Letters from the Underworld Part 3 Friday night's activities... (very nice with a touch of bitterness)
Tonight (Friday) was quite fun, even without either of the A's.
It could have been a flawless evening but for a small reminder the caution one must always exercise when rough-housing with kids.
I'd gotten there at 6.30PM, right on time for a friend's dinner break and Janis's (Pea's mom) at the front desk with her.
"Ah! There he is! My class is cancelled and Pea's been asking after you."
"Ah, so he's by himself, is he? OK, we can do something about that."
"There are a couple of adults in the pool too, but he's a bit bored. He can't seem to keep his swim-trunks on - I took him to the store for some new ones but he grabbed the wrong size."
After a bit of chatter with a friend and handing over her coffee + sandwich, I get changed and hop into the pool. Pea gives me a yell of excitement and big-grinned cheer for a welcome [never a bad way to start].
Luis (the Mexican mid-30s-something lifeguard) had gifted the pool with a water basketball thingie + couple of different sized (and weighted) balls for it.
Pea was enamored by it, and now that Giant Rory was there, he could finally get some much needed height to improve his "accuracy". Lifting turned into riding on my back turned into riding on my shoulders.
Janis wasn't lying about his trunks - they were barely able to stay on, so when I lifted him I gripped him lower from the waist catching his shorts with my thumbs so they'd stay put. Otherwise there was a genuine risk that I'd shuck 'em off his little body when I quickly lifted him out of the water. Not a terrible thing, I suppose, but we don't want awkwardness in such a public forum. I figure having a boy not my own with his arms and legs wrapped around me is probably enough potentially awkwardness at one time.
He finally got his wish, though. He clung to me while I clambered out of the pool to fetch a ball, and on the way into the pool, I then half-hopped the last two steps to get back into the pool.
His favorite position was to sit on my shoulders, and have me jump up from a partially submerged position whereupon he'd make his shot when he reached the apex of travel (pretty much on the level of the hoop at this point with all of the added height).
He gets tired of hitching up his shorts, so he asks me if I can retie them for him. I bring him over to the steps so he can sit above water, and then tie them as tightly as possible. They're a strange configuration (the string doesn't go through the waistband of the swimmers, but rather, just through about 1.5-2 inches of material in front. I at least get them where they mostly stay on his hips.
Two 5s and their dad come in. Pea then wants to have teams play each other. Pea knows the two kids, and the guy's pretty friendly. We half-heartedly try for "3 point" shots from halfway across the pool with some amusing results. (The ball's very "reactive" and even if you get the ball in the right spot, it often bounces out of the hoop, especially if you've given it any speed at all.)
I start to ease out and let the boys play amongst themselves, and start to swim my lazy laps.
And here is where the small bit of bad enters the stage. A 7.5 lad I've seen before (hell, I've even TOSSED him too, after we played water frisbee because he was bored) comes in. From the moment he enters, he is a ball-hog. He just carries it around, not even making a shot. The other three boys are getting impatient - but this kid just wanders around with it, and even gets out of the pool at one stage to evade them. One of the 5s (a Eurasian looking one) is less emotionally resilient than his brother or Pea for that matter and starts to whine/cry about the ball.
So the ball ends up getting free, I happen to be at the shallow end of the pool when it happens, and Mr. Ballhog is aggressively shoveling his way to the ball. My big mistake: I reach out and hold him back for a few seconds to let the others get it.
He turns to me and says "Let go, you pervert!" I don't think that Janis, the lifeguard, or even the 5s' dad hears this - and it doesn't register in the younger boys of course. I'd had a hold of him just above his ribs, on his sides, just under the arms. I figure that's a reasonably "safe" spot - it's visible above water, etc, etc. I naturally let go instantly, and begin a quiet "retreat" back to my laps. I don't get involved any further in their play. A few minutes later, a pair of menacing magic-agers come in and join their game a bit. (Ah, if only there were ways to get to know them!)
OK, fine - he was right, I am like everyone, at some point "a pervert" label could be tagged. But I wasn't perving him! It's funny how much the label stings, though, even if you realise that he more likely just used it as a foolproof way to get left alone, be selfish and do what the *%$< he wants.
But all the same, I will treat him differently if I encounter him in the future. I'll never initiate any contact with him, and will play with him only as a by-product of playing with someone else prior to that. The only time I'll touch him at all is if he basically asks me to.
It's definitely a different world, and even at 7 they know they can drop a single word and freeze an adult in their tracks.
I try not to dwell on it, but the moment resurfaces occasionally - and makes me a bit distracted when I'm showering and changing into my normal clothes. I'm leaving the Underworld just as Janis + Pea are leaving, and he lights up again and asks for a "ride" on my shoulders out to their car. From that perch, he's "taller" than the doors, so he has to duck to get out. He's a good antidote for those "lingering dark thoughts", as his pleasure is as straightforward as the actions which produce it.
So once outside mostly to their car by the poolhouse "emergency exit" (that the lifeguards use as a "quick entrance" when they forget something), Janis goes in for something. She leaves her baby with Pea (whom I've set on the ground, so he can watch his brother), and as I turn, Pea turns to me and grabs my wrist. "Hey, stay with me!"
I give him my best smile, gently put my other hand on his head and answer "Sure thing, Pea." I wait for his mother to return, and then squeeze his shoulder a little and say goodbye.
By all accounts, it was a great evening, really. I just wish I could dwell more on what made it so, rather than what slightly marred it.
I'm sure you've all had similar moments.
PS: I'm not sure my swimtrunks are built for the kind of stress they'd encounter if I had Alejandro on my shoulders. I should probably look for a jockstrap to wear underneath them to guard against "wardrobe malfunctions" of this sort.