Teaching our foster kids to swim

By Mark S. Price - Contributing columnist
Mark S. Price -


That was the one word response from Charlie as he ran full speed ahead jumping into the air, tucking his head down and hugging his knees against his scrawny little frame as he landed smack dab in the middle of the pool.

What looked like a bomb going off, Charlie’s theatrics sent a wave of water flying in all directions. His daredevil stunt splashed the four of us standing on the pool deck as well as our dog Buster, who started barking.

My then wife, Sharon, and I had been helping Nick and Ava, the younger of our foster children, put on their floaties. Sharon and I just looked at each other with eyes as big as saucers and my jaw dropped wide open.

I had to do a double take. Did that really just happen? Where did that come from? I didn’t think our oldest foster child could even swim.

Fact of the matter was, he couldn’t. After momentarily coming to the surface, he quickly went back under the water.

Panic-stricken, I let go of my walker and dove in the 4-foot pool creating another tidal wave. I scooped him up as we both bounded out of the water. I held him tightly to my chest with both arms as my heart felt like it was going to explode.

The next thing we heard, in unison, from the younger two, who idolized their older brother, was them saying, “We wanna do that, too!”

I laughed as I brought Charlie over to the ladder and replied, “And you will. But let’s learn how to swim first. OK?”

When the three newest additions became part of our little family at the end of April 2012, they all expressed a keen interest in the little water paradise in the back yard.

Sitting on the back porch in my rocking chair, the trio began to ask all sorts of questions, some of which I didn’t know the answers to myself.

How many gallons of water are in the pool? How deep is the pool? Why is that cover on the pool? What makes the bubble in the middle of the pool? Can we put a boat in the pool? Are there snakes in the pool? When can we go swimming?

The caseworker, who dropped the trio off at our doorstep, said they didn’t know how to swim.

We already knew that much, which is why we had to purchase a gate and attach it to the stairs leading up to the pool deck, so little feet couldn’t climb that short flight of steps and get into mischief.

As the threesome continued with their animated chatter about the pool, Charlie nudged his way onto my lap. Nick stood on one side of my rocker giggling while Ava stood on the other side resting her little hand on my arm.

With a wide grin across my face, I just looked at the caseworker as if to say, “This is unbelievable.” It didn’t take them any time at all to make a connection.

When the foster care social worker walked down the sidewalk and out the back gate, I had the strangest feeling that these kids belonged to us and we had been their parents from birth.

They just seemed to fit right in — like the last piece of a jigsaw puzzle.

Straightaway, we laid the ground rules for the pool. Not under any circumstances were any of them allowed to open that gate and go up onto the pool deck or get into the pool without either Sharon or me with them.

Thankfully, that rule was never broken.

It didn’t take long for the three youngsters to convince us it was time to go shopping for the seemingly endless supply of swimming gear they would need to enjoy their very own water utopia.

Bathing suits, beach towels, life jackets, arm floaties, inner tubes, rafts, noodles, sun screen, sun glasses, a few pool games … oh, and flip-flops. I think that just about covered it all. If not, I knew we would make another trip to the store.

The day we opened the pool for fun in the sun, squeals could be heard all the way to the traffic light down the street. Wait! Those high-pitched screams weren’t coming from the kids — that was me!

Sure, the little youngsters had been in kiddie pools. But I was eager to introduce a whole new world to our trio of jubilant kids. Did we have three or four? My wife may have miscounted when she included me in the bunch.

After Charlie’s daredevil stunt with the cannonball, we began to patiently teach our little tribe how to swim. It was a long process over several weeks, but we eventually got over that hump.

Although Charlie obviously loved the water and wasn’t afraid to take chances, he also liked for me to hold him as we would glide through the clear liquid making a complete circle around the perimeter of the pool.

Nick and Ava were totally different creatures. While they absolutely loved Charlie’s plunge into the pool and announced their interest in doing the same, they were very skittish about getting into the water.

The first time I forced Nick into the water, he climbed onto my head as if the water would somehow form a funnel and suck him down the drain like pulling the plug in the bathtub.

Now Ava — or should I say “Miss Glitz and Glamour” — was content sunbathing on her little princess raft with her shades on, rather then sticking her big toe in the water.

It wasn’t until after I brought out the Nerf football and bean bag ring toss game that our little band of young’uns lost their intense fear of water. Not long after that… they were floating on their back, doggy paddling and swimming back and forth across the pool.

Now it was time to go to the water park.

Mark S. Price
https://www.clintonnc.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/web1_Mark-S.-Price.jpgMark S. Price
Mark S. Price is a former city government/county education reporter for The Sampson Independent. He currently resides in Clinton.

By Mark S. Price

Contributing columnist