Will, our Wonder Boy

During a weekend late in June, some friends hosted a pool party at a hidden neighborhood pool.  Among his friends, Will was by no means the only kid swimming around — but he was the only one doing so without any flotation aid and one of the only ones jumping fearlessly off the diving board.  People remarked on his comfort in the water and pressed us for the secrets of our little swimmer’s success… secrets which amounted to: “um…. I started dunking him in the water when he was a few months old?”

We’ve known for a long time that Will has some pretty amazing physical skills.  His balance, athleticism, and coordination have stood out to us and to others since before he could walk.  But what in the world were we to do about it?

The pool incident made me feel guilty about not more actively looking for ways for Will to hone these natural gifts.  So I quickly found open swimming classes at Elmwood Fitness Center.  Elmwood is a beautiful, state-of-the-art, fully equipped facility located in Harahan, which in the terms of someone living in Uptown New Orleans, means that one requires both speciality immunizations and a passport to get there.  For the past two weeks, Paul or I have been picking up Will at 3:30 and RUSHING him to the dark side of the moon FOUR times a week for 4:00 lessons.  Fighting traffic (traffic?  I live in the city because I hate traffic!) running in, changing in the locker room, rushing to the pool, waiting through a 40-minute lesson, changing again, rushing out, fighting traffic, picking up Kate at school, and then getting home to prepare dinner for kids to complain over.  IT SUCKED.  Thank goodness it all ended last Thursday.

Just so we could start it all again this week.

We did this because of Will’s very first lesson two weeks ago; when in the time it took me put him in the pool with his teacher, walk 50 feet to write a check for the class, and walk back, Will was swimming freestyle across the pool.  Eight classes later and Will was swimming freestyle, butterfly, and starting backstroke and breaststroke.  Now, I’m not saying he’s a master of any of the strokes, but he easily does them as well as any of the other kids in his swimming class… who are all age 7 and older and have had 2-3 years of swimming lessons.  In other words, the kids in his class have been swimming for as long or longer than Will has been walking.

Of course I am filled with pride to see my tiny guy — all 38.8 pounds of him — bouncing around boys twice his age and more than twice his size in the shallow water.  But I can’t help but feel a little freaked out.  I’m starting to see my life unfold as a chlorine-scented taxi driver who is pegged to leave the house at 4:30am five times a week for morning practices.  What the heck happened to my Billy Elliot??

The real bummer is that we were excited (and he was excited) about trying gymnastics and possibly a dance or music class in the fall.  Isn’t it too early to be sticking him in ONE thing?  And how can we possibly manage to balance everything??  Plus, there is Kate.  She’ll be starting down this road soon.  These are logistics well beyond the scope of what I considered before signing up for this parenting gig.

Part of it, too, is that I know the window of fostering Will’s creative sides is closing quickly.  Soon, everything in his life will be pulling him to sports and nothing else.  If I do anything as his Mother, I want to instill in him that he is smart, creative, expressive, musical, and artistic: and that there is nothing about being any of those things that make him less of a man or less of an athlete.  I worry that if I don’t lay that foundation firmly enough, it will get washed away by the wave of balls, bats, and cleats that are building on the horizon.

Perhaps because I feel all of these things, or perhaps because I just have needed something to do with the kids while Paul works all weekends and evenings, Will and I have been working some creative projects together.

Tonight, we drew some crayon pictures and made earrings.  Then Will asked if we could give some of his earrings away.  He dictated the letters, drew pictures, and packed away the goods in envelopes.  Everything was sealed before it occured to me to photograph them.  It touched me that my very sweet, sensitive, thoughtful and caring guy wanted to create something original and share it with others.

It was a reminder that although he may have an athleticism that makes him so different from me on the outside, in the inside, he is totally My Guy.