Monday, July 4, 2011

What Days This Summer Taste Like

Do you ever have those moments when you wish you could snap your fingers and instantly record exactly what was happening?  I had two of those this week and I have to write them down before they become part of the blur that characterizes my child-rearing years.

The first moment involved Nicholas, my middle son.  I wrote last summer about his reluctance to swim and the breakthrough he had when he finally learned to dunk his head under the water and swim with a flotation device.  Due to a relatively cool June, our pool time hasn't been very consistent, but the last couple of weeks have given us the chance to get into our morning pool ritual.  After a few days, Nicholas asked me, "Why can't I swim yet?" I reminded him that he had refused for the last two summers to allow me to teach him.  "Are you ready to learn now?" I asked.  He definitely was.  After a few minutes practicing kicks at the side of the pool and reminding him to make his arms like big spaghetti spoons, he was ready to try.  He pushed off from the pool's steps, and with that, he was swimming!  Just a few feet at first, but by the end of the hour, he was really getting the hang of it.  Only three days later, he is jumping into the deep end and swimming to the sides all on his own. He still needs to keep practicing and improving, but he is now a swimmer.  On that first day, he looked at me with his wet, shaggy hair falling across his eyes and a smile that could not get any wider and said, "I am so proud of myself!"  My heart must have tripled in size. After years of watching him wrestle with the desire to dive in and the fear that held him back, I couldn't help but have a few tears fall as he reveled in his success.

The second moment this week happened just a couple of hours ago.  I was reading to the boys from Because of Winn-Dixie by Katie DiCamillo, a book none of us has read before.  We haven't even seen the movie, so each night's reading is a fresh experience for all of us.  After a few chapters, particularly sorrow-filled chapters, I finished up and went to kiss my oldest son good night.  He said, "Mom, I think I might be too sad to fall asleep."  It isn't out of character for Michael to be strongly impacted by the situations in a book or movie; in fact, it happens regularly, but tonight, I asked him, "Do you know why it is good for us to read stories even though they make us sad?"  He shook his head and I continued, "Because when we read what other people go through, even thought it is hard and might make us sad, it makes us better able to love people in real life because we understand them better.  Reading stories that make us feel helps us be better people.  Does that make sense?" He understood and we chatted in whispers a bit more about how books do this.  Michael is a challenging boy, but his heart is about as tender as it could be.  I told him that if we keep reading books together, the things he struggles with will become easier to control.  That boy's sleepy eyes and soft smile made me want to lay down right next to him so we could fall into dreams together.  Alas, laundry beckoned and so I sang him a requested lullaby, turned out the lights and left the room where my three boys lay fast asleep.

Funny how the chapters we read in Because of Winn-Dixie tonight were the ones about the candy made with sweetness and sorrow.  Root beer, strawberry and melancholy all swirled together-- I know exactly what that tastes like.
PS: I didn't mean to ignore Lucas in this post; I'm sure I will share a story about his antics/poignant moments this summer soon!