Monday, September 1, 2014

Learning to swim by barely avoiding drowning

Growing up I was allowed to chose from the normal array of activities that are typically available to the middle class child: various forms of dancing and art and gymnastics and skating and on and on and on. There were only 3 things that were mandatory: learning to speak French, learning to play the piano and learning to swim. None of these were negotiable but the last was particularly not. Without even really thinking about it, I have adopted two of these skills, speaking French and swimming, as mandatory for Big and Little. Rationale being: we live in Quebec and humans breathe oxygen (where those two things are independent of each other) therefore French and swimming required. Coincidentally or not, they are also two of the skills I have not outsourced to other people. As a parent whose children are in daycare and in a myriad of activities, I find myself constantly amazed by what they knows and often dismayed that it was not I who had the opportunity to teach it to them. While it is wonderful to see them acquire this array of knowledge and skills, I have firmly staked out French and swimming as mine to teach them.

So on a semi-regular basis I find myself at the public pool mostly patiently but sometimes not instructing Big in kicking and thrashing and generally not sinking. It both helps and hinders that she is utterly without fear and bursting with over-confidence. She will jump into the deep end, thrash her way towards the side, come within what appears to be inches of drowning when I grab her arm to support her, react with extreme frustration that I am not letting her do it herself. So it is left to me to discern with my professional eye (yes, I spent many years lifeguarding) whether she is drowning or swimming. She does make forward progress though it is by no means efficient, she keeps her nostrils barely above water and usually reaches the wall without my help. It truly is, learning to swim by barely avoiding drowning.

It is an excellent metaphor for how I feel we are living our lives right now as a family. I don't mean to be overdramatic and I recognize that if I screw up one of my many responsibilities the consequences are not going to be dire (just embarrassing, costly, career ending or childhood wrecking depending on which responsibility we are talking about) but no one is going to die, thousands of lives will not be affected so I think I have good perspective on this but nonetheless I do feel now (especially with Big in school instead of daycare and the multiple logistical challenges that entails) that we go about our days swimming by barely avoiding drowning. Getting the report due at work in just on time, running out at 11 pm to the store to get the extra stuff needed for lunch, sliding into home base just before the ball slams into the catcher's glove with the school supplies and the 10,000 forms needed by the school filled out. Getting the child picked up JUsT before the daycare closes. Now to make life more chaotic, we are adding to all of this a night class (mine), skating lessons (Big's), potentially a new job (mine - I'll find out tomorrow if the multiple interviews I did last week on top of everything else bore fruit) and yes, we are treading water while someone hands us brick after brick after brick.

But, and I don't say or think this nearly often enough, I have a really wonderful family to run this crazy obstacle course with. Hang on tight, autumn is here! Chaotic but hopefully fun times ahead.


  1. A new job again?? I can only imagine how chaotic life must be with two, i sometimes feel a little like that with just one kid and only one spouse working! Pgrhaps we set our standards too high and care too much.

  2. I totally get you on all of this. I feel like we live 95% of our lives on survival mode. But we still laugh and have fun and manage to get it done (barely). I'm glad I'm not the only one overwhelmed by the amount of paperwork required for school. And the teaching the kids...I'm impressed with French and swimming. I have taken on trying to teach Zach to tie his shoes with no success.

    Good luck with the potential new job!

  3. I am soooo with you on all of this! And to make this even more fun (not), I will have to deal with most of it on my own (running and trying to grow my business, kids and school, day care, after school activities and so on) while still trying to run (a bit) in a week from now, since the husband will start working 600km away... ood vmaybe I should start thinking about it in miles, that may sound closer and therefore less daunting. Or not.

    Sending you good vibes for the new job!