Rolando: Parenting with Rolando, Jr.–Swimming Lessons

September 29th, 2017

When it comes to great fathers, my dad is probably as good as they come. He always worked his ass off to make sure his family had what we needed, and he always put our needs before his.

In raising my brother and me, my old man, who is also named Rolando, was tough but fair.

He didn’t put up with dishonesty or disrespect. He always made sure we respected him and our mother. If we didn’t, he was quick to discipline us.

It was this upbringing that shaped who we are as men today.

It’s safe to say that you could pretty much attribute any good qualities we have as a men to him, and if I do become a father, I plan to follow his example.

But there are certain aspects of his parenting methods that I won’t be using if I have children.

My dad is a sink or swim type of guy—literally.

When we were babies—around five or six—we’d always take a yearly summer trip to Florida. We’d go to the beach and Disney World and enjoy all that Florida had to offer.

Those were some of the most memorable moments of our childhood.

But mixed in with those good memories, are some traumatizing memories that still haunt us today.

My dad, who is an excellent swimmer, took it upon himself during these trips to teach his sons how to swim.

We would learn early and we would learn well — that was his theory.

I’ll never forget it…

We were at the Days Inn in Clearwater, FL.  I was around five-years-old. We woke up early that day cause my dad said we were going down to the pool to swim.

Excited by the thought of a day at the pool, I threw on my trunks, gathered my floaties and eagerly followed my old man as we made our way down to the pool.

It was a typical hot summer day and the other hotel guests were out enjoying the sun. Kids were jumping into the pool and splashing in the water.

I was eager to join in on the fun. I had my floaties around my arms and was ready to jump in when my dad called to me.

“Come here, son,” he said lovingly.

“I want to go play, daddy,” I said.

“You will, son, but come here first.”

“Alright, daddy.”

I walked towards him and he picked me up, looked into my eyes and smiled a great big smile.

“I’m going to teach you how to swim today, son,” he said as he began removing one floatie from my arm.

I thought nothing of it.

“Alright, daddy,” I said.

He then removed the other floatie and started to walk towards the deep end of the pool.

I still thought nothing of it. He was my dad — surely, he would cause me no harm.

When we got to the deep end, my dad said these now infamous words: “Son, today you will learn how to swim.”

Before I knew what was happening, I was six-feet in the air, free-falling into the deep end of the pool.

As I fell towards the clear blue water, it still hadn’t registered what was happening to me. It wasn’t until I came splashing down into the pool that the reality hit me.

My first reaction was to scream, which caused me to swallow water. I splashed and flailed my arms as I struggled to keep my head above water.

I can remember popping my head above water as I struggled to make it to the edge of the pool and seeing my dad with his arms crossed, standing there, screaming: “Swim or drown. Swim or drown, boy.”

When I finally made it to the edge and out of the pool, my dad, proud because I had “learned how to swim,” picked me up and tried to explain to me how “humans are actually born knowing how to swim and all we have to do is get past the fear of drowning to realize it.”

I was too hysterical. All I could do was cry and punch at him for throwing in to the pool.

For the rest of that trip I wouldn’t go near the pool unless my mom was present.

More than twenty years later, my dad remains unapologetic for his unusual teaching method.

Whenever it comes up during family dinners he always says: “Let me ask you a question — do you know how to swim?”

To which I can only respond: “Yes.”

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