For a quarter of an hour or so, he adjusts his swimming gear until the fit nears perfection. His suit, mask, flippers, towel ready and arranged just so.
Swimming is serious business. It requires attention to all manner of details.
A smear of sunscreen across his neck leads my eye to the small patches of greasy foam visible on his arms. Since he's a do-it-himself kinda guy, I fully expected the shot-glass-full amount all the morning shows preach (for efficacy's sake) to be spattered all over the floor. Even so, he refuses to rub the stuff into his skin. This is fine, he tells me, as his swim shirt is the only real protection he needs.
He fights with his swim trunks trying to turn the pockets wrong-side inward. All pockets should be this way, he contends, lest he loses the stuff he's collected on the way to the beach. Fashion aside, there is no "right side out" when it comes to pockets. Mostly he ignores this social rule until he finds the smoothest shell or the flattest skipping stone.
He doesn't wonder why pockets exist in swimwear until he has to empty them into my bag before he ventures into the water.
He's already wrestled on a swim mask - tight over the head, extracting the fringe of his hair, piece by piece.
One errant lock and the protective bubble will pop, sending water cascading into his eyes and up his nose.
The process is arduous. Though not as arduous as it was before my son found a way to swim underwater without a full-body submersible.
Back then a single drop of water plopping onto his face was enough to make him sputter and claim to be "drowndeding."
And whoever was nearby at the time of the dousing got all the blame, deserved or not.
Mostly his contempt was well placed.
I still remember the moment one swim instructor nonchalantly dropped him off a diving board into the waiting arms of another ... before he said: "I'm ready."
It was the cardinal sin of all swim lessons sins and a sin which most parents thought had been abandoned during the sea change of a new millennia wherein no one in their right mind would advocate for simulated drowning as a teaching device.
She may not have known he was never going to be ready.
And as I watched him sputter to the surface, screaming an incoherent recrimination to his now-chagrined looking torturer, I knew without a doubt that it would be a full year at least before he'd even step into a puddle again.
I knew swim class was over. For a long, long while.
He might not have forgiven her, nor me until I broke down and charged the cost of a toy-store mask and swim fins to my credit card.
Twelve dollars later, and with enough guilt ammunition to defy the printed No-Swim-Goggle rules, we returned to the pool.
Looking pinched and frog-like, he stepped back into the swim of things.