The Deep End

It is a business as usual at the swimming pool when Miss A and I get there for her weekly swimming lesson.

While she gets ready, I lean back and watch the usual gamut of youngsters swim and splash around. Miss A, meanwhile is getting ready for the lesson. I watch absent-mindedly as she furrows into her swimming bag looking for an elusive item.

“I didn’t pack the correct swimming goggles”, she exclaims in dismay. A pair of very old and fairly fragile goggles are thrust in my hand.

“These are the wrong ones indeed”, I tell her

“What will I do now?”, the voice is on the precipice of becoming a wail.

“You will have to make do with these”

“I can’t Mum, you know they are very old”

“I am sorry A. I had asked you to pack your bag. You should have paid attention to what you were doing”

“Why didn’t you double-check?” , her voice is fairly traumatized now.

“I am not going to double check everything you do, A . You need to be more responsible. You have to learn to question your choices. ”

“Yeah, and now I am in trouble”

“Yup. But I can guarantee you that you will not leave without double checking your bag the next time you go somewhere”

She doesn’t say a word. I see an angry sulk forming as she stares straight ahead. Angry at herself.  But angrier at  me, because I am refusing to right her wrongs or fix the issue.

A few minutes pass in such angry silence. She fidgets around, tries to fix her goggles and gets more frustrated by the minute.

Then. “Can you please buy me new goggles, Mum? Please? They sell them in the foyer.’



“No, sorry A. They cost $20 and I am not about to spend money to cover up for your neglect”

“You don’t need to give me spending money if you buy goggles”

“Nah, not negotiable A. You need to learn to be responsible for your actions.”

“By punishing me?”

“Think of it as a lesson. Some day, even though you are mad at me now, you will thank me for this”

She gets up and stomps off in a rage. I know that the tears are forming. She lines up with the other kids, refusing to look at me or acknowledge my wave.

She takes forever with her goggles, the coach comes over to help. The other kids have already completed a lap.

She catches my eye for a minute, and then swims away with much defiance. The goggles are sliding down her face, her hair is coming  undone.  Her usual graceful strokes are stilted, the rhythm of her swimming is sketchy.

No amount of waving helps. I ask her if she needs help with her hair – no answer. “You are doing well”, I say. No answer again.

I look around for a moment. When I try to locate her again, she is no longer in that lane. I scan the pool wondering whether she went for a dive.

And that is when I see her in the deep end of the pool along with two other kids. The senior teacher is doing an assessment for her, she is already lining up to swim for the clock.

I run to the deep end. The assessments are particularly gruelling, the senior teacher is strict about benchmarks – and this is the day Miss A chose to wear tatty goggles. Perhaps I should have been kinder. If she wins today, she will know that you can do almost anything you choose to believe in. Nothing can get in the way. Nothing should get in the way. But if she fails today,  she will learn that you should never underestimate the power of preparation.

She is off before I can get there. One lap. Then two. Then three. Backstroke. Against the clock. Lap one. Then two. Then three.

“You are doing well sweetie”, the coach calls out to her.

She finishes tired. With unkempt hair. Goggles that are clouding over.  It was a test drive assessment – she will have to do this again in a week or two – this time for real. Later she tells me that she enjoyed the speed test – and it would have been easier with better goggles.

I nod. And say nothing.

The anger thaws and she talks to me. Grudgingly at first. Then with more ease. Till we are chatting again.

You have to swim if you need to make it through the deep end. You do not turn back, you do not give up. She probably does not know this yet – but she is much better at tackling the deep end than she accepts. Funny, the things that happen when you decide you are not going to pay much attention to setbacks.


6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Captain Nemo
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 03:40:36

    Very nice… I think the impact of the hardest knocks life gives us are lessened when we learn not to pay attention to setbacks when we are young.
    This blog is a very good lesson on parenting.


  2. scarlettletters
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 10:20:29

    Captain, you are so right. If you cover up for every mistake the kids commit, they will never learn to be responsible…

    Ta 🙂


  3. Rajavel
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 11:56:49

    I have to agree VJ.

    Mistakes and responsibilities will have to be surely be faced. But somewhere, it keeps annoying – when one sees from the perspective of Calvin (and his father ) – “suffering builds character” – but why is it so ?


  4. IW
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 13:30:23

    Awesome @ Ms. A doing well, dodgy goggles notwithstanding !

    Btw, how about mommy dearest ? CAN YOU SWIM ?


  5. scarlettletters
    Aug 30, 2010 @ 14:23:22

    ROTFL IW. Ummm, no, I cannot swim 🙂 Wait, does paddling with a giant flotation device count?


  6. Aria
    Nov 02, 2010 @ 06:28:49

    sweet : ) Miss A is adorable.
    I can’t swim either..


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