Sunday, June 14, 2009

In the Swim of Things

I really ought to write about the IEP, the crazy day of the IEP, the inservice I facilitated... that day brimmed OVER with bloggy compost... but I have this other thing, kind of murky and unformulated, demanding to have the first turn.

So I don't know where this is going, but I want to write about water. What goes on with my son and water brings to mind some kind of Age of Aquarius feel, evokes that diy tv program where designers go all feng shui crazy over nature symbols....

My son is all about the WATER. Maybe that is why it took 32 hours and two pulls on a vacuum to coax him out of the womb? The photos I most cherish of him I took during his first baths. A frickin' Calgon commercial, I tell you --- he LOVED the water.

Among his 3000 piece bathtub amusement collection? Dive toys. Snorkels, Fins.

I love that my child loves the water so much, that he can get his sensory needs met that way. And yet...

We have moved frequently, and when we house hunted, I finally had to put my foot down when our agent kept showing us homes with pools. "Tom," I said, "we will NOT even look at another house with a pool. I don't want to hear about gates and covers. NO POOLS." And then, of course, I had to explain. "I can't swim. And I can't handle the responsibility and the worry. NO POOLS."

At that time, I didn't know how glad I'd be later I'd set that limit. I didn't know that my son would become so fascinated with water, and so determined to be in it, and that he'd have so little understanding of danger. Later we'd stay at a lake house on vacation, and it took nine adults constant vigilance to keep my son from simply running outside and throwing himself with abandon into deep water.

I really, really need to learn how to swim.

So, today, we joined the YMCA. I have no idea how many years in the making, but we've LONG awaited a way to get a little time tend to our poor, aging, adult bodies, while leaving the little bodies in good hands. Now that we have both kids in underwear (dare I say it?), now that we've made some decent progress in ABA (oh, I better dial back the positivity), now that it's summer, it seemed like maybe we could join the Y. The kids and I can learn to swim. I can try leaving them in the kids' activity room for child care in small doses while I do the cardio room and maybe I can lose a few more pounds. (Did I mention I shed 10? Shhhh, don't jinx me. Three or four more and I'll call it done, good enough. I never even strive for skinny. I don't think it's under there, in this bod.)

So finally we signed up today, and we all took the plunge. We got in the kiddy pool together.

And it just felt to tremendously symbolic to me. Like, cheap symbolism, sure... Freud not needed for such representationalism... I just felt like I needed to write about it tonight.

Not that I know exactly what I want to say about it. Just that I need to tell you. I just need to say that this trip to the pool, it represented us. Peaches dragged her feet, worried, balked at everything, needed coaxing... finally falling deeply in love with the pool after seeing other cute little girls in purple suits frolicking unafraid with their moms and siblings, though always ready in a moment to panic, worry or cling. Rooster brought his dorkiest tub toys, shrieked too loudly, swam right into strangers, broke all the rules, and charmingly wooed one mom, saying, "Hi! I'm rooster, and I'm FIVE! I'm BIG! Can I play with you? Is that your girl?" Rooster knew no fear. My husband smoothly entertained both children, knowing just how to get Peaches into deeper water, spinning her and flattering her every other moment, setting firm and appropriate limits for Rooster, and keeping him in check with threats of serious consequences, like having to go home early. Me? I flitted. I worried. I tried to PLEASE. I felt insecure being in a swim suit for the first time this millennium. I studied the faces of everyone my kids came near. I tried to pretend to feel confident. I worried. I said that one already didn't I?

I don't know where I'm going with this, but today we did more than go to the Y. We lived a snapshot of our life. We made the trailer to our movie, in a way. We were so us. It was complicated.

We are a jumble of intensity, a mix of opposites and conflicts and contradictions. I can't swim, and water makes me more than a little nervous. My husband? A fish. When I met him, he had this freaky crazy lung capacity thing that people remarked about; he'd gone scuba diving in places all around the world, sailed into amazing adventures, done a semester at sea... When we married, I dreamed of having a son just like him, how they would swim together, how I'd learn, eventually, so I could keep up just a little bit. Naturally I never could have imagined how autism would figure into that whole fantasy. What does it bring, now, I keep asking myself? Does Rooster love to swim because he is daddy's boy, or is it about the sensory component autism, this thing I still can't quite grasp? And this inability to resist risk, to comprehend danger... how does it impact my dreams for him to swim like daddy? If Rooster is less scared than he should be, am I more scared than I should be? And what does Peaches pick up from all of this? Is her fear a reflection of my own poorly hidden anxiety because of, and for, her brother?

Today at the Y, we played out all our issues. We were loud, sloppy, and emotional. We got funny looks, gentle reminders, and kind offers of help. We had poor form, and we stood out. We laughed a lot, and there was copious whining. The rooster beamed gloriously. Peaches was needy. We made some friends. I worried. My husband was heroic. I organized everything, and then some. We amassed enough laundry to cause grave concern about our carbon footprint. We left exhausted. We felt autism's presence keenly. And I guess that is what I really wanted to write about today.


pixiemama said...

I'll be your music girl. This lyric often comes to mind when we try to do family things and I know how much we overwhelm everyone around us, and your post brought it to mind immediately ... download the song Buildings and Bridges from Ani DiFranco for your iPhone and listen for this lyric:

"We are made to bleed, and scab and heal and bleed again, and turn every scar into a joke."

And for you and me specifically, darlin - "Buildings and bridges are made to sway into the wind..."

pixiemama said...

PS -


kyra said...

I TOTALLY GET IT!! I DO I DO!!! we have been the same thing. and still are. all of our humaness hanging out there, messy and vulnerable, wonderful and painful, fun and terrifying!

sending gobs of xxxxx!!!!!