That First Time

Ax swam in the ocean for the first time the other day. He’s been a good swimmer for years, but he hasn’t wanted to swim in the ocean and we haven’t pushed him. We got him this new wetsuit with a float built into it that’s given him more confidence though, so maybe it’s that, or maybe it would’ve been his time anyway. It was a pretty calm and pretty warm day when it happened, and his auntie Delish and I were splashing around in the waves while he watched from the froth zone. This time though, Ax called me to come to shore and guide him out. I came in and stood by him in the froth and pointed to where the waves were breaking.

I said, “We’re gonna go out beyond where those waves are crashing where it’s smooth but we need to get past the choppy part to do it. See how it’s smooth out there?” He saw and we counted waves and as soon as they got smaller and one broke, in that gap between them, we went for it and began hustling out.

Ax started screaming immediately, but screaming happy and excited, and only a little bit scared. Let’s keep going, not let’s turn back, screaming. And then we were out there and his little face was amazed and glowing and pink and wide-eyed and I could see in Delish’s eyes that this was a moment so I noticed the moment.

I clutched his middle and he held me tight, in a way he hasn’t done in a long time, maybe ever. We rode up and down on the waves, him bicycling his legs and arms furiously like a four-legged duck while I held him, and his floaty held him, and the waves held him. “Ax you don’t have to paddle so hard, you can relax and feel the waves carry you if you want,” I said. “I’m too excited to relax,” he said, beaming.

When we came out he was proud and pumped. “Let’s go in again,” he said. “Tomorrow,” I said. The next day we did it again, only this time we only held hands, and at one point he let go and I let him and he was on his own in the deep.

He giggled, and made a kind of squawking noise, inches from me and yet completely free. “I’m doing it!” he said. “Yes,” I said.