To the woman at the pool who watched my 8 year old swim for the first time

Dear kind woman in the yellow hat at the pool today,

I cannot thank you enough for your words today as you watched my son swim and float independently in the pool for the first time. You smiled, commended him for doing a great job and then you told me, “There is that summer, you know, when they get it. He gets it.” This casual observation made my smile beam stronger than the rays of sunlight bouncing off my boy’s freckled face as he floated in the water at the town pool.

Your words are words I never thought anyone would ever say about my son, someone who never advanced beyond the beginning swim class his 3 year old sister now takes, even after 5 long, fruitless years of lessons.

You must have noticed the other children in the pool doing the same. The only difference was, they were mostly two to three years younger than my son, their bodies resembling more that of his little sister clinging to me in the water. Maybe you thought my son was big for his age but in reality he is going into third grade.

But before you dismiss him as a slow learner or write me off as an impatient or worse, an indifferent mother, I need to tell you a few things about my son.

He is gifted and talented which means much more than bringing home As on his report cards. I think many people do not realize that the wiring of a gifted child’s brain fully entrenches the body and touches every nerve. The same wiring that enabled him to place nationally in a math competition this spring is also faulty when it comes to things like swimming. His wiring short circuits on repetition and drills. The close proximity of the kids, the splashing, the cold water in the unheated pool all wreak havoc on sensory difficulties automatically set to overdrive. He seizes, he get anxious and yes, very scared.

So you see, before he crawled onto the wall for the first time he had a few strikes against him.

Year after year I dreaded the start of our pool’s summer swim lessons, knowing he would be in the beginning level again, knowing he would not get promoted to the next level, and knowing I pretty much was writing a check to be tossed into the pool right along with him. He never advanced beyond kicking at the wall and needed an instructor to guide him around on the kickboard.

I tried different pools, teachers and methods but the result was always the same. He could not float, let alone swim on his own. After five years he was still learning to talk to the fishies but I needed him to be a fish. We were sentenced to the kiddie pool and the splash pad and it was not lost on me that with each passing summer he grew taller but the other kids there remained the same size.

Two summers ago I didn’t even bother signing him up for lessons. The month of July was spent moving halfway across the country and the month of August was spent with our agent at house showings as the tick-tock clock of the waning real estate season rang loud and clear. We found our forever home in a beautiful subdivision containing not just homes but pools and children his age. It was only a matter of time before the invites to the pool parties started trickling in. I want him to be invited back but more importantly, I don’t want to be fearful of his safety while he is there with his deep-end happy friends who have long since graduated from swimming lessons.

This year though something in me clicked too. I couldn’t bear seeing my son as the caboose of the kickboard train one day longer. After the first session ended the same way it always did, I pulled him out and wrote a bigger check, this time for private lessons. There had to be a better way. There was. One-on-one, no kids kicking in his face as he lagged behind, a teacher who actually gets in the pool and gets his hair wet alongside my son.

Five days later and here we meet, you and I at the pool, two hours after his lesson, trip number two to the pool for the day at his request because he loves his new skill so much.

I will borrow your words and say now, he gets it. My boy can swim. Alleluia, my boy can swim!

I hope to see you again at the pool very soon.



A grateful mom of an 8-year old who can finally swim

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