“I’m going to swim like a dolphin!” Nathaniel chortled from the backseat as we drove to a swim party for two of his friends from school.

Now, swim like a dolphin may be a bit of an exaggeration. More like “swim like a jellyfish, completely at the mercy of the water and occasionally bobbing to the surface.” But, one way or the other, he spends most of his time in the pool underwater.

This was not always the case. Last June, we signed him up for his first set of swim lessons, and he proceeded to spend that session, and the next, and the next, in the very bottom group. While other kids mastered splashing around sufficiently that they moved up to choppy little strokes, Nathaniel kept working on just splashing around.

It wasn’t that Nathaniel didn’t like the water – he did. He’s just so small, and bony, and lacking any semblance of body awareness. He’d go to float on his back and he’d hold every muscle in his body rigid…and sink. He’s pull to the side to kick his legs and heave half of his body up on to the side of pool, then leave his legs to flail about at the water.

And then, we got him goggles – fancy, one piece goggles. They weren’t terribly expensive, but with their one-piece eye cover, his slim little face didn’t have to fit those single eye cups anymore. From that moment on, we’ve struggled to keep him above water. I spend most of our swim sessions alternately assuring concerned lifeguards that he’s OK and being terrified that he isn’t.

So, today, at the birthday party, Nathaniel’s primary interest was keeping himself underwater. This doesn’t necessarily translate into great “party” activity – in that it’s almost inherently antisocial. Whenever I could catch him above water, I’d urge, “Nathaniel, why don’t you go see what your friends are up to?” “Nathaniel, want to go in the lazy river with your friends?” “How about you go in the little pool with your friends?”

He’d look up at me through those big lime goggles, fill up his tiny cheeks with air, and disappear under the water. And as much as I hope that, one day, he’ll figure out all those social norms and cues and niceties, right now, I can’t help but cheer him on in his solitary pursuit of underwater greatness.


3 thoughts on “Swimming

  1. Your description of him going underwater brought back fond memories of my children learning how to swim. Enjoy watching him as he continues to practice and develop his skills.

  2. Swim, Nathaniel, swim! Your description is so vivid and your supportiveness is tempered with the perfect amount of concern. I’m so glad that Nathaniel feels confident enough to pursue his passion in his own way. Swimming laps is not nearly as fun as deep sea exploration!!!

  3. This is adorable, and you created such a clear picture! I also have a son who’s small and bony, he too was a sinker 🙂 He’s 14 now and does just fine in the water, nothing perfect, but I don’t have to worry. Swim like a dolphin Nathaniel!

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