Monday, July 6, 2009
Water and Righteousness
Lately I've felt that I need therapy dealing with some of the challenges of parenthood – perhaps fatherhood more precisely. I have been taking my little girl to swimming lessons for the better part of a year. She swims at the Martin Luther King Natatorium which is in the backyard of the King Center in Atlanta. It seems a righteous place to learn to swim.
She started off with a lot of promise in the beginner’s class with Miss Emma. She quickly learned the beginning skills and was ready to move to the next section. She wasn’t afraid of the water. She has even been to swim in the sea in Barbados and in St. Kitts. When the time came to move to the next level with Brother Ezra, however, she started fussing at poolside and even at school before we went to the class.
She would ask, “do we have swimming today Daddy?” “Do I have to go to Brother Esra’s class?” I would say yes and the tears would start to well up. I’m not sympathetic to fussing like that and would be well on my way to ignorant almost immediately. We would arrive at the class with her fussing and me angry. A few times she started crying and carrying on at poolside and I let my ignorance get the better of me and snatched her out of the pool and we left. Clearly not a comfortable and encouraging environment to learn how to swim – where you need your breathing to be as relaxed as possible.
One of the things that I like about the center is that it is full of black families and children swimming. One day a sister pulled my hand and said, “brother you just need to give her time.” I started to say, “but…” and she interrupted me and said, “Time. She needs time and your patience.” I felt like a school child being scolded. Not only was I being scolded at the pool by sister such and such, my wife was schooling me at home talking about how she’ll be fine and I should stop pressing her so hard. I realize how unreasonable my position was, but having seen what my daughter was capable of in the water, her fear seemed baseless – to me, a father.
I’ve stopped pressing and started just playing in the pool with her. We’ve spent hours and hours in the scorching sun this summer, jumping in the water, climbing out and jumping back in…over and over and over and over again. We’ve quietly gotten to the point where I end up saying, “ole girl, we have to go.” The other part of what the sister said was that, “now you’re mad she won’t get in, but soon you’ll be mad that she won’t get out.”
We went to a lake this fourth of July weekend. My girl jumped off the dock into lake water!! I jumped in and she jumped in right behind me. This might be one of the moments that only parents can appreciate. When she leapt off the dock, about 3 feet above the surface of murky lake water, where she couldn’t see the bottom or what was in the water, my heart leapt out of my chest.