Wednesday at the pool
Every Wednesday, I take my boys to swimming lessons. Every Wednesday, I meet this woman and her son. Well, I meet lots of women and their sons, and some men and their sons, and daughters, and so on…
Anyway, every Wednesday, this one boy screams blue murder as soon as it’s time for his lesson. His mother claims he got spooked one day when his class was asked to do the backstroke a few weeks ago because he downed more than the equivalent of his body weight in water. She didn’t exactly put it that way but I imagine that’s the way it happened. She asks him to get in the pool, alternating between threats and bribery, to no avail. She starts off asking him to get in the water and join the lesson but by the time she’s run through the gamut of options, she wearily settles for asking him to just stand outside the pool and watch the lesson.
Embarrassed, she looks around. We, the other parents, surreptitiously watch the spectacle but quickly avert our eyes and feign disinterest as she looks up. At first, she’s defiant, defensive but she soon loses the fight and succumbs to that syndrome with which most parents are generally afflicted and gives in to the need to rationalise and explain her child’s less than stellar behaviour. ”He can swim”, she says to no one in particular. Her ears have turned a deep crimson from her efforts to remain calm when it is apparent she is keeping a tight rein on her true emotions. ”He just doesn’t want to,” she shrugs, resigned to spending the next half hour negotiating with her distraught offspring.
We take her feeble explanation as a cry for help and tacit permission to get involved. Some of us meet her eyes, our empathy shining through as if to say we understand, we’ve been there. Others are more vocal in their show of support and try to coax the rather unwilling pupil to give it another shot while reassuring the distressed mother that this, too, shall pass. A small number shake their heads and sigh, barely able to hide their disgust at the woman’s inability to get her child to do as he’s told.
Eventually, though he still won’t get in the water, his loud cries fade into quiet mumblings. The rest of us, thankful for the respite, return to whatever it is we were doing.
Lesson over, the mother leads her son to the changing rooms. We overhear her tell him ”we’ll be back next Wednesday.” The rest of us look at each other, our eyes conveying words our mouths will not dare utter. We are not looking forward to next Wednesday.