1 | The Wicked Little Witch of the West
Forget buckets of water. Let but a single finger or toe graze the surface and this shrieking banshee emits wails so excruciating that one might confuse back-floating with an appendectomy sans anesthesia. Did someone drain the pool and refill it with sulfuric acid? I knew “No!” was every toddler’s favorite word, but this is Texas Chainsaw Massacre-level screaming. With such an aversion to water, how do her parents – they’re the ones with flushed cheeks and thousand-yard stares – keep their little stoic hydrated? Bathe her? How do they coax her out of the house on rainy days? Somehow, they bring her back, week after week, and each time it’s like listening to a kitten being boiled in oil. Or, maybe, a flying monkey having its wings ripped off. Methinks it unlikely that such aqua-phobic anguish will end in happy swimming. I predict this kid will grow up and move to South Dakota (or Kansas, perhaps), work for a raisin factory or camel farm, and be triggered each time she drives past a Red Lobster.
2 | The Hyper Hypo
The opposite of the Wicked Little Witch, this Snork Princeling not only loves the water, he suffers mortal agony when separated from it. Indeed, left unattended at the edge of the pool, Aqua-Kid will attempt to reenact the end of the Battle of Saipan … from the Japanese perspective. When this human lemming is forced to sit still for so much as a nanosecond, his arms and legs spasm with frustration, splashing everywhere, including into my daughter’s face as she attempts to do “ears-in.” Part of me wants to nudge the little myoclonic right into the water, except he’d like that. I think I saw this on SNL years ago: It involved Nicole Kidman, Mike Myers in a helmet, and a set of monkey-bars. I pity the Hyper Hypo’s parents, having to deal 24/7 with this Darwin Award contender. Finally, I understand why child harnesses were invented.
3 | The Buoy
Cue the opening lines of “Comfortably Numb”. My daughter’s been in lessons with this turnip-in-a-Frozen-bathing-suit for two months and I’ve never heard her utter a sound. Forget Elsa and Anna, because “frozen” perfectly describes the blank grin fixed on her face no matter what she’s doing: arriving in her stroller, floating in the pool, submerged. Finally, an answer to the long-standing question of whether zombies can swim. Stick her in a tube for “play time” and watch her … do nothing. Toys float by. The instructor gives the tube a shove. The Hyper Hypo recreates the Fukushima tsunami right next to her head. The Buoy remains as apathetic and inert as the Dude from The Big Lebowski after a double-dose of Nyquil. When I look to see if her dad shares my concern … hey, look lively, Prince Valium! Friday night at their house must be like visiting a mausoleum.
4 | The Exxon Valdez
Bridge to Captain Hazelwood: drop your fifth of Popov and get up here, sir. We have a big problem. Contaminated fluid is being discharged into the water, and we’re leaving a visible trail behind us. There’s leakage from multiple openings in the hull, and I don’t even want to think about what may be going on belowdecks. Yes, a major environmental catastrophe is in the works, maties, yet somehow we arrived without Boogie Wipes, and apparently disobeyed the rule about double-diapering. Aye-aye, Cap’n, ignoring it does seem like the best course of action. Let’s keep looking at our iPhones just like the parents of this pint-sized Toxic Avenger. It’s not like there’s any risk of other toddlers gulping the water.
5 | The Changeling
Arriving for the class after my daughter’s, this Last Emperor copycat is accompanied by an entourage that would embarrass Michael Jackson ca. 1991. My daughter needs to get out of her wet bathing suit and diaper, but no dice. Hillary Clinton says it takes a village to raise a child; evidently it takes one to change him, too. My daughter and I stand waiting – she shivering in her towel, the water soaking my shirt, both of us growing crankier every second – while the Mongol Horde forms a human shield around the changing table. Clearly it was too much trouble for anyone in this flash mob to stick him in his bathing suit and swim diaper before leaving the house 12 minutes ago, but God forbid we catch even a fleeting glimpse of Simba the Lion King’s two-year-old butt. Have a great lesson, Little Lord Fauntleroy. It’s petty, but I hope he drinks the water.