We had kind of a big Saturday. We went to a birthday party for one of Paolo’s classmates in the morning, and then we hit a Mardi Gras parade in the afternoon. The party was held at the Boys & Girls Club by the indoor pool. What a fabulous idea! Paolo can’t swim, but we brought his Spiderman swim ring, and there are a couple shallow spots, so I didn’t foresee a problem. I need to work on my foreseeing. All of the other kids at the party either knew how to swim or were completely comfortable in the water, like hand-stands-underwater comfortable. Paolo still doesn’t care for water droplets grazing his face. It didn’t take long for the other kids to head out into deeper water, leaving Paolo behind. He tried valiantly to follow, but he couldn’t move as quickly and he got nervous. Pretty soon he was sitting alone, dejected, hugging his knees at the entrance to the pool.
One of his good friends kept trying to lure him back into the water, to a spot in the pool only two feet deep, right next to a ladder. She asked the lifeguard for a float and brought it to Paolo, but he just shook his head. Maybe another parent would have been furious, but I recognized that paralysis, and my heart just broke for him. He had lost all self-confidence. He wanted so badly to be a part of the fun, but the feeling of inferiority had crippled him. I have suffered episodes like that my entire life, triggered by who knows what. Suddenly, surrounded by well-meaning people enjoying themselves, I am worthless, a misfit: uglier, stupider, clumsier than everyone else. If I could have picked one behavioral trait of mine that would never pass to my children, this would have been it.
Well, it took some time, but I managed to coax Paolo into the shallow spot. I actually had to lower him in with his arms locked around my neck. Don’t ask me how I managed to do that while hanging on to Gianluca, who was dying to jump in the water, and without falling in myself. I have mad skills. Once Paolo’s feet hit the bottom of the pool (and he realized the water did, in fact, reach only his belly button), his face lit up like Christmas morning. The spell was broken, he believed in himself again, and he had a great time for the rest of the party.