Sink or Swim… Er, Float

11 06 2009

Ruthie with cute, pink, ruffled floaties.

Ruthie floating not-on-her-own. Notice the cuteness. And the pinkness. And the ruffles. Oh, the ruffles!

Last Sunday, Ruthie and I, along with a very dear friend, broke into a local neighborhood pool while its patrons were at church. Thankfully, there was only one family there, and they were lounging at an angle that would allow us (and by “us,” I mean my dear friend) to inconspicuously jiggle the gate in just the right way with just the right amount of pressure so that it would open without the key. Once I saw the gate swing open, we plowed through and set up camp in a nice, shady corner where we could eat lunch.

Ruthie loves the pool, but I’m trying to break her into her floaties this year and have been, thus far, unsuccessful. I’ve gone to great lengths to find cute, pink ones; they even have a ruffle. She’ll put them on and wear them in the baby pool, on the steps of the big pool. She even ate lunch with them on. But she won’t let them hold her up. I’ve tried coaxing her to simply stand on the third step and lift her feet, I’ve tried luring her out into the middle of the pool with motor boat sounds and bubbles, but always she is stubbornly resistant to the very notion of using the floaties to FLOAT! I finally got her to let me hold her in the pool and drag her around with her arms out “like an angel.” For a solid half hour, I pushed and pulled her all over the pool, but as soon as she felt my grip loosen, she’d freak out and pull her arms down to her sides. Which made her sink. Which made her swallow water. Which made her even more fierce in her determination to not let me go. I even tried just pulling away real fast, but she had a death grip on my index fingers and I didn’t have the heart to rip them away. All I could think of was that swim teacher who told me to swim to him and kept walking backwards, all the way down the pool. I thought I was going to drown. When I tried to pull away from Ruthie, her face had the look of sheer terror that must have come over my own face when that jerk wouldn’t stand still.

I wanted her to see that she could trust the floaties, that they would keep her up. Having seen tons of kids her age positively leaping into other pools that I’ve high-jacked this summer, only to bob right back up to the surface with those floaties sticking up out of the water. I thought kids just knew that floaties would keep them up. While I can remember being afraid to swim, I can’t ever remember being afraid to float. The problem is that Ruthie has no confidence in her floaties. Her refusal to rely on them to help her float actually makes her sink. In order for them to work, she has to kind of relax into them. But because it’s new and scary, her whole body tenses up at the possibility of me letting go, she jerks her arms down, and her head goes under.

This whole experience struck me as somehow significant and metaphorical, but I couldn’t quite pin it to anything until I came across this passage from Oswald Chambers:

Naturally, we are inclined to be so mathematical and calculating that we look upon uncertainty as a bad thing… Certainty is the mark of the common sense life, gracious uncertainty is the mark of the spiritual life. To be certain of God means that we are uncertain in all of our ways, we do not know what a day may bring forth. This is generally said with a sigh of sadness; it should rather be an expression of breathless anticipation.

And brilliant E.L. Doctorow insight  that Anne Lamott quotes in Bird by Bird:

Writing a novel is like driving a car at night. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.

I, like Ruthie, am on the cusp, the brink, the brim of lots of unknowables. I have a new job in a new school system teaching a grade that I haven’t been with in over four years. In recent months, I have experienced tremendous changes in my personal life as well. I have no idea what my life will look like in the fall, or even in, say, July. For the past six weeks, my shoulders have been in knots and I often catch myself holding my breath for no particular reason. I am tense because my life is new, different, and, well, scary.  When things seem out of control to me, my tendency is to run straight through as fast as I can. This tends to send my life spinning even more out of control. And so, as I quelled the frustration that I felt at Ruthie’s resistance to letting go and trusting the floaties, I realized that I may need to do the very same thing in my own life: trust more and fight less.

Ruthie resigns to the baby pool (with ponies, because ponies make everything more Fashionable, and thereby, more fun.)

Ruthie resigns to the baby pool (with ponies, because ponies make everything more Fashionable, and thereby, more fun.)

Ruthie never did float on her own in the big pool. She resigned to the baby pool, where she kept her floaties on and bobbed around like a little shrimp. That is until she confessed that she needed to go “poopee” (however you spell that) and we realized that you have to have a freaking key to get into the bathrooms. It was nap time anyways.





Super Fruity

31 05 2009

grocery shopping

Fruit selection is not my strong point when it comes to grocery shopping. Bananas especially stress me out. I feel like they’re always either all green or beginning to turn brown, and I can never gauge how long it will take for my bananas to spoil, which attracts those annoying hovering fruit flies that take me days to get rid of. I see these people at the grocery store who can just walk up to a bunch of bananas and stick them in their carts with a sneer of confidence on their faces, like ha! how bout these bananas, bitch! It takes me a good two to three minutes to figure out which bananas will work for me. Sometimes, when I notice a person who takes the time to sniff and kind of squeeze peaches or lemons or whatever, I’ll go behind them, careful not to pick up the ones that they put back. All of my own sniffing, squeezing, and general fruit fondling leaves me feeling kind of pervy and ridiculous since my own fruit selection is completely arbitrary. Aside from, you know, avoiding apples with severe bruising, I just pick the prettiest ones. The trickiest part about fruit selection is that they trick you with their tricky fruit and vegetable lighting that enhances the greens and oranges and yellows to make them look all luscious until you get them home. And then there’s the worst trick of all: the strawberries that are moldy on the inside of the crate, but all red and smelly-good (as Ruthie would say) on the outside. That fuzzy stuff totally gives me the creeps. I wind up double bagging it and taking it out to the garbage. Sick. 

Ruthie loves fruit, so I usually wind up making several trips to the grocery store each week just for fruit. Yesterday I was doing my little banana routine (analyze the entire selection, pick one up, turn it over, put it back, reach for one then change my mind, rip three off of a group of five, put those back, finally grab some random bunch of three or four and walk off in a huff), when it struck me how much parenting is like picking out fruit. No matter how much I know about it, no matter how many times I see people do it, I find myself doing with Ruthie what I so often do with the bananas and all of my arbitrary fruit selection in general. You can’t ever be prepared for what you’re going to have to deal with, and whatever it is that you’re going to do, however you’re going to handle it, you can’t take more than a few seconds to make up your mind or all hell breaks loose. And the most difficult things to handle are usually the simplest. Topics like death or illness or male/female genitalia or basic hygene or, I don’t know, body image can leave you so dumbfounded that you wind up explaining something with the pitiful refrain that left you insatiable as a small child as well: “because that’s the way it is.” This phrase is the equivalent of my huffy grab at a random bunch of bananas because I’m sick of trying to figure out which ones will last longest and taste best. Why does Sam tee-tee standing up? Because he has a penis. Why? Because he’s a boy. Why is he a boy? Because he is! And there you are, with your bunch of green bananas that will never ripen in time for you to eat them in one hand, and your toddler in the grocery cart mulling over the word penis, which will probably have to be explained to her again once you get home at about the same time you realize that you just bought a bad bunch of bananas AGAIN.