Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Wizard of the Y


Welcome to "The Gods Are Bored," where Samhain is nearly upon us! May your ancestors greet you with pride and joy!

Okay, maybe not this kind of Pride and Joy.

I am still rehabbing my newly titaniumized hip joint. I have moved on to swimming pool therapy. Except that Mr. Johnson and I can't afford a swimming pool membership. So we did a kind of sneaky thing. We got a two week trial period at a posh health club in the neighboring borough. When that "tryout" runs out, I hope I'm ready to rehab on dry land.

Can't afford physical therapy either. $30 copay per visit. I'm doing the pool exercises on my own.

Today I was at the pool in the morning for about 90 minutes. (Who has time for this, day after day?) In that time, I saw four moms bring in their cute little tots for swimming lessons. The moms sat and made cellphone calls while their tots learned to swim with a certified instructor.

Watching those cute kids with their perky teacher reminded me of how my kids learned to swim.

A long time ago I decided to teach my daughter The Heir how to swim. Why pay someone else to do it? So I got a membership at the local YMCA (since torn down) and began teaching her myself.

Mind you, my definition of swimming is pretty simple. You've got to be able to tread water, swim underwater a short distance, dive or jump into deep water, and swim four laps, dog-paddling if necessary.

Well, The Heir was young and afraid of almost everything. She was especially reluctant to put her head underwater. We went to the YMCA week after week, and she started dog-paddling pretty well, and treading, but she wouldn't put her face in the water.

An elderly gentleman was always there in the pool, doing a little bit of exercise but otherwise just people-watching. Once when The Heir got out of the pool to fetch a noodle, I struck up a conversation with the guy. It turned out he was a retired elementary school principal, and he was getting a kick out of watching me with The Heir. I told him about the brick wall I'd hit, trying to get her to go underwater.

He said, "Tell her I'm a wizard, and I'll work magic on her."

So when The Heir came back to the pool, I pointed out the guy. Of course she had seen him there all along, but it was news to her that he was a magical wizard who would work magic so that going underwater wouldn't be scary anymore.

The Heir looked at the guy. He bowed his head grandly and made a lordly gesture.

I took The Heir over to the lane rope that I'd tried a thousand times to get her to duck under. This time, with one last glance back at The Wizard, she ducked right under, came up sputtering, and pronounced it not so bad. After a few more tries, she was comfortable going underwater.

We thanked The Wizard for his magic.

Many, many years have passed now. Both of my daughters can swim and ride bikes. I taught them. I'm glad. It's a pleasant memory, the little daughter slipping into my arms from a jump into the pool, or holding my hands as she kicks to the center. It's warming to think about those first tentative pedal-pushes on the bike, the sense of pride when it all fell in place.

Now that I'm sort of a wizard myself, I do sorely want to tell those cell phone moms at the posh health club that they're missing something big by allowing professionals to teach the kiddies to swim. Those kids won't make the Olympics ... why care about stroke technique? Why, when you can swirl your tot around in the water as she giggles and squirms?

Funny how you think of these things sometimes. I guess that Wizard of the Y has long ago gone to Great Sidhe, there to live with the bored gods forever. And if The Heir falls off a boat, she knows how to swim. And when I remember teaching her, I am full of grace.

9 comments:

sageweb said...

What a great story and a great guy the wizard was. I was one of those swim teachers and you are absolutely right I got to experience a lot of joy from the child as the mom sat in the viewing room. I also go to experience a lot of snotty noses and spit up..

mrsb said...

I saw a story a while back on a news show, where people were hiring someone to teach their kids to ride a bike. Whhhaaaa? Not only were they missing out on a life moment with their child, they were paying someone big bucks to do it!

Stupid. The sad part is, these types are so selfish and lost in themselves, they probably won't ever realize what they missed.

THE Michael said...

This is the American way. Work is something you pay immigrants to do for you.

Reading these snippets I wish my Mom had had a computor and a blog, so I could go back and find what was on her mind when she had me, then lost me, then found me again.

yellowdog granny said...

I loved that story..
I wish the Wizzard was still around, he sounded very smart.
I taught all 3 of the kids to swim..the boys were really easy, but mojo has a mind of her own..When i would try and teach her she would wiggle out of my arms and say'I can do it myself.'..and then she would get in the shallow water and walk across the bottom of the pool, with her head laying on the side of the water and making swimming strokes from one side of the pool to the other.when i pointing out to her that she wasn't swimming she was walking..she said"you swim your way, I'll swim mine."..and eventually she taught her self..but she wouldn't let anyone 'teach her anything'...I'll do it myself mom.'...geez

Thalia Took said...

I wish I'd had your wizard around. Or at least someone with some kindness to them.

I was one of those kids too scared to put my face in the water when they tried to teach us in 6th grade (my middle school, though it was otherwise a horrible 70's abomination, for some reason had a pool). The TA decided that the best way to get me to do it was to attempt to bully me into doing it, which is kind of not how you deal with someone who's already frightened. I never did manage it, being an extremely stubborn type (especially when scared), and it was a very, very traumatic thing for me.

I still can't swim.

Terra said...

Paying someone else to spend time with my kids always seemed to me as silly as paying someone else to eat a great meal for me or to listen to wonderful music for me. I really don't understand the parents who find a cell phone conversation more interesting than their child's new experiences. I am sad for them.

sott'Eos said...

Some of the comments here seem to focus on these parents being selfish, or feeling that work is beneath them. I think that something else is going on. It has benefited many industries to convince people (not just parents) that they are not competent and could cause severe (expensive) irreparable harm if they don't hand many tasks over to professionals.

You can't teach your child to swim; you could scar them for life. We have 'certified' professionals who can do a much better job. You can't do your own brake job; you could kill your entire family! For just a small fortune, corporate America will take care of the big, bad, complicated, dangerous world (you silly little idiots).

Inanna said...

What a wonderful story about the wizard of the Y!

My mom is afraid of deep water and so vowed that my sister and I would learn to swim at very young ages. She took each of us to parent-and-baby swim lessons at the Y when we were under a year old. (My understanding is that a swim teacher would coach the parents on what to do with the babies, but parents and babies were in the pool together the whole time.) Both my sister and I grew up swimming and continue to love it to this day.

I plan to do the same thing with my baby--get 'em in the pool when they're a few months old. Maybe there will be a wizard at our Y, too.

Matt Gerlach said...

Sott'eos' comment makes a good point. From the moment of conception parents are inundated with dos and don'ts and "The 10 Million Best Ways to Scar Your Child and Not Know." Maybe many parents offer their children money and what it can provide because they don't believe in their own personal ability to parent and influence their child's life for the better?