Deep End Stuff

She was a tough nut sometimes, my Mum.

Brought up in the Bay of Islands, she lived down by the water beside a picturesque bay. I don’t think it was as idyllic as it sounds. Survival in the post war years, off grid with five kids can’t have been a walk in the park for her parents.  She spoke of having to go in the rowing boat around to the mouth of the river once a week so they could wash the clothes in fresh water. Neither she nor her four siblings could swim, and one terrifying day, her baby brother fell over the side. She recalled seeing his blonde curls just above the surface of the water, the rest of him below. Her mum managed to get him back into the boat and on they went to do the washing. I think it haunted my Mum, that memory.  So even though she wasn’t a strong swimmer herself, she was determined that we would learn to survive in the water.

Our introduction was at our neighbours swimming pool. It had a very deep end, and after splashing about in the shallows, one at a time, Mum took us along the outside pool deck to the deep end. “In you go!” she said. In I went, clinging by my fingernails to the shiny squares of the edge.  “Now-” she said, “push off from the side and use your arms and legs to keep your face out of the water” showing me the doggy paddle action with her arms.  I was so afraid.  I wanted to keep my tenuous grip on the tiled lip of the pool. But I trusted her. And in one crazy, better-not-think-about-it-moment, I pushed off. I paddled like she said.  My legs pushing against the water beneath me. Around in a big arc, the deep blue beneath me seemed to stretch down endlessly.  But I was moving! And as long as I was moving I was staying up near the top! I craned my neck and panted with the effort. I was exhilarated! As far I was concerned, I was swimming! I remember that moment because it was one of my biggest. I was afraid. I did it anyway. Some moments just stay with you. Do you remember when you first got into the deep end?

I was afraid, but I trusted her

Tonight I had a wee panicky moment, thinking about what lies ahead of me on Monday. I’m going to what is called a casting. A big retailer is going to check me out and take some test shots to see if I am a good fit for their brand. I’ll be there in front of the cameras, having a go at posing and trying to look natural instead of petrified!  I was initially feeling really excited about it, just kind of zen, you know? Then Kelly, the lovely girl I talk to at the agency, asked me if I had any questions. Um,
“Should I take my suck-it-all-in-pants?” I asked. She giggled. I think I surprised her with that question, I guess she deals with a lot of girls who don’t need suck-it-all-in-pants. But Bridget Jones and I, we are kind of attached to them. They help with the jiggle and give me a better contour. She asked me again what size I am. “18-20”, I said.  When I got my contract from Vivien’s I wrote my sizes down, and I noticed that my contract states that I can’t change my size. And, you know, I’m such a good girl, that for the last few weeks, I’ve been studiously maintaining my booty!  “Hmmm”, she said, “I wouldn’t have picked you for an 18-20, their sample size is 16”.  Ah. “Guess I’d better take the suck-it-all-in pants!” I laughed. “It’s a plan!” she said, and I began to imagine myself squeezing in to pants two sizes too small. This rumptious rear might find that a bit challenging!

So since that little exchange, I’ve been feeling a bit more nervous.  My hubster came home and asked me what was up.  I must have been chewing on my lip. I explained it all and he smiled that Bobby Dazzler grin. “Babe,” he said, like he was talking about an irrefutable fact, “it’s just deep end stuff. We’re good at deep end stuff!  Just get out there…and see what happens!”.  He’s good like that. Reassuring. Believable. And he’s right, we are good at ‘deep-end’ stuff. We’ve had lots of practise! So I am letting go of that safe space I inhabit on the edge of the unknown. I’m pushing off, regardless of how frightening this new world of modelling is to me. I’m just going to think of my mum, showing me that paddle action, I’m going to keep my head up and give it a go.

What’s the scariest deep end moment you’ve had?
How did it work out?
Did you keep your head above water?
Oh please, tell me encouraging stories!

Post Script:  it went well!  I fitted their samples by some miracle of brand-size-variation and the suck-it-all-in pants were not required.  Phew!  Just have to wait now to see if the brand manager thinks I am a fit for their stuff.  It was fun 🙂

Second-Chance Me.

