A unique feature of our neighborhood pool, the featured entertainment for summer 2007, is the mammoth system of rings that spans the pool, where the children swing from ring to ring, like spider monkeys across the Amazon, till they get to the 20th ring on the other end of the pool. The most adept spider monkeys are allowed the option of swinging all the way back, which takes some time for that anxious person waiting next in line. I've never seen anything like it before--I was enthralled with them when I first saw them a few years ago. I wanted to conquer those rings...the kids made it seem so effortless. You access the rings by climbing up to a high dive, then you hook the first ring with a long metal hook. You swing off the diving board and grab the first ring...then you swing to the second. The kids make it seem so easy. This is something I would have been at constantly if I were a kid. So, I tried it last summer. While I was a fearless child that loved this kind of stuff, motherhood and/or advancing age have instilled a sudden fear of heights. It seemed so far to the bottom, but I mustered the courage and swung off the diving board, heading to the second ring. My arms seemed like they were coming out of my arm sockets and I lacked the natural neural rhythm to know when to let go and grab the next ring. I couldn't make it to the second ring. It pissed me off for awhile, and I kept trying, but couldn't get past the second ring. Then I started to get a complex about being the only stubborn 40-something old mom trying to tackle the rings...clearly the domain of the light and lithe.
I lost the bug to tackle the rings this summer, but I enjoy sitting under my SPF 129 ultra UV blocker beach umbrella watching the kids...they look like hairless breeds of monkeys...there are the spider monkey types, the gibbons, the loud Howler types, and the athletic stout ape types too; which, if they are over 30 years old, and male, I am very partial to watching.
My son's eleven year old friends are constantly on the rings; they regularly swim out to the dock that stands like a party island in the center of the sparkling blue Caribean Sea. My son, from the time he was born, has followed his own time table for development, which has been consistently slower than other kids his age. He's hesitant with physical endeavors--he didn't walk till he was 15 months old, didn't master riding a bike until he was nine, and now, the swimming is coming along...however slowly. My husband and I worry that his swimming wasn't strong enough yet to get him to the dock, so we told him he can't swim out there until he's shown us that he can swim without getting exhausted. I've tried to convey to him that swimming is a paradoxical sport where the more you relax, the better and faster you go through the water. He was trying, but not real hard.
On one level, I think it's hard for him having such athletic parents, and I worry that our athleticism will turn him against sports, but I decided that swimming at the neighborhood pool would be the least threatening, non-competitive, social sport we could introduce him to. What Nick wanted desperately,was to be with his friends, so he tried the rings. My son normally possesses a defeatist mentality where if he can't do it perfectly the first time, he just won't do it at all. It breaks my heart that he feels this way, but I understand it...I was like this too when I was young, and my greatest parenting challenge I face is imparting the importance of progress...practice...and advancing with baby steps to reach a goal. He tried the rings and didn't get to the second ring. But he tried again....and again...then one moment, days later, I looked up from my book under my SPF 129 UV blocker umbrella and I saw a gibbon-like hairless form slowly working down the rings. He was long and held his feet a certain way, that said, "yes...is this my son getting to the seventh ring?" My heart swelled. He was so proud and I tried pointing out that he can do something I can't do...that diligent practice has paid him huge dividends. He couldn't stop smiling he was so happy for doing this...his appetite whet for success.
Shortly after this, he started trying harder to implement the principles that would make him a better swimmer. He was swimming longer distances, albeit with far from perfect form, but getting less exhausted with the effort. The day had come--he asked if he could go out to the dock with his friends and I told him fine, but only if I can swim out there too. I swam inconspicuously in the distance, like a mother seal, watching for signs of drowning, and tread water nearby while the boys goofed around on the dock. I wondered how he liked this new perspective from the previously unattainable dock, looking toward the shore so far away. We head back for shore. Nick was happy to attain his goal, but he was tired...didn't feel like biting off more than he could chew. Another milestone...reached.