The crickets were loud, almost deafening. The pool sat at the far left edge of the overgrown yard, past the well-loved hammock and creaky wooden table and chairs. It was enclosed by a metal fence that was distinctly out of place, a sore eye for its master, a classic french villa and her rustic landscape. It was clearly erected for safety, not as a permanent fixture in her grounds.
Braeden was 5, Raegan just 3, neither who could competently swim. So I was grateful, even if the aesthetic was off. This small, albeit unattractive gesture on the property owners part, meant I could relax, taking my eyes off the kids during our 10 day holiday in Nice.
Braeden loved the water, as most Pisces do. He had certainly clocked his hours in the pool, lakes and oceans, even if his body wasn’t yet exemplifying the proficiency and elegance swimming requires.
That first morning, buoyed by arm floats, he jumped, splashed, shouted, and kicked wildly. When Braeden swam, nothing else mattered. He radiated joy that couldn’t help but make onlookers smile. Given his zest, I privately feared he was always on the verge of drowning.
We had chosen this particular villa for the pool because my husband Sean and I had decided…we would use this holiday to teach Braeden to swim!
That afternoon, while Raegan napped and we had said goodbye to the arm float fairy, the three of us made our way through the weed-ridden, overgrown grass to the gated pool, the crickets chirping monotonously in our ears. After lavishing Braeden’s translucent and partially freckled skin with sunblock, he jumped into the pool with his undeniable zest to Sean, seemingly not noticing the absence of his familiar arm float buddies.
Sean started by having Braeden jump into the pool and swim to him directly, extending his distance from the pool’s edge after each jump to build his confidence. Next, hands holding on to the side of the pool, they practiced the difference between wild kicking and quiet kicking. Sean, in his intellectual way, attempted to “describe” the idea of swimming without using our arms—just floating on the waters surface, face down, quietly kicking. I watched Braeden’s face for a sign that he was getting it. Not yet.
After several failed or at best, faulty attempts, Braeden’s frustration started to take shape, initially, it bubbled under the surface like a small geyser. When would it blow? I watched intently. The bubbles started to swell and multiply. First as defiance, then tears. For the first time, swimming wasn’t fun for him anymore. His face held grief, his love momentarily lost.
I could feel my own tension—that distinct motherly pull between wanting to make everything better and knowing there is a lesson to learn. Today, it was peppered with a little anger. Was Sean pushing him too hard? By now Braeden’s eyes begged me for rescue. I decided to suggest a break. We all needed one.
After dinner, the cricket orchestra well warmed up, a similar scene ensued. But this time, I watched Sean more intuitively learn to balance Braeden’s need for fun with his need to teach him to swim, resulting in less frustration for them, and less tension for me as the spectator.
And then, it happened, something in the way Braeden was moving in the water changed. He found his aquatic groove!
Watching from my sun chair, book in hand, floppy hat protecting my eyes from the setting sun, I jumped up and shouted, “that’s it buddy, you got it! Well done.”
That moment left me teary. No words exchanged, their smile, humble pride and hug saying it all.