The air is sticky and humid under the elevated rafters of our municipal recreation complex, which is just fine with me since I'm still sticky from my workout four hours ago (showers are totally overrated).
My 2-year-old is snaking his way confidently through waist-high water between a dozen or so other toddlers and their hovering parental counterparts, through the shallowest cove of the indoor pool, opposite the towering slide and adjacent the lazy river.
A gleeful smile consumes his face, his arms are filled with a variety of pool toys, and he's the only child whose hair is already saturated.
The swim lesson is about to begin.
A twenty-something lifeguard with an unrulely beard and more hair on his shoulders than I thought humanly possible stands next to his female counterpart whose broad smile reveals large white teeth and, to her credit, looks only 50% forced.
I am on the deck, perched next to a pumpkin seat that cradles a sleeping baby and adding a new layer of sweat to my already pre-salted skin.
The man in the hair shirt assembles the parents and children around the parameter of the pool. The group now strikes up an enthusiastic (albeit off-key) version of Itsy Bitsy Spider, a song that my husband has recently admitted he does not know the words to. This admission made me question the very fabric of our marriage...but I digress.
During this version of the song (I notice the hubs is doing a great job of faking it), water is sprinkled on the children's heads--presumably to help acclimate those who haven't already plunged themselves underwater.
Next, the kiddos practice kicking at the edge of the water during a rousing game of 'red light, green light'.
After about 90 seconds, when the little legs and short attention spans have tired of kicking, the instructors produce a flexible foam 'water noodle' and announce that today, there will be a trip to the Arch. The children are invited to pass below the arched noodle as it sinks lower into the water. The group of two and three-year-olds toddle over and push past each other and under the noodle in a less-than-orderly fashion and the phrase 'herding cats' passes briefly through my mind. No one is brave enough to sink lower than a crouch as the 'Arch' ends are lowered into the pool by the instructors, but one budding comedian (or sociopath) turns on his heels, reaches with both hands and smashes center of the noodle down with a splash, narrowly missing the noses on the stunned faces of the two toddlers just behind him.
A smattering of laughter erupts among the adults, the most nervous-sounding of which comes from the offender's parent as he rushes in to detain his delinquent comic (slash evil?) genius child. The child's pride in capturing the attention of the group is clearly undeterred however, and when a copycat emerges, the game is abruptly ended and the crowd is relocated to the lazy river to practice floating and chasing after rubber ducks.
I grab the pumpkin seat which now contains an alert and very interested looking infant and we settle into a new spot between the floor-to-ceiling windows and lazy river. My husband and son slide in line behind a parade of squealing toddlers flopping around with varying levels of confidence and appreciation of their splashy surroundings.
My child may very well be the happiest and most confident among them, his open-mouthed toothy grin filling with unknown amounts of chlorinated water which is only expelled during the occasional sputtering cough.
The next activity is meant to be 'jumping' from the edge of the pool, but essentially involves shivering, squatting, and lunging forward into welcoming bear hugs from grinning, coaxing parents.
After a few 'jumps,' one of the instructors shouts out something unintelligible and my husband smiles at me coyly before collecting our son in one last bear hug, 'Ooo...my favorite part'.
'What part is that?' I ask, knowing already by his face that the answer will be be delivered as a punch line would.
'Time to motor boat.'
(He'll be here all week folks, be sure to tip the wait staff).
The final activity involves a song about a motor boat (though obviously not the sort my wise-cracking husband was hoping for) and a lively version of Ring Around the Rosie which ends with the bravest children (or more accurately, those with the bravest parents) 'falling down' underwater.
The song is repeated several times and I watch as my brave boy emerges each time from just below the surface looking momentarily stunned, but basically un-phased and ready for more.
As the class ends and dozens of pairs of bare feet emerge from the pool and smack across the wet deck and into the locker rooms, I reflect the ecstatic behavior of my fearless little boy. I am so proud of his good-natured enthusiasm. He is a good kid. And maybe someday, he'll also be a pretty good swimmer.