25899_413283735814_2554940_n Second Chance Me

I wish I’d had the chance to do that.

Have you ever played this record in your conversations with your kids? Er, yep! Like so many parents we strive, sacrifice and stress out about the extra-curricular lessons.  About making sure our babies are keeping up with the full gamut of opportunities.  “Who knows what their ‘thing’ will be?  They certainly won’t be left behind their peers, let’s try them all!”

In our particular parenting story, it began with swimming at 8mths old.  I had read somewhere that the earlier lessons for swimming begin, the better for the child.  So she began.  We’d rock up to our sauna of an indoor swimming complex with all the bells and whistles to make the lesson thing run smoothly.  Towels and nappies and spare bum-cream and a bottle for after and a snack just in case, organic baby wash for the showers, a fresh set of clothes for after, the pram, water and a snack for us.  Seriously, we were prepared!  The whole palaver took three hours.

Baby gym was next, because according to my sources, without the right/left brain coordination she would never develop correctly.  We ran around the obstacle course lifting, flying, chanting “Good!  Aaaaand, left leg UP, good girl!”  By the end of each session she was sound asleep in the car seat and I was ready to curl up with a blankie and a dummy myself.  And yet we pushed on. No way my girl was going to have my coordination issues, my fear of water, my mediocre ballet career….

Ballet.  Shoes, tights, leotard, videoing on my phone so we could practise the steps at home.  Mums all peering through the studio windows, desperate to see their babies dancing, anxiously comparing, heads nodding with the beat, toes flexing in their shoes, hands occasionally fluttering away from their sides.  Aaaaand, breeeeathe.

Netball Mums, yelling from the sidelines “SHOOT!  FIND A SPACE!  !!!REF!!!  C’MON!”  quiet conferences between Mums and sideways glances, passive aggressive conversations with coach.  Pep talks on the way home from practise, try harder, use your head, toughen up, listen to your coach, mark your opposition!

Gymnastics, Tennis, Hip hop, Art class, Trampolining, Ukulele, Theatre Arts, Mind Lab, Digital Music Composition.  Oh goodness.  I list them all and I am ashamed.  How many hoops has my baby jumped through to satisfy my vicarious ambitions?  So many. Too many.  How many dollars have we funnelled into the accomplishments of our daughter?  How many times have I berated her, and behooved her to make more effort? I try not to, but I confess, often I see her as second-chance-me.  She can have the opportunities I lacked, try the things I wasn’t brave enough to try, be the girl I wanted to be.

But what does she want to do?
Only one thing.
The only one thing that she has ever wanted to do.
The only one thing I know nothing about (ouch.  ….any wonder why?!)
The only one thing she has ever enjoyed, out of all of them.  My girl will do anything to be near a horse, to ride a horse, to scoop the poop of a horse and pick the hoof of a horse.  At first I didn’t encourage her, isn’t horse riding for the elite?  That’s just not us, sweetie.  She persistently begged me from four years old.  Horse themed birthday parties were as far as I went.  But her innate passion wouldn’t give up its grip on her.  She is a horsey girl through and through.  And so, I let go of my other ambitions, I had to.  Horse riding isn’t fiscally friendly!  She has proven across the years that this horse thing is no passing phase.

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So there she goes.  Taking a chance, that is nothing to do with what I didn’t get to do.  We were forecast for a tropical cyclone today.  I woke to the sound of the wind whipping around the house in the dark of early morning.  I hoped that maybe, she’d say “Let’s give it a miss today, Mum”. But no, she was already up, already in her gear and chomping at the bit (pardon the pun).  I watched her circling the arena in the rain, her little face peeping out from under her riding helmet and raincoat, wreathed in smiles.  It makes me laugh at myself.  She’s found her bliss.  If only I had listened to her a little earlier I might have discovered my own.  Because there is no joy like watching your child do something they love to do.  Even in a storm.  

My girl enjoys jumping over hoops more than jumping through them, and at last, I understand what she is teaching me.  “Let me be who I am Mum, not who you wanted to be”.

Guess I am a slow learner!

Photographed by Beverley Couper