Cool Pool


Ever since our son was born, my husband has this phobia of him growing up to be a sissy, mama’s boy.

And like all Murphy’s laws, this fear too has been close to coming true many times. Though physically he is my husband’s replica, I can see a lot of not-so-wanted traits of mine in him.

Fear being the first in the list.

I remember driving my mom up the wall with my ridiculous fears. I would not sleep alone in a room till I turned 25. I can never go into any room alone in the dark even now. My brother used to enjoy switching off the bathroom light from the outside and hear me scream.
Though I was never scared of reptiles & other insects, I used to get scared of lots of other things. Injections, beggars who used to come to my ancestral home dressed up as some mythological heroes, an old wrinkly servant in my grand mother’s house … the list was just endless!

My son is terrified of lizards and frogs. He wanted me to call the cops once, when I couldn’t chase a lizard away.

Anyway, this post is about a totally different fear. When my son was two, my husband wanted him to learn swimming. And  my son loved playing in the water. Like all kids, he had a small inflatable pool at home which he used to the fullest & used to love to splash in the shallow side of any pool we took him to.

Trouble started when I enrolled him in a summer coaching class when he was five. The first lesson was to dunk his head fully in the water. My son totally panicked. “NO!” he screamed. I tried to encourage him from the sidelines. It didn’t work. The coach, after trying to reason with him for a while, decided he’d had enough. He just picked up my son & dunked him in the water forcefully. When my son came out sputtering, he said, “See? That was not so bad!”

My son immediately made a run for the edge of a pool. The coach coaxed him again. Then when he had forgotten about it, he dunked him again in the water. This time my son screamed his head off & started sobbing. I was watching the whole thing, horrified. I cleared my throat & called out to the coach. “Sir, can you not do that again, please? I don’t want him to get a phobia..” I said as politely as I could.

He looked at me if I’d grown a horn suddenly. “But Ma’m, that’s the only way he’ll learn swimming. This is a 10 day camp & he’ll never learn if he doesn’t know the basics.”

“It’s okay.” I informed him. “Please don’t scare him off swimming forever. I have no problems if he does not learn swimming by the end of the camp.” I assured him.

He swam away, I’m sure, muttering something about over-protective mothers.

The next day, my son refused to get ready for his swimming class. Whatever me or my husband said will not change his mind. So I told him that I’ll enrol myself too. This time he agreed half-heartedly. We both splashed in the pool for a few days without learning any swimming. Then both of us came down with a severe viral fever. I had a sneaking suspicion on the waters of the pool.That was end of swimming for both of us.

Now after years, my husband put his foot down. “He’s eight!” he thundered. “How long are you going to mollycoddle him like this? I’m telling you he’s turning out exactly like you, full of phobias!”

So he went ahead and booked my son for swimming lessons this summer. And all these intervening years, he’s been spending a lot of time with my son in various pools in all the holidays we’ve been to and successfully allayed his fears of the head dunking. He even taught him to float a bit.

So this time I had my hopes high. The first few days were a breeze. I sat on collapsible chairs along with other parents/grandparents/aunts and watched the kids bob in the water. They had to dunk their heads in the water & kick their legs while holding on to the edge of the pool.  And in a few more days, I saw most of them (including my son) swim across the short side of the pool holding on to a rectangular foam. I was thrilled to bits.

Of course my bubble didn’t last long. A week later the coach asked them all to get out of the pool. Led them to the deep end, which was about 12 feet. He jumped in & then asked the kids to jump in one by one. They actually did well. Most kids, once they came up gasping to the surface, swam well towards the ladder & got out. Those who were reluctant were either goaded or threatened by the coach. I watched as my son slunk further & further away. The coach called out to him. He pretended not to hear him. So the coach heaved himself up, walked towards him. My brave son broke into a run. He soon caught him by the wrist. “NO!!!!” my son screamed. “Come on! Why are you so scared?” he cajoled encouragingly. “Come, I’ll jump in with you”.

Saying this, he grasped my son by his hand, swung their hands to & fro. On the count of three, he pushed my son in the water, waited for him to surface then jumped in himself.

Predictably, my son refused to come back for his lessons the next day. But my husband will not hear of it. He gave him a stern lecture & said if he ever bunked swimming, he’ll make sure he takes him to a strict & rude coach next time.

So I had to put up with my son’s groaning & moaning every morning till we reached the class at 2.30 pm… If it’s nausea once, it’ll be a stomachache another day, why, he even told me he was having a heart attack once!

But I dragged him resolutely. This deep water continued for a while. While all the other kids took to it like, well, fish to water, my son kicked and screamed and once called me closer to tell me he just couldn’t breathe.. So again, I intervened & told the coach, not to take him to the deep waters & keep him to the shallow end. After all there were only 2 days left for the camp to end & I just didn’t see my son become a champion overnight…

So the last day my son was his enthusiastic best & was in high spirits on the way home.

Now he insists I take him swimming every sunday to my brother’s apartment complex where they have a 5 feet pool. He jumps into water, splashes around, swims short laps & enjoys himself.

The only flip side to this is, he’s taken it upon himself to avenge me for his swimming lessons. He insists I get into the pool too & spends half his swimming time commanding me to dunk my head in the water & start kicking my legs & float. I hiss & tell him quietly & politely to leave me alone & I’ll learn swimming in my own time. But he will not! Just like his coach, he will badger & even sometimes rough handles me to learn.. And while his father, the master brain behind his swimming lessons,  enjoys a lazy Sunday reading the papers & watching TV..

We mothers never have it easy, do we?