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T-7 Days

With This Life Preserver Ring...

Within a day of meeting Steve I decided I wanted to marry him. As I was, sort of, involved, maritally speaking, with someone else at the time, there was an understandable delay before the union came to pass. In addition to the conflicting obligation elsewhere, I was also slightly hampered by the fact that Steve, as far as I could tell, was not equally certain. As I remember it, he wanted to get married someday to someone and most likely to me as to anyone he had met thus far but... he was hard to pin down when it came to specifics. I was more amused than anything by this waffling (ha! I thought. just wait! although once a month or so I would drink four glasses of white wine in rapid succession - white! I used to drink white wine. who would've thought - and yell at him until I cried and said he just didn't love me. whereupon Steve would say most unsweetly, "Well, I certainly don't love you very much right now. You were yelling at me and now you are whining and you reek of alcohol. I cannot think of anything I would rather do less than marry you." You can see, of course, why I am his devoted slave.)

Negotiations on the subject dragged on for two years in fits and starts, during which time we moved out of the apartment that he shared with a guy named Tom and that I had moved into without really being asked, and got our own place. Then we decided to move to Minnesota together because.... god, I have no idea why we decided to move to Minnesota. I remember two cocktail napkins with cities that we would be willing to live in written upon them and the first place that matched up from both our lists was Minneapolis-St. Paul (ranked about eighth on each, I think.) So we moved.   

Although I had established that Steve was generally open to the idea of having children shortly after learning his name which was shortly after I asked him to scoot over on the bar stool to make room for me, I had not gone into the subject very closely at the time and afterwards I was so busy trying to con him into making me his designated beneficiary (in the most romantic possible way, of course) that I never got around to it again until after we got engaged. He did, by the way, finally ask me to marry him, although he is fond of pointing out that it was only after I shut up about it for a few months. Ha ha ha ha.... not. Soooooooo offensive.

Anyway, I finally asked him how many children he wanted as we looked at reception sites and he said, "One" and I snapped, "Don't be absurd!" and he said, "OK. Two." And I said, "With the possibility of discussing a third left open?" and he agreed.  I was reminded of this just tonight when we were sketching ideas to remodel part of the upstairs and I asked if he thought we would ever manage to have three children and he, quite gently, responded, "Well, I would love it if we could, but let's not plan on it." Which was sweet, but not the point of this story.

After we had established a desired number of children I asked if he had anything particular in mind for raising them. Any philosophies on child-rearing to which he violently subscribed. Cold baths? Home-schooling? Raise a few vegetarians but the rest as omnivores?

He thought for a moment and then said, "I think it is important to always have dinner together."

"Me too!" I shouted.

Then we were both silent for a couple of minutes until I said, "And I think kids need to learn how to swim when they are three."

"I agree completely."

And that was it. That was all we came up with. Our two sacred tenets of parenthood.

Thus, we always eat a proper dinner together and Patrick started private swimming lessons at the Y, two days a week, beginning in September. The first class he cried the entire time while I bit my nails in the lobby and was soothed by more elderly people than I have seen assembled since the last funeral (have you been to the YMCA on a Monday morning? I am easily the youngest person in the lobby by forty years.) The second class he stopped crying and merely looked glum. We have now been going for six or seven weeks and wow! he is amazing. He monkeys. He alligators. He floats with floaties on his front and he floats with floaties on his back. He kicks and he scoops. He purposefully puts his face in the water, if only for a second. I actually have a hard time getting him to leave when it is over. But this is not to say he loves it; he doesn't. I don't even think he likes it. But he is a rather single-minded child and when he decides he needs to jump into the deep end (all  three feet of it) six times in a row he. will. jump. into. the. water. six. times. in. a row. He goes through his swimming class with a grim determination, Sidney Carton of the Pike Set. I occasionally see him smiling out there but more often he is listening and frowning.

When Steve makes a big fuss over him when he gets home, saying, "Hi Patrick! Hi! How was swimming? Did you have fun?" Patrick will look him dead in the eye and say, "No. No, Daddy I did not have fun." And then he will turn to me and say, "I don't like it. But I did a great job, didn't I?" And I say yes, you did a REALLY great job. And he says, I know, I know I did, and goes off to tell the cats how much he missed them and how great he was at the pool.

Steve and I feel bad. We assumed he would like swimming class. I mean, after he got used to it and once he was comfortable with his instructor. He has always liked splashing in a pool. He likes the ocean. But I believe him when he expresses his distaste for it. You will notice that I rarely put my face in the water when I swim, and I infinitely prefer baths to showers what with all the splashing in my eyes and water getting in my ears and whatnot. What I do not know is whether I should just sympathize and keep sending him until we are fairly certain he is at least partially safe from drowning or if I should stop sending him. What to do, what to do?

On the one hand, I think it should be fun to be three years old ALL THE TIME. On the other, hell, people, right after love honor obey and sex every day whether we need it or not: AND OUR CHILDREN SHALL BE WATER-SAFE BY AGE THREE. It was practically in our vows. What's next? A dinner consisting of Pop tarts for everyone in front of three different televisions on three different floors of the house?

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