Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Seriously. Quit Poking Him.

I took Thumper swimming yesterday. Or tried to, anyway. We've been more than a few times this summer, to two different pools, and he loves it. When I asked him yesterday if he wanted to go swimming, he was thrilled. I asked him what swim suit he wanted, and he picked out the blue trunks with the fishies swimming on them. When we got to the pool, he marched right up to the gate, carrying his Noodle.

When we got past the gate, he asked, "Where's the lifeguard?" I pointed out the one in this chair, and the one in that chair, and the one over there hosing off the deck. "Yeah!" he said. "It's a hose!" We found a seat in the shade, I stripped him down, put on his swim diaper, and was just pulling up his trunks when he freaked out. He so loudly and suddenly burst into frantic tears, that he made me jump. My first thought was that he'd been stung by a bee. Well, actually, my first thought was that I'd accidentally squashed his cojones when I was pulling up his trunks, but he hadn't a mark on him, and he didn't seem particularly focused on the groinal region.

He crushed himself to my chest, and I asked him what was wrong. Did he have a boo boo? What happened? He wouldn't say; he just kept repeating, "Put your shirt on? Put your shirt on?" Now, I wouldn't be surprised if me taking my shirt off caused someone to scream at the pool, but my shirt was still on. With his confusion over pronouns, he was telling me he wanted to put his shirt back on. When I did, he said, "Go home." Do you want to go home? "Yeah." OK.

As soon as I said, "OK," he calmed down. So we switched him back out of his swim diaper and into a regular one, put his shorts and shoes back on, and left. By the time we were finally walking out, he seemed fine again, even cheerful. I asked him several more times what happened, but he has never said. I don't have a clue what happened.

OK, that's not true, I do have a clue. On the walk back to the car, he said, "Met the lifeguard!" And I thought, "Aha!" The last time we went to that pool, he saw one of the lifeguards squatting in the shallow end near us with his whistle in his mouth, his bright red rescue floatation device at his chest, and his huge, reflective aviator sunglasses on. The lifeguard noticed Thumper staring at him and took an interest. He talked to him. He showed him his whistle. He told us he goes through quite a few of them, because with a whistle in your mouth all the time, it's hard not to chew on it. He explained that the floatation device was called a "tube." But while he talked, he kept sort of prodding Thumper with the tube. Gently, but repeatedly. The more he did it, the more nervous Thumper got. When he's nervous, he tilts his head down, opens his mouth, and kind of pulls his lips in tight, like this, only more so. And recently he's begun putting one hand up to his mouth, too. Often people think it's a cute face and it encourages them to continue interacting with him, but to me it clearly says, "Oh, hi! You know, you're kind of weirding me out. Maybe you could back off a little bit?" This is a signal not understood by the little old lady at the senior center yesterday who kept saying, "Come here! Come here!" and trying to reach out and grab his hand. It's a signal also not understood by the usher in line in front of me at event signup today who kept poking him in the belly and saying, "What's your name? If I push your belly, does your tongue come out?" The answer was, "No, but my anxiety level begins to rise. See?" Strangers apparently like to poke toddlers. And give them candy. Or cookies. Or both.

So anyway, back to the pool. The lifeguards eventually rotate posts and the prodder goes away, and we go home to meet Mama for dinner, and Thumper mentions several times over the next few days how we, "Met the lifeguard!" It didn't seem like he'd been too traumatized by the experience, but it had definitely made an impression on him.

Well, when I was putting his trunks on him yesterday, I noticed the same lifeguard in the same giant aviator sunglasses. He was NOT one of the ones we saw when we came in. He was on the other side of the pool, posted by the water slides. And Thumper was looking over in that direction when he lost it.

A YMCA lifeguard terrified my son.


livinginagirlsworld said...

Poor guy. I have never understood people who think they touch/interfere in the personal space of others. Poor Thumper. Hopefully he won't be scarred for life from swimming pools with lifeguards wearing aviator glasses.

anniemcq said...

I'm always amazed at people who feel that it's their right to touch children or get in their face. you're such a great dad to advocate for him the way you do. You read his communication so well.

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