Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swimming Lessons

This summer has been all about swimming.  In late spring, the boys took swim classes, Gryffin a beginning class & Skyler level 4 "Stroke Development".  They passed their classes with excellent marks (proud mama that I am, I put the only 'report cards' they've ever received on the fridge) and took their new-found skills into the summer.  Since then, the boys and I have found any excuse to swim.  We are all much happier in the water.

Gryffin 'swimming' on my back -- this is my favorite picture of myself, go Erik!
Skyler has been swimming independently for years, mostly UNDER the water.  Now I watch Skyler execute a rather good, and (in typical Skyler fashion) very quick crawl, complete with the dreaded rotary breathing.  When we swim across that small cove in Walden, he's much faster than I (I prefer the sedate & slow side stroke). 

Skyler has always LOVED being in water.  When he was an infant, and even a toddler, baths were our go-to cure for teething bouts, insomnia, grumpy days, illness, heat waves, boredom.   But being out in water over his head was a challenge for Sky.  Feeling nervous and out of control, he would cling to me like a little koala.  I couldn't understand his discomfort -- Skyler!  Who was so fearless about any other physical challenge, nervous about swimming?  Why, I'd been taking him to the water since he was tiny!  And me, I loved swimming, how could he not?  Then, when Sky was 3 years old we BOTH had a series of nightmares about him and the water.  At this point I figured the divine (or my sub-conscious, whatever) was giving me a pretty strong message & I should probably just let the swimming thing go...and I did.  Water was playtime, but just to his waist.  So what transitioned Skyler from this child afraid of going into water over his head to the cormorant-like swimmer he is today?  The gift of fins & a mask when he was about 4 1/2.  Almost instantly Sky was swimming independently, under water, diving, doing flips, out in deep water.  The mask helped Skyler not only see under water, but helped prevent water from going up his nose.  But the fins were even more important -- they helped him swim fast enough that he could stop himself from sinking (my 0 body-fat boy has no buoyancy), he could now literally keep his head above water.  Now he swims beautifully, without the props, and chooses to stay under water.  

Gryffin has had a slightly different journey into the deep end. G has always been scarily fearless about the water.  At 6 months, while in vacation Florida, he crawled directly into the ocean up to his chin & would have kept going if I hadn't grabbed him back.  He was that toddler that walked off the steps of the pool into water over his head.  His preferred way to play at Walden was in water up to his chin, walking on tip-toes to keep his head above water.  Unlike Sky, he didn't really like being held out in deep water (although he'd swim on my back for a bit).  At swim classes last spring Gryffin figured out that he could swim independent of adults, with just a noodle under his arms - I wish I could duplicate in writing the sound of his delighted squeal.  Imagine a very roo-like "look at me swimming!". 

Even more exciting was the moment this summer Gryffin started swimming "for real".   Gryffin taught himself to swim at Walden on a rare visit when Skyler was in camp, so just the two of us were at the pond.  I was on the phone embroiled in a very intense conversation with my sister, while vaguely keeping an eye on Gryffin.  I noticed him bringing his large bucket out into the water where he turned it upside down and jumped off.  It took me an embarrassingly long time to notice, but eventually it occurred to me that he was jumping off the bucket and swimming for about 4 feet.  In a nice tidy dog paddle.  Well, that was the beginning & now he swims comfortably for about 10 feet before needing to put his feet down or grab onto my shoulder.  He's working on his diving and his back float.  He's had his first experience swimming independently in the ocean (playing a frightening for mama game called "rescue", where he dumped himself - without warning - off of his boogie board and would fight the waves to swim to me or Sky). 


I take from my boys and their adventures in swimming a few lessons about learning, individual timing, and faith. When Sky was 3, I couldn't have imagined him the same child who I struggle to keep up with as we swim.  I am reminded that my job is to give them opportunities, and then the space and time to explore on their own.  Gryffin's self-taught swimming reminds me that the explorations that make me nervous may be the exact exploration they need to move forward.  I take in the lesson that sometimes they learn more if I'm not watching.  My boys continue to teach me to have faith in them,in their process and pace.  I take from them a reminder that children are not taught.  Children learn.  And that when the timing is right that learning happens effortlessly, and with joy.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

This Morning

This morning I am sitting on the screen porch in an old, white wicker rocking chair. I am pretending to read, but instead find myself putting the book down to gaze at the clouds rising out of the pines. 

It rained all day yesterday & last night, and I can hear the increased volume of water in the sound of the river. I hear the summer song of cicadas, the string accent of crickets. Even though it’s 8:15, the world doesn’t seem quite awake yet, still wrapped in a blanket of mist.  

I grab my camera and set off on a morning walk, alone. Here are some of the photos I took along the way, without a single picture of the boys (shocking!), but instead a few pieces of the quiet awakening world.

 "How can you explain that you need to know that the trees are still there, and the hills and the sky? Anyone knows they are. How can you say it is time your pulse responded to another rhythm, the rhythm of the day and the season instead of the hour and the minute? No, you cannot explain. So you walk."

 ~Author unknown, from New York Times editorial, "The Walk," 25 October 1967

Saturday, August 11, 2012


I find it infinitely amusing and a bit ironic that my first entry in a blog titled "Urban”  Wild Child is all about the very rural vacation we’re having in Vermont.   Go ahead, laugh along with me. (Or at me, I don't mind.)   

I’ll write more about why I chose this particular blog title later, but for now I'd like to share some images of where we are this August...

About 30 yards away from our pretty farmhouse is The River, constant companion & plaything, just deep enough for the boys to swim & provider of many, many frogs. 

Sweet, sweet summer!

Watch for more posts soon, but know that I'm still in the process of refining & figuring out...well, everything (does anyone know how to right justify a blog title in blogger???).  Feel free to comment, I'd love to know what you think.

Blessed be,