Teen Boys Island Adventure: Cole has had plenty of water experience in one way or another his whole life. His grandmother taught him to swim in my aunt and uncle’s backyard pool in Albuquerque when he was three, and on our next visit she taught him to dive. In Chicago, we enjoy Lake Michigan, frolicking in the lake waves. And at my sister-in-law and brother-in-law’s beautiful home near the Indiana Dunes, Lake Michigan playfully kicks up high waves to give us all wild rides in the water and while trying to stay afloat on kayaks.
Cole is a good enough swimmer but has never taken a swimming class—and playing in the lake is more about jumping waves than actual swimming. When Cole and his cousins swim in Lake Michigan, we insist they wear lifejackets when the water is rough to protect them from the strong undercurrent. And while there aren’t any lifeguards, there are enough adults to count noses. I am a chief nose counter.
As I mentioned in an earlier post, I have never been comfortable with school trips that include water. And, of course, most of the trips have included swimming, lakes, rapids… and, on Cole’s recent Maine trip, the Atlantic Ocean surrounded their island. I have learned to trust the advisors and tried to teach Cole that using common sense is always a good rule of thumb.
This past Wednesday, I was feeling a little anxious about Cole being gone and even wrote on a notecard, “All is well.” When my anxiety around Cole soars, I tend to talk to dearly, departed Joe; it is soothing and I often feel reassured by the sense of his presence and often his spirited humor. However, this past Wednesday, I couldn’t seem to connect to Joe, and after trying for a while I gave up and said, “Well, if you are not with me, I hope you are with Cole today because I am a little worried.”
When he got home from his trip on Saturday, Cole shared his stories of exploring Hermit Island—biology lessons that included mud flats, where they found clams, among other things, and were encouraged to throw their friends into the mud and mud wrestle. There were no whiners and everyone loved the experience. Tide pools created mini ecosystems for observation, and the kids experienced the force of the tide firsthand. They were given plenty of free time to swim in the Atlantic Ocean and explore the island.
On Wednesday, Cole and his partner in crime noticed an island about a half a mile out that they decided need exploring. Common sense and cold water kept the girls that were with them beachside. The boys swam to the island in cold, rough water, constructed a rough totem pole to let others know they had come and gone, and then swam back to the beach through more cold, rough water. No lifejackets, no lifeguard, with only two girls who didn’t like cold water to witness their trek. They made it, and I’m sure a congratulatory high five was offered all around.
When Cole casually told me this story, I was simply incredulous and flat-out asked him if he had lost his effen mind. What in the world was he thinking? Did he forget what I had always told him about stupid choices, something happening to him, and my life being over? My screechy words, punctuated with punches in the arm, seemed to resonate at least a little; he didn’t argue with me or insist how safe he was near as much as I would have expected, leading me to believe that at some point on the swim he may have felt he was in over his head. Or maybe he was just afraid I would punch him in the arm again.
Later, when he showed me a picture of the island they swam to, I had calmed down and asked how it felt to reach the Island. Cole’s smile was bright and oh so confident as he said, “It was the best, Mom, the best.” I smiled back, and up—knowing without a shadow of a doubt that his dad was with him and his friend every stroke of the way. I gave my kid a tight hug and then I let go and socked him in the arm.
Odd Loves Company!