The thing for you to know is, they are both fine now. Ashton is 22 and will soon graduate college with honors. Nathan is 19 and an athletic freshman in college. When my daughter was 7 and my son 4 I felt I had really arrived as a parent. Apparently my wife had not yet noticed the fact. We had been on one of our famous Skates family camping trips wherein some small area of the perfectly planned trip went awry. In this instance we were driven from our tent by a tornado in the middle of the night. Naturally I wasn’t scared but everyone else in the family had a great big cow when they saw one little funnel cloud. We now found ourselves at a nice hotel after driving at a high rate of speed away from the storm. I decided to lighten the mood for the kids by taking them swimming. My wife was still a little ashen from the evening’s activities and had decided to stay in the room.
“Are you sure you can watch both of these children by yourself?” my wife inquired.
“I cannot believe you would even ask me that, sweetheart.” I replied in my typical loving tone. “I must say I am a little hurt that you don’t trust me more than that by now.”
My thoughts were that the kids had made it this far by God’s grace and my protection. There was that one incident where their failure to properly operate the snow sled I modified for them resulted in minor injuries. (The thing I hope they will remember is that land speed records were in fact broken) But to date I felt I was doing a swell job. Duly chastised, my wife relented and off to the pool the three of us went.
The pool was a great indoor model. There was a glass wall at one end that allowed people in a gym to watch the pool as they jogged on treadmills. Once in the water I commenced my fatherly duty of catching Nathan as he jumped from the top step into my arms and alternately tossing Ashton gently toward deeper water. She was a decent swimmer by this age and she would swim back giggling and say, “Daddy throw me again!” In the meantime Nathan would stand on the top pool step in the shallow end and threaten me.
“Me gonna jump Daaadeee you bettoo catch meee.” With that he would leap all of 6 inches and jump to the next step with much fanfare and splashing. I would then sweep him up in my arms to “save” him even though he was only in a foot of water. The demands of my two children were being made simultaneously. But this sort of multi- tasking is barely a challenge for a Super dad like me.
In fact the demands of both kids became so mundane for me that I began to notice Joey. I was able to learn little Joey’s name without formal introduction because I got to experience the constant din of his parents once per minute instructions for him to get out of the pool. “Little Joey,” his parents would chortle “time to get out and dry off.” At this Joey would look directly at his parents and then commence with his previous pool activities. This went on at least a dozen times when his parents decided to take things up a notch.
“Little Joey,” (and yes they did actually call him Little Joey) “I am going to count to three. I am Joey. I am going to start counting to three. ONE…TWO…” I don’t know what would happen after two because each time his parents reached two, they would just look at each other and roll their eyes. They were just at a loss to understand Joey’s failure to obey.
My own children were not really paying attention to this slowly unfolding drama. Through it all my daughter would tug on one arm and say “Daddy, Daddy, throw me again!” At the same time my son would be daring me to let him launch himself to the second step without rescue. I suppose one could make the argument that my focus should have been there in the shallow end with my own children. But I couldn’t help but get a little caught up in Joey’s plight.
By now he had donned his Pooh Bear float ring and swam past us, laughing to the deep end to get farther from his Dad’s control. Joey didn’t really have the lilting little laugh that most children possess. His was more of a guttural grunt reminiscent of Froggy on the Little Rascals. Suddenly Joey swam to the center of the deep end and became downright defiant.
“NO!” Joey shouted, “I won’t get out! You can’t make me.” I was noticing at this point Joey’s Dad was getting a little steamed.
“Daddy throw me again!” Ashton came splashing toward me giggling. I tossed her gently and then stole a glance at Joey. Then I wheeled to grab Nathan from the water as he jumped all the way to the third step this time. Ashton had not made it back to me yet so I had a second to see what Joey’s dad would do now.
He had the pool skimmer in hand and was attempting to snag the Pooh float ring, thus fishing Little Joey from the water. At every failed attempt the Dad’s jaw muscles could be seen flexing and his face grew redder. At one point he had the little scalawag almost to the side of the pool. “No, no, no,” Joey said as he flailed his arms frantically for the center of the pool.
