Yesterday I was at the pool with my kids. My daughter was off with her friend, and I had my 2yo and my preschooler (let’s call him Klaus because my Nikolas Klaus has so many elements of my little gentle genius). We were at our indoor community pool complex. It has slides and everything, and it being March Break, it was full and jet-engine level noisy. The water was chilly and the air was two degrees celsius too cold.
We went over to the green water slide, the most junior of the four there. It’s the one that’s really made for kids like Klaus. It’s about fifteen feet long and he went down first. He’s gone down it many times on his own in the past.
I prepared to go down with the 2yo and watched for Klaus to come out the bottom. When he did, he was icy cold and his eyes were hunting for warmth. I knew the look in his eyes, and I yelled, but he couldn’t hear me. I saw him look at the deep pool of water five feet away and I could almost feel his mind remember that it was warmer, at least it was the last time we’d been there.
I shot down the slide with my 2yo and sprang out, my arm out as Klaus stepped out into the deeper pool, as if he could walk on water. In the blink of an eye he was gone, swallowed whole by the water.
In moments like that my emotions stop. It’s not a tough guy thing, it’s just what has happened since I was in my late teens, when I learned (somehow) to conquer the sense of paralysis that would hit me when I was scared.
I tried to remember how deep the water was, and how I was going to hang on to the 2yo. For a fraction of a second I considered putting him down, but I would likely create another deadly situation. Trusting myself and mostly sure that the pool was shallow enough there that I could stand (I’m 6’2″), I jumped in right beside Klaus. I bent down, grabbed him around his waist and stood, rocketing him out of the water. Both boys were fine.
As I talked him through what had happened, about a minute after the incident, he got scared. For the first time, Klaus understood what I mean when I saw that he hasn’t learned to swim yet. I smiled, and didn’t think anything of it.
I have to tell you though, this morning when he came down the hall to the kitchen where I was preparing breakfast, his head a mess of hair making him look like a little T-Rex, my eyes welled up.