After getting my two jabs and waiting the recommended two weeks for full immunity from COVID, I jumped back in the pool to give swim lessons. Most of my clients are older and I can keep some distance while wearing my clear face shield, and for some I can even stay out of the water, but for the younger swimmers I am right there at arm's length, still protected by the Darth Vaderesque shield but up close. Working with kids under the age of 12 again provides welcome humorous material and useful research for my children's book and this blog.
A few weeks ago I had a young man - we'll call him Fred, though that's not his name - with a reputation of bouncing off the pool walls, turning somersaults underwater ad nauseam, and generally not wanting to do any of the suggested swim drills or distances. He's a sharp and funny kid, and I decided to take the bull by the horns and great him with tremendous positive energy.
"Fred! It's been so long since I last taught you, you have grown so much! How old are you now, 18?"
Taken aback, he froze and gave me serious side-eye. "I'm eight. When did I have you as a teacher?" he asked with lifted eyebrow.
"Oh, it's been at least two or three years," I said. "I bet you're a super swimmer now."
He ignored my obvious gambit to start swimming. "Three years, hmm." There was a long pause as he processed my absence from his life. "Let me tell you, you have a lot to catch up on!"
It was my turn to be surprised as Fred filled me in on the major events of the last three years, grandparent visits and deaths, school performances, sibling accidents, etc. My ploy to start swimming had failed, but our relationship certainly got back on good terms.
Then last week I had two youngsters in a beginner class. The first, aged six, was dutiful and determined, floating and kicking with straight legs and somber gaze. The second, aged three, was both exuberant and fearful, flashing an adorable grin when he felt comfortable and grabbing my arm with a vise grip when he felt nervous. Imagine my surprise when I gently put him back on the bench after a back float and he turned and grabbed my chest with both hands.
"Honk, honk!" he said with a glint in his eyes. I quickly recovered from my shock and removed his hands from my breasts, telling him that "we don't do that to teachers" and wondering how on earth he learned that party trick. I hoped the parents in the lobby didn't see that particular move on our TV. Still in fine fettle despite my reprimand, he grabbed the safety whistle as he went down the stairs and blew it until I could wrest it from his grasp.
So merriment, shock and disbelief are back in my life and I remember now how interesting, surprising and startling young children can be. Time to dial up the shocking behavior in my children's book, and keep my notebook and pen ready for more kid adventures.