Synchronized Flopping

I am a Jellyfish. My head is hanging heavy like a rock, and my arms and legs are dangling. My eyes are staring at the bottom of the pool, as if there were a mirror directly below me.

Rachael, my East Bank Club swim instructor, has typed out and sent me this description, along with others designed for her toddler swimmers. I have encased her clues in plastic, just as I have done for tips transcribed for me by my Aqua swim coach, Kathy. Hers include profiles of: Number 11, Fish, Breast Stroke, and Crawl.

Kathy has taught me how to swim while side breathing. Rachael is teaching me how to float. Both of these gurus and courses were inspired by times in the water with my children and grandchildren. I wrote "Over My Head" about my experiences last summer in a bay in Provincetown Harbor. This newest essay was influenced by the recent comedy routine on display in my daughter's pool.

And while I will describe my attempts, along with my loved ones' antics and my ,lifelong efforts to become a calm and confident swimmer, perhaps you'll agree that Synchronized Flopping can be a metaphor for Parenting: sometimes we accomplish it perfectly; i.e. Esther Williams upside down in the water, and resurfacing with her makeup and smile intact.

Other times, we are out-of-our-depth, looking foolish, and gasping for air.

So now, with that considerate allusion, here's what happened during my five days in the tucked away oasis on the east side of L.A. My daughter's pool has a shelf, stairs, and a shallow end, which then travels several feet deep. My two daughters and my 20-year-old grandson -- knowing my skittishness with water over my head -- were using pool noodles (memory foam, unsinkable, buoyant) to show me how easy it was to relax while lying on, straddling, and sprawling atop the colorful cylinders.

As I watched, with goggles atop my cap, I admired their ease. They closed their eyes to demonstrate 100% relaxation, they chatted casually with one another as evidence of the ability to multitask while prone, and they waved to me to prove that movement on these olive, red, and yellow tubes would not disturb repose. They were so adorable that I had to quell the urge to rush over and kiss their dewy foreheads.

Thus encouraged and emboldened, I allowed my dear ones to dress me in a noodle. I managed a few seconds of pause, and the minute I attempted a shift to the pool's edge, over I went.  Each co-conspirator tried placing me in a different position on the noodle, and then fished me out after I tipped over.

All was not for naught, because my talented, goofy offspring and grandson choreographed a hilarious water ballet that made my mishaps worthwhile. Lining up in trio formation (Oh, why wasn't there music!), they leaned backwards with their noodles horizontal. There they rested, until one gave the cue, "and then she flopped." With that, in perfect harmony, they capsized.

From my perch in the shallow end, I watched their pratfalls and laughed so hard that my kin worried about my condition. After confirming I found this funny, rather than humiliating, they repeated the routine until they tired of the joke.

So now I have new goals: Jellyfish, Starfish (look up at the sky, further up to my eyebrows, push my hips up, puff out my tummy like I just had Thanksgiving dinner, hold my breath with puffy cheeks, and tilt my body backwards), and Tea Party (jump up with arms at the side. As I go under water, raise my arms over my head and out of the water. Sink down until my tush hits the bottom of the pool. Pretend I am sipping tea. Then, use my arms to push myself up above the water.) These are floats and games that may make noodles unnecessary, no matter the depth.

As for Parenting (remember our metaphor?), I doubt if I'll ever attain the ease and grace of a synchronized swimmer. Being perfectly in harmony with my family's needs may at times elude me. But, I'm forever grateful that when I am over my head, my sweet and funny brood will be there to fish me out.


Image Copyright: Yulia Ryabokon/123RF