“Me gonna jump Daaadeee you bettoo catch meee.” Nathan brought my attention back to the task at hand and I caught him. By then Ashton was ready for another toss. This time I would throw just a tiny bit harder. That way it would take her longer to swim back and give me more time for Joey.
Joey was now back to the pool’s center far from the reach of either parent. His mother was on one side and his Dad was on the other. Both seemed quite miffed at this point. “Man is this getting good,” I thought “I am so glad I am a better parent than they are.”
“Daddy throw me.”
“Catch me Daddee”
I caught Nathan and set him quickly on the step. I scooped up Ashton for the toss when suddenly Joey’s Dad kicked off his dress shoes and dove headfirst into the pool. He was in a dress shirt and tie and everything. In the sheer adrenaline rush of it all, I flung Ashton as if she were a last second desperation pass in the Super Bowl.
I laughed to myself at the plight of Joey’s Dad. I spent a moment shaking my head in disdain for his incompetence. “What kind of a father are you pal?” I thought. Somewhere about then it occurred to me that I had not heard from Nathan for a while. I turned to see him flailing wildly in water just over his head. He had jumped farther this time and gone past the steps. He was okay physically but had swallowed water which scared him and me both. I carried him toward a chair and turned to look for Ashton. After her recent flight through the air she was climbing up the ladder on the far side of the pool. It was apparent that she had gotten choked on water when I threw her this time. I wrapped Nathan in a towel and headed for her. She was okay as well, but was coughing and sputtering. This was not good because my daughter has a very sensitive gag reflex. She walked toward the joggers behind the glass wall. I talked to her and rubbed her back to try and settle her down. She simply shook her head in the negative as if to let me know it was too late for that. Then she rather dramatically threw up.
This created quite a spectacle for those on the treadmills. They must have all gotten tired of jogging at once because every one of them hit the stop button and walked away with very pale faces. Within moments Ashton had recovered but I had a little cleaning up to do. After borrowing the needed accoutrements from housekeeping, I completed the task. For some inexplicable reason the kids seemed a little melancholy as they watched me work. I began to get the impression that they had not enjoyed their time at the pool with Daddy.
I didn’t want them to have to go back to the room disappointed. And besides I had to come up with something to occupy their little minds lest they share this experience with their mother. I asked them if they would like to play in the pool some more. Oddly neither one did. But they were interested in the hot tub. We eased into the warm water beside an older couple. This was relaxing and quite pleasant for a while. But apparently the warm water stimulated Nathan’s little bladder. Within minutes he reported that he had to go pottie. As I eased over to pick him up he reported loud and clear that he suddenly didn’t have to go anymore. With that little piece of information the older couple removed themselves, a little haughtily I thought, from the hot tub and headed for their towels without so much as a “good evening”.
For my part I decided, now that our little family had biologically contaminated every surface within the pool area, our work was done. We had had our fun and we might as well go back to the room.
“Are you going to tell Mommy about the FUN things we did at the pool?” I inquired of Ashton.
“No,” she said curtly. “I am going to tell Mommy how you almost drownded me and Nathan and how then you wasunt payin no attention.”
Ashton is 22 now and had a good laugh as she read this. Nathan is 19. To date my wife is still being unreasonable and has not let me take the kids swimming unless she is hovering about. Last summer Nathan had progressed to the point where he can actually put his face in the water for two seconds without running from the pool area screaming.
I can laugh about this now because nothing serious happened. But the truth is I cannot allow myself to think about what could have been. I cannot bear the thought. I was very stupid that night. It was only by God’s grace that something serious didn’t take place. I am not sure how much time went by from when I got distracted till the time I noticed Nathan under water. But I have to wonder who kept him from jumping a minute sooner. In the midst of Joey’s father swimming towards his son fully clothed, what prompted me to look for Nathan. I was totally engrossed in what Joey was doing.
I didn’t think of it that night. In fact I am not certain I ever stopped and thanked God for his protection. Isn’t that so often the case with his children. How many times do we fail to see God’s hand in our lives. My grandmother used to say that the Lord looks out for fools. He was certainly with me that night. Isn’t it typical of us that we fail to give him the glory he deserve? I know it now but at the time I was not even aware of that nail scarred hand on my shoulder. The one that snapped me back to reality perhaps seconds before it was too late.