I decided to sign Ellie and me up for a baby swim class. I had this idea when we were in the dead middle of winter. I was anxious to get out of the house and this seemed like something new to try. The only problem was that I was completely insecure of the idea. I made a million excuses to not sign-up. It was too much money, it was too far away, it was at the wrong time. None of these things were true, they were just covering up the fact that I hate being barefoot in public and the thought of wearing a swimsuit makes me really uncomfortable. I haven’t worn a swimsuit since we went to Hawaii on vacation seven years ago. I didn’t complain about it then because we were in Hawaii. But I really think this class would be good for Ellie, and it would push me out of my comfort zone, so I reluctantly and nervously signed up and have been worried ever since.
I don’t exactly have good memories of swim classes from my youth. I’m not afraid of the water or anything like that. We had a pool growing up, I’ve been in the ocean, I even take baths, so I can handle the water. But with the anxiety of this class approaching all of my childhood swim class memories were resurfacing.
I must have been in second grade and it was the first day of swim class. There was a beginners class and an advanced class. Somehow I had gotten mixed up with the big kids. I remember sitting there thinking, I’m not sure I belong here, these kids are awfully big, and that water looks awfully deep. And then I noticed my mom in the bleachers waving me over to the other side of the pool where the beginners were. Ooops. During the same series of classes, we had to go up on the diving board and jump down. I was heckled by some punk kid.
“You can’t do it, you’re a scared-e-cat!” he heckled.
I did it, though. I jumped in. Scared out of my mind, but I did it. However, when it was his turn, he couldn’t jump. He stood there so freaked out he had to go back down. I actually felt bad for him, but just a little bit. I learned a major life lesson that day. Bullies are just insecure people who don’t know how to properly express themselves. I was loving swimming class.
Also during one of those classes, I slipped in the locker room and chipped my front tooth. I was walking briskly (not running!) in the locker room to enter the pool and I slipped. I fell face forward on my front tooth and SMASH! My tooth shattered across the floor like a broken glass bottle. (You’re probably wondering how it could be, since I have a million dollar smile. It’s part fake. Now you know.) I went to the pool to see the teacher with blood dripping down my face and then I was rushed off to an emergency dentist appointment. It was awful. But luckily, I don’t think I had to go back to class after that.
Fast forward to seventh grade swimming class. I couldn’t swim in a straight line because I couldn’t open my eyes underwater. And since no one else had goggles in class, I didn’t feel it necessary to bring more unwanted attention to my awkward self. I figured I could stand a little humiliation of being the crooked swimmer instead of trying to open my eyes underwater. When we’d play water baseball and I had to swim to first base, I’d jump in and start flailing my arms and legs frantically in hopes I’d make it somewhere. I’d already have been tagged out and a new batter was up before I even realized I was out. I hated swimming class.
My crooked swimmer problem never affected anybody else but me. Until… We had to swim in pairs from one end of the pool to the other. Side by side. It was me and this other girl. I had the outside lane. Aww crap. This isn’t gonna go well, I remember thinking. If I can veer right (away from her), that would be the best scenario. God help me. We both jumped in the water with the entire class standing watching us. She was swimming and I was I just a blind splashing mess of arms and legs. The length of a pool never felt longer. This was the longest swim of my life. And just as I thought I was in the clear, I felt something soft yet firm in my hand. This was not the edge of the pool. It couldn’t be. I had, with a full firm grip, grabbed her butt in front of the whole class. Obviously this was not intentional, and even if it was, I was not the type of guy who could have pulled off such a maneuver with such cool-guy-ness ease. She was just as embarrassed as I was while everyone laughed. Every time I passed her in the hallway in high school, I remember thinking not so fondly, I grabbed your butt.
With all this past swim class experiences, needless to say, I was feeling anxious. I had tons of questions. Did the lockers have locks? How early should I get there? What if I showed up to the pool barefoot and the teacher asks me where my regulation flip-flops are? Should I change Ellie into her suit there or at home? Would I be the only dude in the class, again? I need to ease my fears. So I decided to do a swim class dry run. Well, a wet run.
I put Ellie’s waterproof cloth diaper on, changed her into her swimsuit, and filled up the bathtub. Ellie kept looking at me like I was crazy. Why am I in the bath with clothes on? After awhile she didn’t care. She seemed to have fun. I had to buy a swimsuit, so I tried that on to make sure I wouldn’t have a wardrobe malfunction during class. I didn’t get in the tub though. I just soaked my feet.
Even after all of this preparation and the swim class preview, I was still pretty nervous. But this wasn’t about me, it was about Ellie, and it would be good to push my boundaries anyways. I was ready to conquer my fears. Let’s do this. And if anyone feels any roaming grabby hands in the water, you can rest assure, they aren’t mine. I promise!