Learning To Swim On Memorial Day

Max Swims in Lake George (2012)
Max Swims in Lake George (2012)

My wife, Kate, and I are both water people so we try to get our kids as comfortable as possible with pools, lakes, and oceans.  I spent my summers in the pristine waters of Lake George in the Adirondacks of New York State, so being landlocked in Wichita, KS can be difficult at times…though we do visit the lake for 2-3 weeks every summer.  While Kate is from Iowa, she was a competitive swimmer and she is clearly happiest when bobbing up and down in the ocean…just like her father.  My folks have a pool in their backyard and since Memorial Day marks the beginning of summer it was time to get both boys in the water and enjoy this American holiday to the fullest of its potential.

"Officer Max" in 2011
Baby Max back in 2011

Max, our two-year-old, had no problem getting in once he was convinced it was cooler than the stick he was playing with by the trees.  He was finally big enough to wear a life-vest that fit him properly and therefore be a bit more adventurous in the water.  It took a little time but before I knew it he was jumping into the pool without fear and into my arms.  What has changed since last summer is his comfort level and self-reliance so I don’t have to hold on to him non-stop…he holds on to me.  After a few lessons on how to hold on to Dada without choking me he was just chilling in the water next to me…floating.  He then jumped on my back and asked me to be a dolphin.  I kindly obliged and we laughed for over an hour as we swam around the pool splashing, jumping, diving, and swimming.  It was a FANTASTIC father and son moment…the kind you dream about when you first hear your wife is pregnant…the kind you think will never come when they are babies.  It was possibly my most favorite time with my son Max to date.

Dodge's 1st Swim
Dodge’s 1st Swim

Next we put Dodge, our three-month-old, in the water and he just thought it was a big bath.  No complaints, happy as can be, and just smiling all the way.  I swear…kids are not this easy…we just got two really calm, happy children who will most likely drive us to the brink of insanity later in life when the Devil instigates their teenage yearnings.

Speaking of instigating…I am one of those dads who is constantly pushing my kids to try stuff.  I didn’t want Max to fall out of his comfort zone but I also wanted him to have a healthy fear of deep water at this age and learn to respect it.  Last year this meant letting him slip on the steps and fall under water for a moment or two before helping him back up.  He quickly learned to recover and stopped running on the steps.  This year we did it again and he recovered right away and wasn’t scared at all.  So I got this crazy thought to see what would happen if I slowly worked on getting him to let go of me and swim on his own.  We had been working on “kick, kick, kick!” since last summer so he knows he has to use his legs and arms to swim…he just sinks like a rock.  However, now he was wearing a life vest that fit.  We did a few passes at swimming about 2-3 feet from me to the steps and then back to me.  I slowly moved back and eventually there he was…floating in a small span of water with nothing on all sides of him, kicking his feet, nervously smiling, and swimming to Dada.  Not coasting on the inertia from leaping…but swimming.  Full on little boy doggy-paddle swimming.  Freaking…AMAZING!

Dodge Towel
Dry, dry, dry!

We all got toweled off and headed home where Max and I played in the backyard well past his bedtime where he pretends to be me.  He shouts, “Okay, I gotta go to work,” then he kisses me on the cheek, hops on his scooter, and rides it over to the fence and back.  Then he gets off the scooter and announces, “I’m here!”  I asked him what he does at work and he replied, “Stuff.”  Sounds about right.  Kate put Dodge to sleep, Max and I took a shower to wash the chlorine off, and then brushed our teeth together before crawling into bed for books and tuck-tucks.  Then…two exhausted parents plunked down on the couch and the exhaustion hit us like a fright train.

Asleep On Dada
Asleep On Dada

Memorial Day was exhausting…but it was amazing!  I took my baby Dodge into the water for the first time in his life and I taught my toddler Max how to swim without any help.  Earlier in the day Max fell asleep on my chest like he used to when he was a baby…and instead of moving him to his bed I held him tight and took a nap with him.  I got to watch my amazing employees play kickball and bond over a day off, creating stories they’ll laugh about for years to come.  On the drive home from the pool my wife Kate said, “I don’t want to cook or clean anything…can we just go to Freddy’s on the way home?”  Why not?  To see the look on Max’s face when I brought a brownie sundae to the table after he ate his hot dog was priceless.  It was such a great day.  So I’d like to thank all of those brave men and women who have served in the past, given their lives, sacrificed so much so we can have our freedoms.  I took full advantage of those freedoms Monday and made memories with my family that will last a lifetime.  Thank you for reminding me what Memorial Day is about.  The only thing that would have made it better would have been more family…but we’ll see them all soon enough for the 4th of July.  If grilling hot dogs, drinking American beer, and splashing in a pool isn’t patriotic enough…I got this picture from my parents who are traveling through Europe right now.  They spent Memorial Day at Omaha Beach in Normandy, France.  Pretty amazing.  Can’t wait to see them and Kate’s folks to show them how their grandson can swim.  God Bless America and the people who have preserved its freedoms.  Thank you.

My parents at the Omaha Beach Memorial in Normandy, France on Memorial Day, 2013
My parents at the Omaha Beach Memorial in Normandy, France on Memorial Day

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