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.




luvlife0702 said...

You learned patience but there's another lesson there: where you lead she will follow. One thing to tell them what to do, its another to show the way. Happy belated Fathers Day

luvlife0702 said...

You learned patience but there's another lesson there: where you lead she will follow. One thing to tell them what to do, its another to show the way. Happy belated Fathers Day

Lee said...

you fussed ......she fussed even more
you jumped in she jumped in... anything you can do I can do better?

jillian said...

this is beautiful, kamau.

Nicole Johnson, Volunteer Coordinator said...

O.K. I can't believe that you don't melt when you see her tears. Let me take a minute to let that marinate.......

Nope! Still don't believe it.

OMG, I too have this struggle but I'm running out of patience. To see your child not excercise their full potential for whatever reason is pure agony.

Unfortunately, I can no longer wait. I'm finna bring the hammer down. But big ups to you for letting it ride.

tangela said...

Thanks for sharing this story. I don't feel like such a bad parent now. Gabi will tell you that I walked out of the natatorium this past Monday for this exact reason. Scottie didn't want to go to Bros. Esra's class either, started crying, etc. I wasn't in the mood for the madness (plus I had gotten a ticket earlier that day). So, I left Scottie with Scott and said "I am out" . I couldn't deal with it. Your story inspires me to be more patient and to stop my emotional leakage on my child. They are great kids. I look forward to Scottie moving to the next level.

Hill Rat said...

Don't be so hard on yourself brother Kamau. One of the things that fatherhood has taught me, and continues to teach me, is patience. It's often a hard lesson to learn, but if you pay attention (as you obviously have) your children will teach you what you need to know.