This morning I made it to the pool later than usual. I shared the “lap swim only” lane with an elderly man with a fairly decent freestyle, followed by a couple who are probably around my age. At first I didn’t grasp that they knew one another. But then, instead of doing the circle swim, they offered to share one side of the lane. She buoyed past him and he touched both shoulders gently, a touch that was unmistakably intimate. I wondered how they would share one side of the lane. It was quite beautiful. He reached the end of the lane ahead of her, and then turned as she approached and he swam deep underneath her, then slowly back up. At the shallow end, he peacefully slid beside her for lack of depth. It was true teamwork tinged with a touch of eroticism.
I’m a lame-ass team player. It’s why I like to swim (but please no relay!) and write (no collaboration here!) But for me, swimming is the ultimate metaphor for parenting. There’s the obvious – the feeling of aloneness or a sudden lapse in basic breathing that leaves you choking ever so slightly as you soldier on. But the more subtle moments give me some hope for my parenting abilities, particularly those of donor-conceived children with whom I’ll presumably have some difficult discussions.
This morning I started fast, but splashy and uncoordinated, probably because I was out last night celebrating my gorgeous friend Lauren’s birthday (a talent supreme). My kick was off and the first quarter mile felt inefficient. Sometime during the next quarter the couple entered the water for our unarranged threesome. Then something kicked in and I swam smoothly, every so often arriving at the deep end and watching him swim deep beneath her.
My parenting is a lot like my swimming. It’s painfully erratic at times. Sometimes it feels so much harder than it should, and I just can’t get my mum groove on, and I don’t know why. Then sometimes when I’m least expecting it, something clicks. My form is smooth and efficient. Instead of dispensing a knee-jerk time out, my daughter and I talk about why she clobbered her brother instead of using her words.
Sometimes I’m a competitive jerk and race people that have no idea they’re being raced. Like that moment when you put yourself above someone else’s parenting skills, even though you yelled at your kid last night. They don’t have the chance to explain themselves (not that they have to) before you judge and decide you’re better.
Sometimes the swim is simply long and hard, but with each lap I somehow get stronger. I complete my mile at my fastest and loosest. The first half-mile may have been dauntingly laborious, but the second half is astonishingly better. Everyone keeps telling me that when your kids are ages five and three it’s much easier than four and two, and of course three and one. The more time you put in, the easier it gets. The difficulties ease up, but undoubtedly you get stronger too and that’s part of the dynamic.
I’m adding the donor-conceived aspect into the mix, so I may have to start training for the middle-aged Olympics, or at least a triathlon. It’s interesting to think that despite all the abuse I got for the Motherlode piece, it’s the dibling moms that I know I’ll be looking to for support and guidance, as all our children get older. And I have a feeling they’ll swim beside me and underneath me, and I will endeavor to do the same for them. Even though we’ve never actually swum together, and possibly never will.