The Emergency Button

In case I haven’t said it recently, I just love Matthew. Everything about him – his keen sense of humor, his fascination with tools, his unique ability to create an utter mess, and even his dedicated desire to rub my face, cheeks, nose and ears constantly. I even love the fact that I can count on him to hit every emergency button that he comes near.

Today being no exception.

But before we get into today’s emergency button hitting moment, why in godsgreenearth do people insist on putting emergency alarm buttons just 3.5 feet off the ground? And why, OH WHY, do they have to be big shiny red ones? I mean, don’t they just scream “PUSH ME”?  I rest my case.

Matthew started swimming lessons today. His first ever.

No, not just his first swimming lesson ever, but his first lesson of any kind ever.

But with three solid months of preschool under his belt, where I get notes sent home in his backpack that say things like, “Followed directions”, “Cleaned up”, “Transitioned well” and don’t pass out when I say this one, “Cooperative”, you would think that he could handle a 30 minute swimming lesson with only two other children.

Yet, he still finds a way to make it an adventure.

Let’s start with the fact that the first of his two classmates was a boy, obviously older than Matthew (and bigger) with a much better attention span .  The second child was a darling 4 year old girl who, no joke, refused to take her hands off the wall in order to pull her swim suit up because the teacher told her to keep them on the wall and she didn’t want to break the rules. Even after her mother said she could. AND when she had to pee, her mother asked her to hold it. And she did.  (Oh how I still long for a girl)

As you might guess, my sweet baby Matt stuck out like a sore thumb.

He started off with a bang.  He jumped in – literally – and didn’t so much as hold onto the wall once. Not once.

I tried the “hold the blue stripe” or “see the number 3? That’s your spot” techniques, all of which were lost on his apparently 17 year old teacher, but to no avail.  The good news is that Matt was apparently still having fun -- no matter how many times we redirected him, he was still grinning ear to ear.

His enthusiasm was infectious.  I was grinning, laughing a little even out loud, and truly enjoying watching my son participate in his first group lesson.  It was OK that he stood out, because he was the only one I wanted to watch anyway.

My favorite was his creative twist on the lessons.  He was jumping up and down and signing. Which I love. But his teacher not so much.

“Back! Belly! Back! Belly! Back! Belly!” He screamed to some made up tune while grabbing, you guessed it, his back then his belly over and over. Darling.  Really.  Only technically the teacher wanted all of the kids to be practicing "Chicken, Airplane, Soldier" not Back-Belly.  Turns out Back-Belly isn't a proven teaching technique for learning to swim. 

Needless to say Matt was put on like three time outs (sitting on the edge as opposed to standing in the pool) for not holding the wall and once for splashing.

Now in his defense, he had only started splashing with his hands because he was keenly aware that while they were all three practicing kicking with their feet, something the teacher told them to do, the water got bubbly.  Hence, a scientific experiment was necessary to test his hypothesis:  Can you create the same phenomenon using only your hands?  It was just science.  Yet another undeniable sign of his genius.

Now Matthew’s lack of concern for the teacher’s agenda really didn’t concern me. Matt is always on his own agenda and I had no false hope that it would be different at swimming lessons. Which means that I thought he did wonderfully.

When swimming was over, I pulled him out and wrapped him in a towel.  I was so happy that the transition out of the pool went smoothly; not so much as a single negative look or word was uttered, that I was feeling on top of the world.

“You did such a great job at swimming lessons!” I gushed while I toweled him off.

“Of course I did!” he exclaimed in true Matthew style.

“Ok, let’s get you dried off and head to the van.” I said through my own giant grin.

“Oh, mom,” Matthew sighed, “I have to take shower first.” He said as if I had obviously missed the memo.

“Alright then, hold my hand and we’ll walk to the locker room.” Why not, right? I mean he didn’t have school for over two hours.

And off we went. Holding hands.  And grinning.

As I got to the door that led us back into the main part of the building, I glanced over my right shoulder to grin some more at my darling and swimming-lesson-successful son, and was just in time to see him push a red plunger style button at his eye level with the word “EMERGENCY” written above it.


The pool lit up with flashing red and blue lights.

I scan the alarm panel (the whole time swearing at the bastard who installed it right there) and see the green light lit up over the word “call” which quickly conjures up images of a SWAT team and German Shepherds swarming the parking lot, then see another smaller, much less conspicuous button that says “cancel” in little letters. I take a calculated risk by choosing to hit the cancel button. It isn’t like it is going to be worse than this.

And it stops.

I look up just in time to see my friend walk through the door with her swim-trunk-clad 3 year old.

She grins, “Hello Hartley.”

“Hi.” I smile back, quickly ushering Matthew inside the door she just came out of without so much as missing a beat.

(Why is there is always someone I know around when these things happen?)

And although I thought, “I should be embarrassed," I wasn't.

I am sure the argument for being embarrassed is a valid one, but really, I was still too happy over our swimming lesson success and no pesky full-pool-flashing-lights-ridiculously-loud-alarm was going to take that away. 

Matt and I walked into the locker room for his shower -- as promised.  Because you know that the alarm didn't deter him from his agenda.  No way.

He played in the warm water, I dried him off again, and watched while he pushed his toes into Nick's two-sizes-too-big flip flops that he insisted on wearing.

We hold hands again, still grinning at each other, and head for the van, with our first swimming lesson firmly under our belt.  One down, five to go.

What an adventure.   

Like I said, I love everything about that kid.  Everything.

Hope your week is full of wonderful alarms,
Photo:  Matthew enjoying the 'bar pool' in Mexico last January.  He and I were like two peas in a pod -- or rather two peas in a swim-up-bar-pool.  ; )


Gavin Bollard said...

Aw, I love it!

Those emergency buttons scream at me too. I just want to push them.

It's like "that's their whole purpose in life" - who am I to deny them a chance to be something great? I have to push them.

As a child, I did more than my fair share of emergency button pushing with some hilarious consequences.

Now that I'm an adult, my button pushing days are mostly behind me. Fortunately, I can rely on my kids to let me know exactly what those big red buttons do.

Sure, I'm briefly embarrassed but I always go home with a great story.

Heather B said...

I have one who's a button pusher also! While to date we have avoided the emergency buttons (I'm not sure how because they DO stand out like a sore thumb!) I know my days are numbered. He pushes buttons on everything! I can't get him out of the toy ailses without pushing every button of every toy there is. We MUST push all of the handicapped entrance buttons on every doorway!

I adore your patience and positive outlook on what could be a incredibly embarrassing event! I look up to you and hope I can be half as good as you when my emergency button day finally arrives!!!

Megan said...

I cringe every time I see one of those doors that have a BIG RED HANDLE that says Emergency. What it really should say is PUSH ME NOW. So far we have avoided any button pushing incidents but I am sure one day it will happen.

I have been reading through your blog over the last few weeks and your experiences have reminded me so clearly of my children when they were younger (and in some cases how they are still today).
Thank you for your blog; it has reminded me that you do have to laugh at yourself at times.


Em said...

oh my goodness I needed a good laugh today! it's always refreshing to read your blog because then I don't feel so alone. Thanks Hartley!

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog and feel like I should be commenting all over it. This was perfect, it's exactly what I would be like. I feel like I get judged for not being embarassed or not "scolding" my child when "I should" but you just learn not to sweat that kind of stuff. Especially when something happens with no melt down! It was great to hear he had so much fun!!

Martian Momma said...

It was (and still is for the youngest one) fire extinguishers for my three boys. Unfortunately they make a big mess which isn't remedied at the push of a button.

And you're right - why do they put them where kids can get at them?