“Tommy, you’ll have to bring your jacket because it’s a little chilly,” I called out. I picked up his jacket and realized that it felt heavy. Then I checked his pockets and found a ton of stones. “Er, Tommy? Is there a reason for these?” I showed him the stones in my palm and he gave me a big grin.
“They’re my magic,” he explained solemnly.
I nodded as though this made complete sense. “I see,” I said. I left the stones alone because you can’t mess with magic.
“You ready to go?” I asked Tommy as he shrugged on his jacket.
We were headed for his swim lessons. He’s been going all month long. Yesterday was his last lesson. Thankfully Tom has been coming home from work in time to watch Natalie so I don’t have to worry about her trying to leap into the pool. And she definitely would try, too. I just know it. Unfortunately swim lessons don’t start for her until three.
“Mommy? Do I swim super duper fast?” Tommy wondered as we drove to the aquatic center.
“Yes you do,” I said and I wasn’t telling a fib. When he first started out he was usually the last kid to touch the wall. Now he usually finishes first or second. Granted, there are only two other kids in the class, but still...in the beginning he’d get frustrated and stomp over when the lessons were over. His lips would be clenched and he’d be sulking at his feet.
“I’m always last place,” he muttered to me.
“Well. You just have to keep trying,” I told him as I rubbed him down with the towel.
When we got to his last day of swim lessons he went over to his teacher and said, “Guess what? My Mom showed me videos of people swimming!” His voice reverberated around the room. My kid has a loud voice. But he was right though: I HAD showed him videos of people swimming because he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of the butterfly stroke. So I showed him a race that a bunch of swimmers did. And okay, one of those swimmers MAY have been Michael Phelps…which is why I heard Tommy saying (loudly) to his teacher,
“And Mom thinks one of the swimmers is a stud.”
His last word seemed to echo around the room so it sounded like “Stud-ud-ud-ud…”
A few of the other mothers waiting started to giggle. One of them leaned over to me and mouthed, “Michael Phelps?” and with a red face I meekly nodded. I should have lied and said something like, “Actually, no. Mark Spitz.”
Swimming seems to be Tommy’s thing. We knew we could never put him in t-ball or soccer or flag football—sports that other parents seem to quickly want their boys to be in. The reason being is that Tommy is extremely sensitive. If he didn’t hit the ball in t-ball, he’d surely cry. If he didn’t get to kick the ball in soccer, there would be tears. If someone accidentally pushed him down in flag football, he’d probably sink to the grass in despair and turn into Nancy Kerrigan and shriek, “WHYYYYYY? WHYYYY?”
Sure, he may have improved. But Tommy is just wired to want to succeed all the time. He has Aspergers and doesn’t always understand the rules of our society.
I noticed he had a knack for swimming when we were visiting my parents over the summer. They have a pool and I’d watch as Tommy taught himself how to swim.
“Look Mommy! Look! Am I swimming?” he’d call out hopefully as he splashed across the pool.
“Yes! You are swimming!” I’d shout.
Still, I wanted him to improve because when he was in the pool, he sort of thrashed around. I wanted him to understand the different strokes.
So he started swim lessons.
And yeah, he had problems sometimes. The teacher would teach them how to kick their legs and Tommy wouldn’t always comprehend. He’d try for a few seconds and then revert back to the way he knew how. Tommy isn’t always aware of how his appendages work which is why he’s been in occupational therapy since he was three. This is another reason why other sports wouldn’t sit well with him: he’s awkward when he runs and trips over his two feet if he gets overexcited.
Tommy’s best stroke turned out to be the backstroke. I’d watch in awe as he’d get on his back and propel himself easily across the pool.
It’s humbling to know that your seven-year-old swims better than you.
He still needs some more lessons so he understands all the different strokes and how exactly to do them. When his teacher was trying to teach him to do the butterfly he looked at her and went, "I don't like that one. Let's do the backstroke again." So I’ll be signing him up for more lessons. Unfortunately the base pool is closing for renovations until March so now I have to travel off base—which is fine but when it starts to get dark, I tend to get nervous because I hate driving in the dark. But I’ll do it. I’ll do it for him. Because swimming makes him happy.