“Mom! Mom! Watch this!” My 6yo’s shouts come from across the pool. FAR across the pool from the deep end, where we have never ventured before. Looking small next to the other swimmers waiting their turn, my son leaps off the end of the diving board, splashes feet-first into the deep, deep water, and dog paddles to the edge of the pool. “Cool, huh?” he says with a giant grin, beaming with big-kid pride as he pushes his goggles up onto his forehead.
“Y-yeah,” I stammer. “Cool! Good for you, buddy! I didn’t know you could do that.”
We go to a big swim club that has several different pools, including an Olympic-size one. The same pool, in fact, where Michael Phelps trained as a kid and still trains when he’s in Baltimore. We spotted him there once, a sleek, towering mass of muscle and long arms. But since my future Olympians are just 6 and 3, we rarely venture beyond the children’s pool, and that’s just the way I like it. I have enough trouble keeping tabs on the 3yo daredevil in 3 ft. of water, thank you very much.
But on this day, my 6yo went off with a friend and his mother to the “big pool.” He’s become a really good swimmer over the past year, and I no longer fear for his life anytime he’s in water deeper than a bathtub. I knew he was under the careful watch of another adult and the lifeguards. But still, it was a shock to see my son – my baby – leaping off that narrow board into the turquoise abyss below.
“Weren’t you scared?” I asked him, still incredulous. I sure was.
“At first. But then I saw B. do it and I decided to try it.”
“That’s some very deep water,” I remarked warily. I had a death-grip on my younger son’s arm, I was so scared he might fling himself off the edge at any minute. But even he seemed to sense the seriousness of The Deep End, and did not make a move.
“I know! TWELVE FEET DEEP, Mom!” He was practically giddy.
Normally I am the type of mother who celebrates my kids’ milestones. I’m not one to get weepy over outgrown baby clothes or mourn the end of diapers. But this… the DEEP END. I don’t know if I’m ready for this. As I stood there on the side watching him jump again and again, a group of teenage boys roughhoused next to me, too loud, too rough, too BIG.
My son is still closer in age to the 2yo who encountered his first squirt gun on one of his first trips to the pool and pronounced, “Hairdryer, mama!” He’s not a teenager yet. But as I watch his skinny body sail through the air and splash into the pool, any trace of fear rolling off him like beads of water, it’s clear he’s not a baby any more, either.