Sarah Connor I ain’t. Ay, there’s the rub.

July 15, 2010

in no manual for parenting

I tell my kids frequently that when the dinosaurs come, RUN. Don’t wait for mommy. Because mommy will be the first one that gets eaten.

They always reply, after they are done rolling their eyes, It will not be dinosaurs in the end of the world scenario, mom. Don’t you watch any movies?

Well, dinosaur or no dinosaur, that’s not the point. The point is: Survival of the fittest, ergo, death to the weakling, y’all.


I hate reinforcing stereotypes. But I was, by the book, your stereotypical dorky coke-bottle-wearing no-extra-curricular-activity-whatsoever studying-till-dawn excelling-at-test-taking kid. I have no physical, practical skills to speak of. No physical strength. No kinetic memories of any sports. No agility. None. Nada. Nil. Null.

This lack of physical strength had not been an issue until I became a parent. When you became a parent, movies of a certain sorts ceased to be enjoyable: I sill cannot bring myself to watch “The Other End of the Ocean” and “The Changeling”. I was so distraught by the scene at the swimming pool that I failed to comprehend what happened later in the movie “Minority Report”. I freaked out over “Mystic River” because WTF if you cannot trust people who claim to be policemen. More than any other kinds of movies, I can no longer whole-heartedly enjoy disaster movies, the end-of-the-world mega blockbusters. Instead of being caught up by the actions, intrigued by the plot and storylines, and mesmerized by the big-budget special effects, my brain cells are busy calculating the chance of my children surviving the same event happening on the screen. My stomach churns at the thought of my children having to endure endless darkness and starvation, which is the least horrifying scenario of them all.

When the kids were younger, it was a lot more agonizing. I worried about what to feed them should we ever be trapped in the basement for a long period of time. How about if the baby would not stop crying and risk being discovered? What about diapers?

Now that they are older, I sense that I am becoming a liability when the world is being attacked by dinosaurs, brain-sucking Zombies, or aliens. For starters, I seriously cannot run. When I run for the train in the morning, it takes me the entire commute to get back to my normal breathing rhythm. I am such a slow runner that my husband can walk beside me while I attempt to jog. Running and I do not mix.

On top of that, I am as blind as a bat. Without my contact lenses or my coke-bottle-thick glasses, I cannot even locate the chart on the wall of my optometrist’s office. As soon as my glasses fall, as we all know, one of the dinosaurs is going to step on it and crush it like a peanut. That’s it. The end of me.

I just want my children to move on without me so I can buy them more time…

I don’t like watching disaster movies any more. It sucks.



We are on our annual family beach vacation with the in-laws this week. It is probably not a surprise that I cannot swim. In fact, I failed gym class in high school because I could not hold my breath long enough to swim the passing length of 15 feet. In contrast, Mr. Monk, my 7-year-old boy, has come a long way from being dastardly afraid of water, i.e. screaming bloody murder when his hair was being washed, to braving the waves with his boogie board all day long.

I gladly accompany him when Mr. Monk wants to swim in the ocean. I make sure that we do not get too far from the shore and that the water reaches no higher than my waist. I am not worried about the fact that I cannot friggin’ swim since my feet can always touch the bottom.

Well, they could always touch the bottom until the time when I almost drowned.

It happened so fast. One minute we were safely playing in the waves near the shore: Mr. Monk was happily swimming around me and under the waves while I screamed and jumped to keep my head above the water with each wave, the next minute I found myself under the water, my feet not being able to reach the bottom. I panicked. I swallowed water. I struggled to get my head above while sensing the impending arrival of the next wave. I could see the shore and it now seemed so far away.

What happened? How did we end up here?

The second wave submerged me under the water. I had braced for it and waited for it to subside. My head was above the water again. I could see a man no more than 30 feet away from us. And the water was at his waist. I saw Mr. Monk swimming along and he did not seem scared.

I started to peddle. To move myself closer to the shore. Inching my way. By this time I was painfully aware of my uselessness and I had determined that I needed to save myself first.

Remember the instruction the flight attendants give on the airplane for the oxygen masks?

“Make sure to put the oxygen mask on yourself first before attempting to help someone else put on theirs.”

I often wonder about that statement. How could a parent ever think of themselves first? It was an agonizing, yet split-second decision.

At that moment, I deliberately abandoned my own child, left him to his own device. I needed to save myself first so I could secure him. That realization panged me; it still does.

