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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Define your terms

Because we are the fortunate owners of a pool, during the Summer the children bathe every day. I had wanted the boys to go to the local pool for formal swimming lessons, because they did not take ‘lessons’ well, from me. I thought an objective and professional teacher might have more luck. The echoing noise and crowds proved disastrous. I did what I normally do in such situations, give up and try later. Since we had a pool, I decided that as long as I could get them all in daily, they would just pick it up over the years. [translation = osmosis!] No rush. As long as they were happy in the water, [which took a while] that was good enough for me.

After each ‘swim’ I would hop out on the side where a stack of towels waited. Being the demur and dignified person that I am, I would stand on the side with a towel opened wide, flap it like a Toreador and sing the matching song. At the crescendo, my daughter would rush out to be wrapped up. The boys loathed this exercise and refused to participate in such a pointless and futile exercise. They made their disapproval known by screaming during the few seconds that it took. [translation = always a trade off between children]

I watch my youngest son swim across the pool. This is the first year that all of them are afloat and reasonably secure. I watch him speed across the width of the pool sideways accompanied by a great deal of splashing.

An expert could supply us with an accurate definition of ‘swimming,’* but I probably wouldn’t like it, so I decide it’s better to make up my own. My own definition of ‘swimming’ would be something like, ‘moves through the water without the aid of touching the bottom or side, or being pulled by a third party, not necessarily on the surface. [translation = independent] This suits my purposes much better.

I watch him carefully trying to work out how exactly he is getting from point A to point B through the splashing water screen. His legs pedal frantically, as if he were on a unicycle, perfectly upright. His perpendicular little body moves sideways? His arms are clamped to his sides, bent at the elbow but both rotate in the same direction like propellers. [translation = high speed.] It is quite remarkable to witness. How does he have the energy? It looks like such hard work. It is his own invention, as at the tale end of summer last year, we were still working on doggy paddle. [translation = compulsory arm bands /water wings]

I am just getting to grips with this new ‘free style,’ when he changes tack entirely. He launches himself into a leaping splat, a cross between butterfly and a bi-plane. It bears no resemblance to anything he has been taught and I cannot imagine where he might have seen something similar? His sister pauses to observe him as she has been given strict instructions to give him a wide berth, due to his status of ‘novice swimmer.’
“What is he doing?” she asks, perplexed.
“I’m sure I have no idea,” is all I can offer. Junior persists, oblivious to the other swimmers. He moves into third gear, a whale, a body that rises and falls, breaking the surface with waves, as he lollops across the pool. [translation = complete with blow hole spurts] He comes to the edge and puts out a steadying hand, winded and slightly breathless.

“O.k. time to get out guys!” I call, opening a towel for my daughter. [translation = the same way I have been doing for the past eight years. The boys bob about, heads just above the surface like a couple of sea otters. Both watch as I sing our ditty, “hey guys, why don’t you do it too?” she calls over her shoulder as she charges into my arms. I wrap her up snuggly like a Swiss roll, hobbled. She turns back towards the boys, expectantly. “Come on you two!” she commands, “mum! Get him a towel!” she barks. I hold it out gingerly. “Sing it mom! Get out of there when we reach the end!” she bellows. We sing together at the boys in the pool, who half cover their ears and bounce in time. On cue they both plough out of the water and huddle into one towel and one pair of arms.

They clunk skulls of course!

*Inflected Form(s): swam /'swam/; swum /'sw&m/; swim·ming
Etymology: Middle English swimmen, from Old English swimman; akin to Old High German swimman to swim
intransitive verb
1 a : to propel oneself in water by natural means (as movements of the limbs, fins, or tail) b : to play in the water (as at a beach or swimming pool)
2 : to move with a motion like that of swimming : GLIDE

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