The first day that we started our early morning swims my daughter was so jubilant that she declared that she loved me five times in a row. Her record-breaking shout put me on cloud nine. My daughter had some expressive language challenges that she was working past. As a result, her repeated explanation that she loved me meant a lot. I was euphoric for days. With unparalleled pride, I told everyone I spoke to about it.
She loved swimming. She and I had been going to the pool at least a couple of times a week since she was three-years-old. Now that she was growing up, I wanted daily time to work on self-care with her. To create an opportunity for her enthusiastic participation, I took her to the pool to swim each morning when it opened.
In the morning, the pool only allows for lap swim. As a result, we’d go with our caps and goggles on. We’d share a lane. I’d walk alongside her ensuring that she didn’t swim into the walls as she went. On the third day of our morning visits, a lifeguard physically blocked us from going into the pool and said, “you can’t swim now. The morning is only for lap swim.” I was angry enough to levitate. I took my daughter by the hand and walking around her. In a firm and calm voice, I proclaimed, “I know, that’s what we’re doing. We’re swimming laps,” and proceeded to get in the pool anyway.
That afternoon I called the associate director of the pool. The associate director said that there weren’t any pool rules regarding the age of a person swimming laps. As a result, she said we were more than welcome to continue swimming laps in the morning. She stated that she’d send an email to all of the lifeguards informing them to allow us to swim.
The next day while getting out of the pool a different lifeguard blocked my daughter and me from walking to the locker room. She informed us that we were in violation of the pool’s policy of no swim lessons in the morning. I explained that my daughter was in swim lessons on the weekends and that we came in the mornings to swim laps together. I hypothesized that this confusion occurred because my daughter and I didn’t look alike. She had caramel skin and black curly hair. The lifeguard argued with me and said that she’d been informed not to allow us to swim in the morning anymore. I politely told her that I understood the confusion [even though I didn’t], we had permission to swim from the pool’s associate director, and she should follow up with her boss. From that point forward no one tried to stop us from swimming in the mornings. However, I remained the only mom whose kid wanted to and did get up at 4:45 am each day so she could swim.
The women who worked out in the mornings all got to know my daughter. They noticed when she made progress and congratulated her. They treated her with warmth, respect, and love. At least two of the women we saw each morning came to her memorial service. One thing that was personally challenging for my daughter was putting on her bra. It easily became twisted. When she would get frustrated I would say, “What’s your superpower?” and she would cheer, “Persistence!” and try again. I am so proud of how hard she worked.
The day she collapsed from the brain tumor, as we waited for the EMTs to arrive to transfer us to the hospital where she was having her brain surgery I naively whispered in her ear, “It is okay honey. Mom is here. You’ve been through this all before. [I thought the collapse was the result of a relentless seizure like the one that hospitalized her a year earlier.] We’re going to go to Dr. Sorin’s hospital. We go there all the time for appointments. You’ll be okay. You know you have a superpower, you are persistent.”