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.
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.”