Sunday, July 05, 2009 By Aaron Brown
Swimming lessons for life
By Aaron J. Brown
I live in Minnesota, the Land of 10,000 Lakes, in a northern county that holds about 1,000 of these sparkling bodies of water. I grew up one county over with another 1,000 lakes. The point is, water. I’ve always been around it. For as long as I can remember my family has spoken of lakes, boats and swimming as though the nouns and verbs, respectively, were part of our family.
I can’t swim. At least not well. I have this sort of hybrid dog paddle, mad flailing thing that I do and sometimes I can control its direction. I think I could get back to shore if I fell off a boat somewhat close to shore. That’s something I tell myself. I also tell myself that I could win a bar fight against a large, powerful man under ideal circumstances, such as being near a pool cue or folding chair and facing an opponent whose primary approach was to lunge haphazardly forward. Life has a way of denying you the folding chair when you need it most.
I could tell you about the childhood incident where my flail paddle technique failed, and I lost strength and dipped below the water. I could tell you how I flailed kind of helplessly in the hope that doing so would shoot me over to the shore, just 30 feet away, and how a friend pulled me to safety. But man, that’s a bummer. And not just a little bit. That’s a king size, housing bubble bursting kind of killjoy that I will spare you right now.
We’ve been taking our oldest son Henry, age 4, to swimming lessons this summer. He’s been dog paddling, jumping in the water, but mostly learning that you shouldn’t “spout,” or spit water out like a whale, even though that is a totally awesome thing to do. Also, there are rubber ducks and giant noodles involved. We want him and his two brothers to learn how to swim because we live on a lake now. There is a large, natural swimming pool just several hundred feet away from the house at any given time and it’s only a matter of time before these little guys figure that out. I don’t want my boys to struggle in the water. I want them to handle themselves like my dad and uncles, who swim like fish.
My uncle once told me that the best thing you can do for a six month old baby is to throw them into the water. Their instincts will direct them to float, and from that point forward they will have ease in learning how to swim. My uncle is a bachelor, but he is also a competitive swimmer, which makes his advice all the more difficult to interpret.
Swimming, like knowing how to interview for a job, is one of those life tasks that can save you when the time is right. Unfortunately, I gravitated toward the job interview, not the pool. Swimming remains a mystery to me. I could take lessons, but I’d have to admit that thing which no parent really wants to admit. My kid knows more than me.
To sink or swim. That is the question.
Aaron J. Brown is a columnist for the Hibbing Daily Tribune. Contact him or read more at his blog MinnesotaBrown.com. His book “Overburden: Modern Life on the Iron Range” is out now.