Confession: Sometimes, I'm a rule breaker.
Case in point. Our local pool has the rule that you must shower before you go swimming. NO ONE does it. In fact, they have an outside entrance that doesn't even have this rule posted. It's never enforced. Never even mentioned by the lifeguards or any staff members.
The pool also has the posted rule that you have to be ten to jump off the platforms, eight to jump off the higher spring board and capable of swimming to jump off the regular board. Matthew, for example, has been jumping off the smallest diving board since he was three years old. Our pool also has the rule that you must have a parent within arms length if you're under the age of six. This means that my youngest son had to have me within arms length for THREE ENTIRE YEARS AFTER HE WAS CAPABLE OF JUMPING OFF THE DIVING BOARD AND SWIMMING TO THE SIDE OF THE POOL.
I find it infuriating. I've seen adults that are worse swimmers than my nearly nine-year-old and my six-year-old. I stand by my opinion that the kids should have to pass a swim test and, once that's passed, they should be able to swim and jump off the boards freely. But no one asks me.
So I'm a rule breaker.
Let me explain though. I do not let my children lie. If they're asked their age, they must tell the truth and live with any consequences. They also have to look the part. At least, somewhat. Matthew, for example, isn't going to try to jump off any platforms anytime soon because he definitely couldn't pass for a ten-year-old.
Last year, just before my oldest son turned eight, I told him to jump off the spring board. You have to be eight. He refused to try it until his birthday when he walked right off the end of the thing like it was nobody's business. This year, he wanted to try the platform. He'll be nine on Monday. He's a full year away from being "platform eligible."
But he's known how to swim since he was three. He goes to surf camp every summer. He jumped off a cliff in Hawaii when he was five! He's totally capable. So I told him to go for it. The pastor's wife in me DOES NOT CONDONE THIS BLATANT DISREGARD FOR THE RULES. The mom in me told him to look confident and to, well, attempt to create some sort of swagger in which he might, possibly, pass for a ten-year-old. In June, he jumped off the five meter platform. He just walked up and hopped right off. No questions asked.
He did it several times until, finally, one lifeguard blew her whistle and yelled, "How old are you, Bud?" He turned around and dejectedly walked back down the stairs.
On Tuesday, I took the boys to the pool. "I want to jump off the platform," Garrett told me. "And I'm fine with that," I said. Because I'm completely confident in his ability to do so and completely confident in my ability to rescue him if something goes wrong. "But you can't lie if they ask you how old you are." He walked toward the platforms and began the climb up. I yelled his name. He turned to look at me and I motioned for him to go higher.
The 10 meter, "white" platform is only open for two hours a day. It was closed, but he nodded at me and continued past the "red" five meter platform and on to the "blue" 7.5 meter one. He confidently stepped to the edge and waited. The lifeguard raised her flag and he stepped off.
I am mostly convinced that this child is living in the wrong state. He needs to be in Hawaii where he can surf and cliff jump all day long. He's a free spirit. Way freer that the rest of us. He is unafraid. Confident. Brave. Amazing. He's my hero.
He waited until the white platform opened and bravely walked toward the staircase. But, alas, they'd placed a lifeguard on the stairs to ask each person how old s/he was. He hung his head and walked back to me, tears stinging his eyes.
"IT ISN'T FAIR!" he wailed.
"It IS fair," I explained. "It's the rule. They're just enforcing it." Tears rushed down his eight-year-old-not-big-enough-for-the-platforms-yet face.
"But I can do it and I WANT to!" he sobbed. Then suddenly, he stopped. "Will you do it?"
"But if you do it it'll make up for the fact that I can't," he said.
"Are you a chicken?" he asked.
"Yes. Yes, I am a chicken," I said confidently. (A confident chicken, I am.)
Matthew joined in the conversation. "If you don't do it we're going to call you a chicken forever."
"Then a chicken I will be forevermore," I smiled. "Now, let's go play in the pool."
I've jumped off enough platforms in my life to know that it looks moderately high from the ground and it looks like an eternity fall from the top. I'm too old for 10 meter jumps (or, probably even, three meter ones). But my eight-year-old, it would seem, is too young. Even though he's braver than most.