From Chicken Soup for the Father & Son Soul

Tuxedo Swimming

This past week I took my three-year-old, Caleb, to his first swimming lesson at the local YMCA. I had been looking forward to some father-son bonding time ever since earlier this year my wife suggested doing this. The day before the first class, I asked Kristi to call the YMCA to find out what we were supposed to bring, what time we were to be there, and any other important details. I work third shift and have a hard time making calls during the day when I’m sleeping, so I just wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into.

We left half an hour early, just to make sure we were there on time, and went into the locker room to change. We got our swimsuits on, put the rest of our clothes in a gym bag, and proceeded to make our way out through the showers and into the pool area. I was really looking forward to this. Me, my boy, nothing on but our swimsuits, and a pool full of water. What could be better?

I rounded the corner, holding hands with my excited son, and an inaudible gasp of horror escaped me. There in the hall next to the pool were ten to fifteen parents and their young children. All the children had their swimsuits on, but every one of the parents was fully dressed. Let me rephrase that . . . all the mothers were fully dressed. Not another father was to be seen for miles. I was the only guy! Some mothers were in dresses and power suits, as if they had just come from the office, while others wore jeans and shirts. But the important thing was they were all fully dressed!

I could just hear what they were thinking:

“Who is the three-year-old with the hair on his chest?”

“Can a man really have a chest that goes into his body instead of out?”

“I thought you had to be a corpse to have skin that white.”

“My sunglasses! Where are my sunglasses? Oh, the humanity!

“He must have tapeworms. Something has to be stealing his nourishment.”

“All this weight equipment at the YMCA and he still looks like that!”

I wanted to scream back at them, “I tried lifting weights, but they’re too heavy!”

I wanted to crawl into a hole and hide, but I had nowhere to go.

The nice young high school girls who were teaching the swim class started explaining that the parents were to stay out in the hall and watch their kids through the large windows. The only time they were to go near the pool was if their children were crying or misbehaving. Otherwise the teachers didn’t want the children distracted by their parents while learning water safety.

I slowly reached into my gym bag and pulled out my T-shirt. Trying my best to be cool and nonchalant, I covered the top half of my body, and by the time the instructor was done talking, I was fully clothed.

Caleb had a great time as I watched through the windows and tried to avoid any possible conversation with another human being.

When I came home, the first thing out of Kristi’s mouth was “How come you’re not wet?”

After I explained what had transpired, she laughed and laughed until her stomach hurt. For some reason, even after the phone call, we were both under the impression that I would get to frolic in the water, too. The best part of the whole story is I have to go back and face these people again today at 4:30 and twice a week for the next month or so.

I think I might rent a tux for today’s swimming lesson.

Michael T. Powers

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