Despite my massive collection of participant ribbons from my failed attempt to become the youngest star athlete in the world without ever practicing, I am not a very good participant. Clubs, teams, groups, box socials, and all manner of gathering make me shudder. Having been obsessed with cool as a teenager, I was petrified of doing the wrong thing, the gauche thing, the foolish thing. As a result I missed out on a lot of terrific stuff, including, but not limited to, Kelly Clarkson, learning to drive, and doing as well as I could have done in high school.
There are many ways in which I have matured since then. I buy groceries now. I have five functional keys on my key ring. I even have enough pairs of socks to make it from one laundry day to the next. Cringing at the thought of a team, however, has held firm in my adult brain, and although I am a rational person and I know that humanity depends on co-operation, clubs give me the heebie-jeebies.
An unexpected by-product of getting pregnant and having a baby is you receive an onslaught of invitations to join various groups. Everything from breastfeeding to yoga to the very vague activity of mom-hood has some form of club dedicated to it. I’ve proudly resisted every newsletter, flier, and e-vite sent my way, putting on my best and most practiced scoff; rolling my eyes like a professional adolescent.
Swimming lessons. It was swimming lessons that chipped a small nick out of my stubborn aversion to participation. Avoiding drowning is the obvious reason to enroll Joanie in weekly lessons, but the broader reason is that I want to nip that fear of clubs in the bud before I pass it down to my impressionable, sweet, unsuspecting daughter. What kind of ding-bat mum would I be if I didn’t take my kid to swimming lessons because I don’t like groups?
The result: last Saturday I put on my big girl bathing suit, wiggled Joanie’s squirmy little body into a water proof diaper, and entered the pool to bob in a circle, mumbling along with the lyrics to some French song about how fun water is. At first she clung to me, leaving little crescent nail marks on my arms, but it wasn’t long before my daughter, far more daring than I, started twisting around in an effort to release herself from my arms, instinctively kicking, albeit with no coordination, determined to swim. She spun her head around to look at all the other babies, splashing with joy at the sight of their fun. Joanie, all of ten months old, doesn’t give a hoot about looking silly and not knowing what to do. She’s not afraid of doing exactly what the others are doing, but she’s willing to learn from them. She’s bold, and curious, and fascinated, and eager, and much much better at participating than her mother.