August 20, 2012
Justin rounds the corner of the school with his towel trailing behind him, sees me, and stops dead in his tracks. His delighted grin illuminates his entire face, and I watch as he looks to his aide and then back at me, verifying that she is witness to the presence of his mom. My own mother rounds the corner a few seconds later and his joy intensifies, and he refuses to take his eyes off of us as he complies with a request to hang his towel and have a seat on a nearby bench. I hear his common cry of his favorite vowel sound, and know that we have made his world right just by showing up for swim day.
I admit, I really love it when life is this easy.
I’m curious to see what progress he’s made since last year, which included voluntarily submerging himself without protest (a huge milestone), and numerous attempts to coordinate uncooperative limbs. We have our own pool at home, but this summer for whatever reason (and I’d pay someone a fortune to tell me why), my boy who loved the crisp chill of our unheated pool has rejected its cool confines in no uncertain terms.
There is the occasional weekend dip, and if I ply him with half the toys in our house I can at least get him on deck for a quarter hour, but that’s it. Perhaps it’s that he swims every day at school, and he feels our own pool is redundant. Truth is I’ll never know, but I haven’t given up on my goal of him being able to swim a few strokes to save himself should he fall into some body of water when I’m not there to protect him. I still have high hopes that his school lessons have helped him in this arena.
And as I watch him swim with his aide, I see that one of my dreams for him may soon be realized.
It’s not just his willingess to hold his breath underwater, or comply with demands from his swim teacher hovering up above. It’s that his limbs seem to be in sync for the first time in years, despite many summers of instructors (and his mother) working diligently to help him acquire this skill. I see him shimmy arms and legs beneath the cerulean surface, witness him glide through three, then four feet of water as he touches hard tile, then bursts to the edge with a huge smile as he searches for me. He might not ever learn the backstroke, but even though it’s a short distance, my kid can swim.
I catch my mother’s eye, and we both revel for a moment in a momentous accomplishment.
I’ve made my peace long ago that there are certain milestones Justin will never achieve, ones I took for granted when I was pregnant with him a decade ago. I won’t see my boy off to college some day. There won’t be the opportunity for me to watch Justin walk down the aisle. He’ll never drive (which some days seems like a blessing). Despite all his progress, which trust me, from his toddler days is momentous, there will be limits for him. It took years for me to accept this truth, but it freed me to focus on what he can accomplish.
There is rarely a week that goes by where he doesn’t surprise me.
Swim day wraps up quickly, and I say my goodbyes to the parents I’ve come to know at these events, and make sure to compliment his PE teacher on the strides he’s made. My son comes over to me as they line up to return to class, kisses me, then gently pushes me to signify my time here is up. I have to smile as I tell him not to push, that yes I’m leaving, and he gets to stay at the school he adores. He hugs my mom briefly then turns to leave, already anticipating the rest of his day. I gather my keys and cell phone, and me and my mom head off to lunch. The moment is over, but the accomplishment remains.
And as I head to the parking lot, I can’t help but grin as I anticipate future progress yet to come.