Tuesday, January 31, 2006


Sam goes to “school” at our local Jewish Community Center two mornings each week. He gets dropped off between eight and nine in the morning, and stays until just after lunch. Some days are better than others.

When he’s in a good mood, he takes off his coat and walks over to play with his friends without a second glance our way. When he’s not overly excited to be there, the process of simply saying, “See you later,” can be excruciatingly heart-wrenching. Sam is well aware of what he is doing. He plans every action for the most emotional reaction. He won’t look at us, and mopes around without giving hugs or kisses good-bye. By far, the worst I’ve experienced is his timid little voice saying, “Daddy, I don’t want to go to school today. I want to stay with you.” Ugh.

As soon as we leave, he is fine. His teachers tell us when we pick him up.

One thing that has displayed itself more often lately is Sam’s lack of enthusiasm to go swimming in the JCC pool. A couple of times in the past months, Sam has adamantly opposed his participation in swim class before he even left the house. At first, Leah and I said fine, and didn’t bother packing his suit and towel. After the third time, we tried to tell him that he should bring his bathing suit in case he changed his mind. It’s definitely been hit or miss with swim class so far.

Yesterday, I got to experience a little of what he does in a typical day at school. On Mondays the Shainelas (Sam’s group at the JCC) go swimming with Mr. Jason. And as much as that sounds like a black-ops code phrase from a spy novel, it really is all in good fun. The JCC encourages parents to come to swim class to participate with their kids. Striving to be the good father, I decided I would go swimming.

I showed up on time, got changed, showered, and walked into the pool area. My blood vessels constricted when my feet hit the tile floor, as it has been quite some time since I’ve been in a community pool. I swam a warm up lap, and waited for Sam and his class.

The locker room door opened. But before it did, I heard the now familiar, yet still chaotic sounds of a group of three-year-old kids who are being herded against their will. They all marched slowly out from the locker room, looking anywhere but at the pool. They were all dripping wet and already shivering.

The realization hit me like a truck.

I despised swim class when I was a kid.

They made us shower before we got in the pool. But after we showered, before we could get into the 85 degree pseudo-bathwater, we had to sit on a tile floor and get our instructions and swimming aids; all the while the water on our skin was cooling our body temperature by medically dangerous amounts. By the time everyone was ready to get in the water, half the class was suffering from hypothermia. I can remember shaking so violently that it was hard to stand in one spot.

I hated swim class. I loathed the YMCA. Just the thought of what Sam goes through once a week makes me cringe. And don’t even get me started about summer day camp.