My dad was a floater. My grandma was a floater. At the 1896 Olympics, my great-great-great-grandfather, Cornelius Klems, won a gold medal in competitive floating. (He also won gold in other long-forgotten sports, such as chariot racing and thumb wrestling, but neither carried the prestige that the competitive floating gold medal did.)
So when my wife suggested that we sign the girls up for swim lessons I thought, What a great idea! It's time to start them on their path to floating stardom!
What I didn't realize was that a typical night of swim lessons would go like this:
- Rush home from work to eat dinner before lessons start.
- Tell kids to eat dinner quickly so we can get to swim lessons on time.
- Watch as kids eat slower than they've ever eaten before in their lives.
- Try to change kids into their swimsuits while they are still eating their dinner.
- Get yelled at by wife for putting wrong swimsuits on kids—and for putting them on inside out.
- Say "We need to go!" for the 12th time.
- Ask wife if she wants to get in the pool with the girls.
- Wife laughs hysterically and tells you there's no way she's putting on a swimsuit. Says something about looking like "manatee."
- Nod in agreement. (BIG MISTAKE!)
- Wife throws swimsuit at you and says "Get ready."
- Put on swimsuit, look in mirror and confirm what you always suspected: You are a dead ringer for David Beckham.
- Say "We need to go!" for the 97th time.
- Get out to the car and race to swim lessons.
- Arrive at swim lessons and race to the pool.
- Ask kid if she needs to pee before getting in the pool. She says "No."
- Get in pool with kid. First thing she says to you upon entering the pool, "I need to pee."
- Get out of pool and take kid to the potty.
- Get back in pool and think to self, Woohoo! We finally made it. This should be fun!
- Spend the next 30 minutes getting splashed in the face and kicked in the sternum.
- (Know that somewhere, up in the stands, your wife is taking pleasure in this.)
- Help the swim teacher (who is awesome, by the way) sing London Bridge is Falling Down. Do an excellent job on the first verse. Fail miserably at singing the next 11.
- Pay close attention to the clock on the wall and countdown the minutes until class is over. Swear you will never come to swim lessons again!
- Then notice that your kid, the one that has beaten you up for the last 30 minutes, has laid her head on your shoulder ... and started to float!
- All is right in the world.
- Class ends. Hand kid to wife. Smile, like any proud dad would, and take in the moment as your wife wraps kid tightly in a towel. Know that all the chaos and kicks to the sternum were worth it.
- Wife tosses next kid onto you in the pool. Kid immediately says, "Dad, I have to pee."
- Repeat process ... brace sternum.
Sometimes the things we do for our kids are stressful, frustrating and (somewhat) destructive to our health. But the best parents do them anyway. Why? Some say it's because we are crazy. Others say it's because we are super crazy. But the truth is, we do it because we love our kids. We love teaching them important skills like how to swim and how to float and how to avoid accidentally calling their mother a manatee. Deep down, we love swim lessons. We love anything that not only teaches our kids something valuable but also makes them smile. That makes us smile, which allows us to feel like all our hard work is worth it. At least, that's how I feel.
And if any of my three girls ever wins an Olympic gold medal, I can brag to everyone that it all started years ago at swim lessons. And I'm almost certain everyone's response will be:
"Oh my, has anyone ever told you that you look exactly like David Beckham!"
Don't I know it.
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