Trying to Build Bridges
Today, in an effort to build bridges with The Boy (whom I have spent the last few months arguing with more and more), it was decreed that we would have some Mummy and The Boy time.
After much debate, it was decided that we would go swimming at our local pool, which fantastically offers free swimming for those with special needs and their families on Sundays.
It is agreed that just Mummy and The Boy will attend. The build up has been ongoing for several days, including buying a swimming costume (blue, Victorian-esque with a large orange octopus on the front), purchasing swimming goggles (blue, naturally), sorting out a swimming bag (obviously, a blue one) and practicing our swimming moves at every opportunity (in the bath, on the floor, in the mirror, in the street).
The Boy is extremely excited about going swimming. It is his first time, and it will open up a world of possibilities for us both.
I am worried about how he will react – will it be too noisy, will he get upset about the water or if he gets splashed, will he like getting his head wet, will he get angry and aggressive, will I have to spend my time apologising to other parents like I so often do when we are out?
I am so worked up that I let my mind wander and become narcissistic, suddenly seized with terror that people I am not about to have sex with will see me in a state of undress, in only a swimming costume, the first time I will have been in such clothing in two decades. I am also reminded of how terrible a swimmer I am – my mother, never having been confident in the water, has passed on a distrust to all of us, but the lack of ability is all my own.
I am determined not to pass on the fear, I am determined that it will not matter whether he likes it or not, but that we will try, because that is how we do things at Wiltshire Towers – we try. If he does not like it, we will leave, if he does we will stay.
We prepare at home, putting our costumes on under our clothes. He is dancing with joy, he is so happy to be going swimming. On the walk to the swimming pool, he is telling me how he will put his face under the water, that he will swim for miles and that he is really excited. I am excited for him, but worried that it will not be what he thinks it will be, that he will be disheartened if he cannot do it, that he will not want to come again and this will be another door closed of things we can do that “normal” families do.
We arrive at the pool, and we race to the changing rooms. He is ready quickly, and we walk through to the pool. He is giggling with happiness, and cannot wait to swim. The special needs swimming instructor kits him out with arm bands, finds him some floats, and encourages him to play. I attempt (and fail) nonchalence, hovering near by when I should be keeping my distance, impeded in my desire to rush to him when he stumbles by the sensation of walking through treacle.
An incident occurs – he splashes another child with water. I think I should tell him off and am told not to worry, it isn’t a problem. All the parents here have children who are special, so they understand. I don’t have to launch into a big explanation of The Boy’s autism.
I can, bar the fear of The Boy drowning, relax a little, not feel self conscious, and just enjoy being with my son with a group of people who are not judging us. It is freeing. It feels marvelous.
Watching my boy laughing, playing, interacting, being silly causes my eyes to get wet, and it is more than the chlorine that is causing them to water. My grin is getting wider and wider.
He tells me he has never been happier. He tells me that he loves swimming, that he wants to come again. He tells me that he will come here, then he will learn to swim, and then he will scuba dive. He shows me how he will scuba dive, and in the process learns that he cannot breathe under water. It causes his mother concern, but he is ok, coughing and spluttering, and tells me that he is just trying. The he fixes me with his blue eyes and tells me, quite sternly, that we must never, ever give up trying. Then he tells me that I was the one that told him that, that he believes me, and that he will never stop trying because Wiltshire’s keep trying.
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Department of Psychology and Neuroscience