Thursday, August 21, 2008

The deep end

Last evening I took Tess and Colm to rec swim. On the way there, Tess pestered me about whether I'd take her to the deep end so that she could go off the diving board. I told her that the only way they would let her in the deep end was if she passed the test.
"What's the test?" she asked rather disingenuously since I had already told her several times over the past several days.
"Swim the length of the pool (25 meters) freestyle without dog paddling."
"Will you give me the test?"
"Sorry sweetie. Only the lifeguards can give you the test."
When we got in kid pool we went through our usual variety of diversions. I would be a shark and swim underwater after them. They would hop on top of me; I would dive for the bottom taking them with me until they couldn't hold their breath any longer and would break away. They would go down the water slide too. But they also spent a fair amount of time showing me how well they could do the freestyle and backstroke. Each time I praised Tess for doing the freestyle well she would say something like, "I want to take the test."
"There's a lifeguard. Go ask her."
I could see her working up her nerve but not quite getting there. A bit later however I found myself with Colm at the other end of the kid pool from the water slide where Tess was. I looked over there and saw her standing next the lifeguard chair, talking to the young woman. I was too far away to hear anything but I could tell that Tess was asking questions. The lifeguard inclined her head indulgently toward Tess as if concentrating on hearing what she was saying. She responded patiently to Tess's questions. It was sweet seeing this teenager and my daughter together. I was a little surprised in fact to see that Tess had initiated this conversation with a stranger on her own. When she came back to me and Colm her eyes glinted. She reported to me that everything was exactly as I had said. I complimented her on finding out.
"Are you going to take the test?" I asked.
"Not yet."
We played some more. I suggested that Tess try a practice test in the kid pool which is about half the length of the other pool. She did it. I was mildly surprised, still I doubted that she could go 25 meters, at least not on her first attempt. With about fifteen minutes to go before closing I warned the kids that we'd be leaving soon. Tess absorbed the news and then got out of the pool and went back to lifeguard. Colm and I watched from the edge of the kid pool as the lifeguard got down from her chair and escorted Tess to the deep pool, just a couple of paces away. Tess climbed in. She did a couple of bobs down to the bottom of the pool. A good idea, I thought. Then she gave me and Colm a quick look, grabbed hold of the edge of the pool and pushed off. Right from the start she was strong but she was also headed diagonally across the lane. She bumped into the lane floats, corrected and kept going. Her stamina was impressive but even more impressive was her focus. She kept going, breathing on her right side as she lifted that arm high out of the water. The other arm barely grazed the water's surface. The lifeguard walked alongside her. Colm said, "Is she doing it?"
"I think she's doing it."
She did it.


Blogger Melissa said...

Oh, Tess, amazing Tess. This one made me a little teary.

11:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I got teary, too. Congratulations, Tess! I'm in awe of the person you're becoming- smart, strong, determined, and just generally awesome! Love, Erin

7:15 AM  

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