These days my primary duty in the household is that of being a chaperone. School drop off and pick up, play group and library, gymnastics and swimming (Thank God, Ballet is off the list!), play dates and birthday parties and these are just the marked trips on my calendar. The unmarked ones are dealt with appropriately as and when they spring up.
The social chaperoning I don’t mind as much as the activity supervision. Trust me, only MOMS who do this are aware what a race against time it is, both; first to get your child in a class in a facility YOU prefer, in the time slot YOU want, WITH the coach of YOUR choice and then to find a parking space when you actually land there on time!
Often, we sign up for this kind of stress without actually acknowledging that it is a stress!
My daughter took a break from her swim lessons all summer this year. The idea was to spend more time in the community pool having fun versus a structured swim time. When the fall session started and we arrived for her swim class, I didn’t expect much to change. If anything, I thought she would have gotten better in the water because of all those afternoons in the community swimming pool.
The first thing I noticed or rather heard as I took my place in the stands to observe, was the coach’s loud voice instructing the students to line up for an assessment. Usually, from where I sit, I can see what’s going on, but can rarely hear what the coach has to say except for if he or she is calling for a student from the other end of the pool. This class immediately felt different because of the coach’s insistent personality. One look at my daughter’s face and I knew she was feeling intimidated and nervous.
One after the other, the students swam a lap with the coach standing right in the middle, evaluating their skills. My daughter who has been doing a couple of laps easily, stopped twice before finishing one single lap. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I could see she wasn't feeling confident and his way of dealing was a little unsettling for her. Next, he made everybody do back strokes and it didn't come as a surprise to me that she didn't go backwards in a straight line as is expected, thankfully, she didn't stop mid-way. In my mind, I was already blaming the coach for her bad performance today. I was chewing my nails in apprehension and I knew the next half an hour wasn't going to be easy for her because once you slip, you don’t recover easily. Half way through their lesson, the coach had made them sit on the edge of the pool on the other side and was talking to them intently. The ‘talk’ went on for quite some time before they were finally back in the water and the drill continued.
After the class, the coach had a message for us. He asked me if she had been recently promoted to this level of swimming and I said no, but she was on a break for a couple of months in between. He straight away told me that in that case he would have to do a re-evaluation in the next class and then decide if she was fit to be in the current level or had to go back one level down because kids tend to get a little out of practice with the swim techniques if there is a long break. I mentioned that she was a little nervous today and maybe that is what affected her performance. Well, he said that was very much possible and that’s why he always scheduled it for the next class.
I drove back feeling really upset and guilty about the whole thing. Guilty, because it was my idea that we take a break with the lessons for a while so that she would enjoy being in the pool with her friends this summer and not worry about learning it. Rationally speaking, it was very much possible that a break may have interfered with her learning flow and she could step back a level and practice those techniques again. But, I wasn’t ready to accept it yet. And even worse, I knew she would really take it to heart if she had to go back one level. I remembered how proud she was when she made it to level 4.
And it was entirely my fault! And because, it was my fault, I would set it right, I decided, determined to argue it out with the coach next time.
As we drove back, my swim student looked really sad. I told her to cheer up and assured her I would talk to the coach. She said, “No Mom, I am sad because I know I didn't do well today. The coach is right, I made mistakes and stopped in between a couple of times, a student at level 4 isn't supposed to do that. I got nervous because I went to the class after a long time”. Unlike me, she was neither in denial nor a bit afraid of facing her own limitations.
Age brings it with a lot of worldly wisdom and perhaps the manipulative abilities required to survive and co-exist amidst diversity and adversity but it may not necessarily bring with it soulful insight. Complex situations are handled with expertise and simple basic lessons of life are either forgotten or ignored in the zest to race ahead.
It is when people way younger spring that simple truth in your face, realization strikes - we often travel a long way without knowing where we are going.
And when that happens, it may be too late to retrace and re-embark, but I remind myself that is never too late to learn a lesson or two and pick up some real knowledge on the way.
p.s. The re-evaluation went rather well and by the end of that session; she was almost ready to move on to the next! The ‘talk’ as I later on heard about, is worth a mention here. “Mom, he told us that if you have the necessary skills you don’t have to worry what level you are in!”
Without naming the coach, I will say that I am going to be thankful to him always, for re-enforcing the belief in my 7 year old that learning is more important than moving ahead. As a parent, it is easier for me lose sight of what the ‘real’ focus should be on, once in a while.