Children seldom misquote you. They usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said. — Unknown
One towel covered me from head to toe. The towel beneath me absorbed water from my swimsuit. Protected from the breeze, I huddled under cover. With the sun above and the heated concrete pool deck below, I found quiet. I loved this part of swim lessons. This plus the popsicle we’d get on the way home made it all worthwhile.
My eight-year-old body was positioned far enough away from the splash zone of the pool, near the chain link fence and the moms. Save haven.
I woke up to their voices.
“It’s sad,” one said.
“I don’t know why she brings her,” said one mom.
I knew that voice, she lived down the street.
“Poor thing just can’t do it,” said another.
“She shouldn’t be in this class, it holds the others back. It just isn’t fair.”
That was Tucker’s mom. I’d never heard her talk that way before.
“You have a point. Everyone has to wait.”
“Of course I have a point.”
My throat tightened.
Then, “Hello, all! Thanks for watching her.” It was Mom.
Did she hear them?
“No problem. She sleeping. Probably so tired from the lesson,” Tucker’s mom said all sweet.
My eyes hurt. I lifted the towel, rubbed my eyes and reached for my mom.
Going in the big pool took every bit of brave I had. Some days I didn’t have enough. This day was one of those days.
After that, shame took control. At first it hurt. I wonder if they knew. That made it worse. By the next day, the fear of drowning was nothing compared to my I’ll-show-you-attitude. Shame drove me to mad and then to prove something. Strange. Shame led to mad and took over fear. Was it pride?
I survived the pool incident. And I remember. If you think that’s what I needed to get on my brave, think again. I overcame this moment, but it left seeds of doubt and scaring. I don’t always pull out from underneath the covers and approach my fear. Sometimes it’s too big or I’m too small.
This memory drives my thinking tonight as the start of the school year approaches. We need to be mindful. Not just of our talk when we think no one’s listening. We need to be mindful of how we think about children’s abilities. Our thoughts drive our actions and our words that young minds can see, hear and remember.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this place to share our Tuesday slices. Read more slices here.
13 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Under Cover”
What a powerful Slice! So beautifully crafted. I was right there with you, that eight year old horrified to know the moms were speaking about YOU and not very nicely. I love the line: “Going into the pool took every bit of brave I had.” I also loved “Sometimes it’s too big or I’m too small.” Powerful reminder that we take for granted as easy isn’t always easy for our kids. This made me think of my students and my own children and the expectations I have for them, the things I think are so simple that they should just do might not be that way for them. Mindfulness and kindness in our words and actions. Thanks for sharing this excellent Slice!
What a perfect quote to frame your story of days past, but yet still so vivid in your mind. We do need to be mindful of what we say, what we do, and how we perceive the children that surround us.
I gasped and cried reading that story about you as a child. I feel such anger towards those words that hurt you and so proud at how you handled it. I agree about our words and watching what we say and how we say it. I’ve been working on this for the past couple of years and I see such a change. Thank you for leaving us with this wisdom, “Our thoughts drive our actions and our words that young minds can see, hear and remember.” YES!!!
I was that child, too. I love this line, “Sometimes it’s too big. Sometimes I’m too small.” It is a wonderful lesson for us to think about when beginning a new year with students. Our words matter. Choose them wisely.
I was a good swimmer, but I was that child in many other areas. Your reflection at the end says it all: our actions speak louder than words so we need to be mindful of what we say and how we brave around the kids we teach.
This was such a powerful memory and moment for you. And part of me wanted to travel back in time to give your 8-year-old self a hug. You’re so right… we do need to be mindful. Our words are powerful. And how we choose to use them – to encourage and build someone up or to criticize and tear someone down – that says a lot about who we are and who we end up becoming. Thank you for sharing. This will stay with me.
First of all I’m sorry for the hurt the women’s petty remarks caused. And second, that you take that and use it so wisely for your teaching ideals is wonderful, Julieanne. Thanks for the lesson for us all, too.
Your quote at first made me smile. Having raised three children I often felt misquoted. But your accompanying post was very moving and a good reminder
What a tragic story to share with us as a universal reminder of how tender our kids are, no matter what their size.
Thanks for that one, Julianne.
Children remember – your slice reminded me of Sondheim’s golden lyrics from Into The Woods:
Careful the things you say
Children will listen
Careful the things you do
Children will see and learn
Children may not obey, but children will listen
Children will look to you for which way to turn
Co learn what to be
Careful before you say “Listen to me”
Children will listen
What a powerful story to help us remember the effects of words and actions. Your words “We need to be mindful of how we think about children’s abilities. Our thoughts drive our actions and our words that young minds can see, hear and remember” will stay with me. Thaks for sharing this very personal story.
Your story is powerful. You told it so well. For me it took positive words, beliefs and actions from a powerful teacher to overcome a similar experience.
Very powerful. I learned as a teenager, working with children and adults with disabilities, how much my words could affect someone, especially someone in my care or under my authority. Always think before you speak, even if you think no one is listening.