Six weeks ago I did something that was really good for me, because it helped me to remember how hard it is to be a kid sometimes. I signed myself up for an adult swim fitness class.
When I got there, I didn’t know a soul. I didn’t know what to expect exactly, except that we would swim. I didn’t know the routine. I didn’t know how I would perform. I didn’t know if anyone would be friendly or snobby. Participating in this new activity made me feel rather vulnerable.
I introduced myself to the person I assumed was the coach. He put me in lane one, which is where the novices go. I immediately realized that there is definitely a hierarchy at the swim fitness classes, with the alpha-carnivores at the far end of the pool—these are the people who do triathlons every weekend for fun—and then normal people like me in the first couple of lanes.
The coach corrected many things about my form. First he tackled my side breathing, berating me for lifting my 10-pound head so far out of the water (“Can you see the ceiling when you swim? I think you can!”). Then he told me my hip rotation was all wrong. He asked me if I swam in high school. No, I did not. I just like to swim and thought it would be helpful to join a fitness class.
Actually, the rest of the story is that I don’t really like to sweat too much. So, since swimming is kind of like working out in the shower, it highly appeals to me. But I didn’t tell the coach all this.
At one point, he asked me to get out of the pool so I could watch some dude named Dale glide effortlessly through the water with his exemplary strokes, perfect side breathing, and—don’t forget—most excellent hip rotation.
Yes! I had to get out of the pool. I was the only one! It was a little embarrassing. And I wasn’t even wearing an official-looking Speedo swimsuit. I was wearing the one-piece I bought at Costco the week before, when I decided I was really going to give this swim fitness thing a whirl.
I felt pretty beat up after the first several sessions, and it dawned on me that this is how my kids must feel on a regular basis. As adults, it can be easy to forget what it is like to be thrown into new situations and be asked to learn new things. It can be overwhelming.
I like for my kids to try lots of stuff when they are young because, after being exposed to a variety of things, they will know better what they enjoy and what they are good at. This means that I sign my kids up for a lot of things at the library, town hall, different churches, and sports fields and gymnasiums all over town. They have gained a lot of experience and confidence because of this.
But, until my swimming experience, I hadn’t stopped to think a whole lot about how brave they have been to get out of the minivan each time and go participate in all of these things!
For example, when my oldest daughter was in fifth grade, I signed her up for volley ball at a local Boys and Girls Club. We didn’t know anyone else who was participating, but I thought it would be a good experience for her and she was willing to try. I dropped her off at the door so I wouldn’t have to unload my toddler.
Looking back, I should have been a lot prouder of that solitary figure, walking into that new gymnasium, to stand in a sea of new faces, to receive instruction from an unknown, albeit knowledgeable, coach.
It’s tough being a kid sometimes. I had almost forgotten.
Photo Credit: First graphic design by Anna Soltis; second image courtesy of author.