All I wanted was for my feet to be able to reach the bottom so I could regain control, goddamnit! I was furious at myself.

How could you have let this happen?

The third wave was coming. I knew if I let it, the wave would push me closer to the shore, and we could have been saved. So I swallowed some more water and let the pounding wave carry me in further. When the ocean retreated, YES, I felt the bottom with my tiptoes.

I stood up on my tiptoes and turned around to look for Mr. Monk. He was swimming behind me, leisurely.

“Hurry up. Come over here!” I yelled as I inched further forward by bouncing along.

He smiled at me.

“NO! We have to get back to the shore. RIGHT NOW!”

He was not listening. Now I was yelling and pleading at the same time.

“Please. COME HERE NOW!! Mommy cannot reach the bottom and I cannot help you at all!”

The man looked in our direction with a puzzled look, probably because he heard me yelling. He soon turned his gaze in some other direction since there was no clear sign that we were in any imminent danger.

As soon as Mr. Monk was within my reach, I pulled him in. We trudged onto the sandy beach.

“Hey, we need to be more careful. We have lost track of where we were headed while we were jumping in the waves. The waves carried us too far away. We got too deep. IMy feet could not touch the bottom and mommy almost drowned.”

“You almost got me killed!” Mr. Monk commented. “You were pulling me down! You should let go my hand next time. I can swim and you can’t! Mom, you should try not to be responsible for your child’s death.”

God only knows. That is one of my biggest fears ever since I became a parent.

Do not fuck up.

All of a sudden I remembered Linda Hamilton doing chin-ups in Terminator 2. I became envious of her ability to protect her child, deeply disturbed by the lack in me, and simply, straightforwardly, exhausted.

Sarah Connor, Baddest-Ass Mama



After all the soul searching and self-condemnation, I am grateful that I seem to be the only person traumatized by this event. The very next day Mr. Monk pleaded,

“Can we please please please go swimming again?”

“Ok honey. But this time we will stay where the water does not go above my knees.”

{ 32 comments… read them below or add one }

Naptimewriting July 20, 2010 at 11:11 pm

Okay, first half of post: me laughing out loud. Out loud, yo. And agreeing with every bit of it. The post-kid fear of fiction, the lack of physical skill. The optometrist who laughs when I can’t see the E on the chart.
Second half of post, me crying, scared for you.

Stop it. Post only the first half of your blog entries for, like, a month so I don’t get scared again. I was empathizing with the first half and empathizing with the second half and I don’t like the ocean and dead moms and shit like that, damnit.

What do you think this is: Share Your Experiences with the Internet Week? No. It’s Make Funny or Politically Astute Commentary on Your Blog Week.

Sheesh. Now I can’t sleep thinking of your kids starving after the apocalypse, you drowning and leaving them alone, and you drowning your kid because you’re all short and not ocean height and whatnot.


Absence Alternatives July 22, 2010 at 10:37 pm

Make Funny or Politically Astute Commentary on Your Blog Week.

Dude, most of the commenters on your blog intimidate the heck out of me!


ZippyChix4 July 20, 2010 at 8:23 am

I am with you on this one. I always tell my kids if push comes to shove….shove me! I also, although I can swim, have a very healthy fear of the ocean. I also am not a fan of my kids swimming in the ocean without me there to supervise. Unfortunately you can not always be there to supervise teens. I therefore have a scenario attached to a warning for every potential harmful event. I try to give examples of real people that I have known so they do not just think blah, blah, blah….. Unfortunately I was on a beach once where 2 people drown….one trying to save the other. It has stuck with me and I still think of that family every summer and how one little beach jaunt changed their life. Those are the kind of stories that I throw around at my house. On the optimistic side of things though, chances are that everything will be good…..Awesome post. Thanks!
ZippyChix4´s last blog post…The Gender Gap


Absence Alternatives July 22, 2010 at 10:35 pm

That would have totally unsettled me, even just by being an outsider witnessing such tragedy…

Thanks for visiting and commenting. I really do like (and am amazed by) the “takeaways” at the end of your blog posts. I have to do that every day for meeting notes and reports. Yikes.


Cynthia July 19, 2010 at 9:08 pm

I felt frightened for you reading this post. I was paranoid of being in the water until my late 20s. After backpacking through S.E. Asia, I was determined to get past my fear and signed up for lessons. I was the oldest in the group by far but didn’t care. I’m still not a great swimmer but at least the thought of being in the water doesn’t frighten me anymore. I’m especially glad I did it now that I have 2 young boys (4 & under). Have you thought about signing up for lessons? Not to save your kids, necessarily, but for yourself.

