pool just as if nothing had happened.
My heart was breaking in my chest, and it killed me to see her shaking and crying and being comforted by someone else, but I am still confident I made the right choice. The fact that she came away from the afternoon with happiness and enjoyment instead of fear tells me that letting go a little made her stronger. She still can't swim on her own, but maybe she will have the confidence to try now, where she wouldn't have before.
That is, after all why we are parents, isn't it? To raise children who become adults who are confident enough to go out into the world on their own.
It could be that today was just a day at the pool for LH. For me it was a much bigger step as a parent. Today I was able to show confidence and hopefully pass a little of that on to my girls.
Debbie "Waterbaby" Lollar