Teacher: You failed the test.
Student: You failed to educate.
Termites, totaled car, normal day in suburbia. BUT, something yesterday did upset me. The twins’ had their swim test. Yes, I am their proud mother, but I can objectively assure you that they can swim underwater, fetch things from the bottom, and I don’t, even as a helicopter mommy, feel the need to always get in the pool with them. And yet, they did not pass their swim test. THEY WERE NOT PROMOTED EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE, in my opinion, THE BEST SWIMMERS IN THEIR GOLDFISH CLASS.
The paper rubric, damp with chlorinated water, handed to me at the end of the session notes that they each have only half mastered floating on their backs and Sylvia only does proper ‘triangle arms’ when prompted. However, the teacher is willing to let me register them for another session and then bump them up to the next level after a few lessons as she feels confident they are almost there.
I’m familiar with failing swim tests. We moved around a lot when I was a kid – so I don’t exactly remember where we were, but I remember the community pool with its concrete edge and the rough bottom that always tore up kids’ feet and the older man, escaped gym teacher(?), who always gave an ominous story about picking up something brown and gross from the bottom of the pool and then pointed to the bathrooms while waggling bushy white eyebrows. The swim tests with kids lined up, arms stretched out, “Put your face in the water and BLOW THOSE BUBBLES.” And treading water while a bored teenager stood there with a stopwatch. I’m not exactly sure which part I kept failing. I put my face in the water and both ‘listened to the fishies’ and ‘talked to the fishies’ (crawl stroke). Maybe, like Sylvia, I didn’t use proper triangle arms unless prompted.
Life is full of swim tests. Like my dear friend Serra. We were on vacation together and someone stopped us to ask …I don’t know, directions or something. Her son, 5-years-old, ran ahead. It was only a second, but he ran to a waterslide and went down without floaties on. No one was anywhere near the pool. Serra didn’t pause. That Momma ran to the pool, jumped in, and grabbed her son up and out of that water. Later we inventoried – magnetic room key, credit cards, watch, ticket stubs, all soaked. That Momma passed her swim test with highest marks.
I wasn’t quite so graceful. When I started the mermaid twins at their lessons they would not be rushed when it was time to get out. All the other children obediently went to parents to be swaddled in giant towels and carted off to bath and bed. My girls both slipped around the instructor and got back in the free swim area. This particular occasion I was able to coax Sylvia out, but when I called to Evelyn she just swam to the middle. I used universal parent language: stamping one foot, giving a huffy breath, and repeatedly pointing down with my index finger. E swam to the other side of the pool. I followed around the edge, walking past the gawking lifeguard. Yes, I know it’s boring up there, but you could at least pretend to not be watching.
E swam away again, smiling serenely and then held her breath and went under. “Wow, she’s really good at that,” noted a woman in a chair. Yeah — too bad it’s not part of THE GOLDFISH PROMOTION TEST.
By this time Sylvia had dropped her towel and jumped back in. I almost caught E’s wrist when she came up for air, but missed. By now EVERYONE in the vicinity is watching. So, I rolled up my white linen capris as far as they would go. Whispered a brief ‘thank you’ that I was wearing panties, because you know that linen is see-through when wet – and went in. I came out with two giggling girls and, I’m sure, a blushing face. But I passed my swim test. Barely, but I passed. I know because I haven’t had to make a repeat performance.
In conclusion. I’m okay with staying in Goldfish while they learn to triangulate their arms or whatever. I would only, helpfully, constructively even, suggest to the instructor that in a twenty-nine minute lesson you spend less time on the strainer going over their heads at the beginning, maybe cut back on the Ringing-around-the-Rosy in the middle and spend a couple more minutes FLOATING THEM ON THEIR BACKS. Just sayin’