As for not being able to watch disaster/scary movies since having kids, I just want to know if this will pass. I used to love watching these movies. It was a great form of escapism for me. Not anymore. I’ve even found myself avoiding reading/watching the news sometimes.
Cynthia´s last blog post…splash


Absence Alternatives July 19, 2010 at 9:21 pm

Thank you for visiting and commenting! Yes indeed I need to get over my fear of embarrassment and sign up for swimming lessons. The truth is: when I was younger (before college), I tried 3 times and never was able to learn how to get my head above water to take a breath. I now swim with my head above the water. As for not being able to watch some movies… Disaster movies do not really bother me as much as long as I can stop my mind from wandering. And we all know, aliens will NEVER come. Right? Right? The child abduction type of movies… I am resolved to wait till they are adults to be able to watch those movies. BEFORE I have grandchildren of course!


Mary Lee July 18, 2010 at 1:08 pm

Terrifying! I remember that feeling well. I don’t go in over my ankles–seriously.

I’m not a good swimmer. I made sure all three of our kids took swimming lessons until they were truly excellent swimmers. Perhaps they would save ME should the situation arise. As husband’s mother was often there, too, I needed to hedge my bets in case he went for her first. I can float–I just can’t get anywhere. In contrast, my mother always wanted to swim the English Channel.

If you were jogging, I probably could not keep up with you on my bicycle. 🙂
Mary Lee´s last blog post…Sure It’s not BATGIRL


Absence Alternatives July 18, 2010 at 3:31 pm

LOL @ your comment about husb not saving you. I know you are joking, in my case tis all too possible…


Jane July 17, 2010 at 7:20 pm

I used to be a competitive swimmer. I used to lifeguard. But the whole time I was reading your ordeal I was in a panic right there with you. I felt your paralyzing fear, your child’s fright. You are one damn good writer!
Jane´s last blog post…Some Things I Will Never Understand


Absence Alternatives July 18, 2010 at 3:28 pm

You r too kind! Teach me how to swim! 🙂


secret agent woman July 17, 2010 at 2:18 pm

Except for the glasses, you described me as a child. Instead of poor vision, though, I had asthma. And I absolutely loathe running – I get a stitch in my side almost instantly. But I have changed my stance on fitness. I forced myself to learn to swim, and can do a mile (with some resting between laps, as needed) and can walk for miles. I learned to ski and ice skate and ride a bike and paddle a kayak. I can’t say I’m particularly graceful or fast or strong but I feel a million times better about myself. I’m still the weak link and would also want my kids to just get to safety. But it’s better than it used to be.

(Oh, stay away from the Changeling. It still haunts me.)
secret agent woman´s last blog post…For those who asked


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:29 pm

I admire you so much! My kids do urge me constantly to learn how to swim. Fear of embarrassment. That’s my Achilles heel. Well, one of them.


Velva July 16, 2010 at 8:31 pm

I can swim. I swam very comfortably in ocean until I saw the movie Jaws. Now, I am a freakozoid in the ocean. That movie stripped me of my love for swimming at the beach(ugh).
Velva´s last blog post…Mixed-Berry Shortcakes with Vanilla Whipped Cream


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:28 pm

Then you would probably have been freaked out when the dolphins were swimming nearby!


Elly Lou July 16, 2010 at 7:26 pm

Next time just use those super powers you keep denying you have. Silly lady!
Elly Lou´s last blog post…A Visit to the MoMA


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm




TheKitchenWitch July 16, 2010 at 8:15 am

Holy crap! That sounds terrifying! I can swim very well and I am still a freakshow in the ocean…it’s just too unpredictable for me. By the way, I was the kid who got picked last in gym, so I can sympathize.
TheKitchenWitch´s last blog post…Grilled Pears Wrapped in Proscuitto


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I hate dodge ball. {{{hugs}}}


Miss B July 15, 2010 at 11:12 pm

If nothing large and toothy is chasing you, why bother running? That’s my philosophy. I have a lot of friends and acquaintances who are fairly avid runners, and…god, why? (The fact that I really need several rolls of duct tape and some sheet metal in order to adequately strap down my chest so that I don’t knock myself unconscious inadvertantly might have _something_ to do with my dislike of running. But it’s certainly not the only thing.)

