January 13, 2011
Sometimes mothers have a tough day. The schedule gets messed up, the children don't respond to discipline, the dog eats the one-hour long homework or the whole family nags out of exhaustion.
Yesterday I had one of those long days. I found myself running in circles to catch my daughter who refused to get her hair washed. I managed to drag her out of the laundry room where she was hiding. Then, I found myself rummaging through school books to look for my son's homework to no avail. The day ended with my youngest son, who was haggling for one more story, way past his bedtime. Needless to say, I was on the verge of tears throughout it all, stressed out, exhausted, and losing steam. But I too am to blame. I was making a mountain out of an ant hill out of each episode, and I knew it. My sister even sensed it from a blackberry message I sent her, and made the long distance call.
When the phone rang, I was driving my eldest to swimming, which has became an almost daily activity. He rarely resists practice but yesterday was a windy day and to make matters worse for me, he was complaining about the cold.
On weekdays, my son swims at night. In January it almost seems cruel because of the slight desert winter chill. "If others do it", I encourage him, "you can too". And if others are not in the pool with him, I have pledeged to jump in with him and get whipped into shape by his coach alongside him.
So when the phone rang from New York, my sister miles away attempting to help me iron out my disturbed day, I was standing in front of the pool, dumbfounded, and damning the entire situation. The pool was empty, but for my son who had already begun his infinite laps.
- "Looks like I have to dive in" I told her before hanging up.
- "You don't have to", she giggled in sympathy, "but then again, there might be no better day than today...."
The coach gave me an amused smile as I, the "swim-mom", dove into the cold pool, peeling off the sweater I'd draped over my bathing suit.
The water, in contrast to the chill, felt warm. I suddenly was happy to be there. I had taken a reformer-pilates class in the morning, and had worked on my legs and triceps at the gym for another hour and now was in the pool with first instructions to swim four 50s. There would be no slowing down, stopping or panting: my son was in the other lane and I had to be a role model.
Swimming is the only cardio workout I can perform properly so I put my heart into it and seized the opportunity. In the distance, I could hear, between swim strokes, the evening prayers escaping from the minarets. Every breath I took, I saw the nearly full moon and the illuminated Burj Khalifah. It was a splendid night.
The coach decided to time us, one against the other. He has known my son for three years now, enough to understand that he thrives on competition. What better motivation than attempting to surpass your own mom. Steadily I won the first race. At the next race, he gave him a five second head start and I won again. But by the third race, I could sense myself slowing down and my son accelerating in encouragement. We equalized.
That is when I knew my swimming career was over and my son's was truly beginning.