Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Water Parent

Hey There-

Bob agreed to be the "water parent". You know, the one who goes in the water with the child when you are camping or at the beach and the one who takes the child to their first swimming lessons before they can go by themselves.

In exchange I agreed to be the "zoo" parent. Neither of us were/are zoo fans but I thought it was a good trade since the zoo did not require me to get wet and cold.

As it turned out the Aunts liked taking Henry to the zoo, and later both boys, so I never really kept up my end of the bargain.

Pay back's a bitch!

The memories of Henry at his first swim lessons still haunt me. They were held the months before Bob died. Bob had a PIC line in for his latest treatment so he couldn't be immersed in water or I swear I would have still made him hold up our agreement, weakened condition and all. I even signed little three year old Henry up for classes that didn't require a parent in the water with the child figuring he was bold in the water and an independent sort, he would be fine.


The sounds of his screaming ricocheted off the concrete walls of the pool and slammed Bob and I in the face as the two of us stoically stood behind the glass in the waiting area. You might have thought the instructor was setting his feet in hot lava as opposed to the lukewarm chlorine laden pool. It was almost horrific. I knew the entire pool area was staring at the three of us and the poor instructor but that didn't really register at the time. I could only hear Henry's cries and feel my pounding heart.

I was steadfast and we tried again the next week. By the third week I began to come to terms with the situation. Not my fate, but at least the fact that the other parents were wasting their money. Their children would never learn to swim with all the drama going on. So I moved Henry to the class WITH the parents and I got in that lukewarm pool, chlorine and urine and all, and I sang that silly "Wheels on the Bus" song, but I wasn't happy about it.

Nor was I happy when I had to get in the frigid water of the pool at my parent's apartment the second summer after Bob died, having successfully avoided any need to submerge myself in water the summer before by forcing the boys to be happy with the "hang out by the shoreline and dig in the sand" parent. We were lucky to even get out of the house and make it to an area of nature that had water that first summer.

Well, now the boys can both swim on their own, I have passed that hurtle, and I can resume my "sit on the beach and read" parent status but, alas, these energetic boys of mine have different ideas, they still want a "water parent". Truth be told I was hardly ever a "water parent", I was more of a "walk around on my tip toes and try not to get my shoulders and hair wet" parent.

I see dads throwing their kids high in the air and I watch these children laugh gleefully as they hurtle through the air and splash into the water. I see other parents out in the water tossing Frisbee's and footballs and frolicking. I have twinges of guilt and think to myself that I should really just suck it up, get out there and be a gosh darn "water parent".

Recently, while camping, Henry raced up to Mike and I, dripping lake water and smelling like sunscreen, his eyes bright with hope, his voice high with excitement.

"Will you come in the water and throw us up in the air?"

We both quickly looked pleadingly to Mike, the dad person, who never agreed to be the "water parent" and has no interest in it either. He will usually go out there for a bit because he is a good guy but I truly wish I could say; "Absolutely, I would love to come out and play in the water with you guys." I actually wish I was already out there and they wouldn't have to ask. But there is this voice in my head that won't leave, it is quieter than it used to be but it is still there. It says..."I didn't agree to this, I never wanted to be the "water parent", your dad agreed to be the "water parent".....NO!"

Come on, I have figured out how to make Bob's pizza, his pancakes, put the bike rack on the car and go camping without him, isn't that enough? Do I have to be a "water parent" too?

I have no memories of my parents ever being "water parents" and I seem to be fine. In fact, the one memory I do have of my father ever being in the water involves a father/daughter race on the Fourth of July that he lost a half link lead I gave him. (I know you did your best dad, I harbor no grudge)

I am the "bike riding" parent, the "tennis playing" parent, the "knowing when the books are due at the library" parent, the "making lunches" parent, the "library volunteer" parent, the "take them to the dentist" parent, the "card playing" parent, the "popcorn popping" parent, the "baking" parent, the "good smelling bath" parent,the "remember when you have a math test" parent, the "book reading" parent, the "travel" parent, the "dinner's on the table" parent, the "board game playing" parent, the "make the beds" parent.

I am so many things, I am THE parent. Do I HAVE to be the "water parent" too? Really?

Thanks for checking in-



  1. I remember that race! I enjoy reading your posts.

  2. Irene, I can't help gushing again about how much I LOVE your writing. Your honesty and humor are just so wonderful! (And boy, do I hear you--lately I am the 'never gets off the computer because she's so absorbed in her work' parent...)

  3. I love your writing! I am not the water parent either and can relate to feeling like the all-other-life-sustainining-responsibilities-on-a-daily-basis parent. "Do I have to be the water parent too? Really?" Great stuff.