I think you’d be awfully cute with some pink water wings. Just saying…
Miss B´s last blog post…It All Remains The Same


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:27 pm

I will wear the water wings if they are properly bedazzled. 😉


Wicked Shawn July 15, 2010 at 10:49 pm

Okay, I can tell this seriously upset you when it happened, and I hate that because loving your children and doing the best you can, (in your case that is pretty fucking awesome, by the way!!) is all we can ever do. Now that I have said that, Mr. Monk’s reminder to you that you should try not to kill him had me laughing so hard I had tears running down my face. He has such a talent for finding your weakness without even realizing it. You really need to steel yourself before he gets older, my girl. Once he starts doing that stuff on purpose, you are screwed!!! 😉
Wicked Shawn´s last blog post…Bitch Please…no- you haven’t time warped- this was fun


Absence Alternatives July 17, 2010 at 3:26 pm

OMG. You hit the nail on the head! I already knew: he is the master of laying guilt trip for his mother. I am convinced he has a mental scorecard and every move I make, he measures me against some sort of ideal mother that I have no idea where he learned of.


Katybeth July 15, 2010 at 7:03 pm

I always send my kid first. When I think about it, its the only reason reason I should have had moe than one. Honey, you go first…mom will be right behind you. With more than one…I could have been two kids behind!
Smart mom to make sure your kid was such a strong swimmer! Obviously, you did not pass your fear of water or perhaps swimming along to your kid. That is a strong point in your favor! He does have a point though…”about not killing him” sound reasoning on his point.
Bet between the two of you will more than keep your heads above water.
Enjoyed the post. Thank you!
Katybeth´s last blog post…Common Sense Died


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:42 pm

Thank you for visiting and commenting and for the kind words! I did try to not make a big deal out of this whole thing so as not to traumatize him. I feel so blessed really that he takes to water the way he does since he is very “cautious” with almost everything else.


pattypunker July 15, 2010 at 6:23 pm

never fear my love, a butterfly fairy will always whisk in and save you and your fam. you are a protected one.
pattypunker´s last blog post…potions- lotions and a lepidopterist


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:41 pm

Thank you. 🙂


Andrea July 15, 2010 at 3:58 pm

You and me, girl, you and me. While I hope to be able to buy my kids some time too, I also know I just don’t have much of a survival instinct. For them, I’ll do my damndest, but if it were just me, I’d give up way too quickly. I hate suspense.


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:40 pm

Oh yes yes yes. I would be the first one to give up. I thought about carrying cyanide inside my tooth so that I could have a quick easy painless way out when the horror gets too much.


Justine July 15, 2010 at 2:24 pm

That must have been such a harrowing experience! It goes without saying but today I feel like being especially obvious: Glad you’re not dead. He he.

I think we all want to be Sarah Connor, kid or no kid, but especially so when our instinct to protect goes on hyper drive when we become mothers. Alas, not all of us are *lucky enough* to be locked away in a mental ward where we have all that time to work on achieving a rock hard body. Sigh. Reason number 2324 why I hate my full time job.

All this to say, don’t be so hard on yourself. I honestly have no doubt that if there was real real danger, you would find a way to help your kids. You do that every day just by being there – this one instant does not cancel those others out.

And glad you’re having a good time.
Justine´s last blog post…Racing to keep up- On life with two boys Guest Post


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:39 pm

Such a shame that we were not locked up. LOL. 😉 You got my favorite brand of humor. xxoo

p.s. Thank you for being happy that I am not dead. I really appreciate the sentiment. 😉


Nance July 15, 2010 at 10:28 am

New non-profit activist group: Mothers Against Disaster Films And Running, Too. Sign me right up!

I used to love bouncing in the waves–I do live at the beach, after all–until the Sun News started announcing pollution levels, jelly-fish swarms, shark attacks, and rip-tides…one after the other, all summer long. You won’t get ME back in that water! Anybody out there like to buy a beautiful house near the beach?
Nance´s last blog post…Meemaws Watchin Her Stow-ries


Absence Alternatives July 15, 2010 at 8:38 pm

Jelly fish! There was a storm last night and today there are a lot of dead jelly fish in the water. Do they still pose a threat? Anyway, for someone who was completely fearless in the water, Mr. Monk became hysterical when he first noticed the dead jelly fish… *sigh*


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