Our summer visit to Norway this year was exceptional. It was hotter, drier, and sunnier than anything we’ve ever experienced before. The kids (and I!) went swimming in the ocean more this summer than all previous summers combined. The air temperature was consistently in the mid to high 80’s, and the water temperature was 80º F at the end of our visit. Truly unbelievable.
We spent our whole visit at my parents’ summer home on an island in the Kragerø area in southern Norway. A highpoint of the visit was seeing Sonny and Doobie’s transformation from cautious bathers to crazy, playful ocean swimmers.
Yes, we live in Los Angeles only a few minutes’ drive from the beach, but they are used to swimming in a pool. The pool is a confined, known space with clear water where you can see the bottom and even stand in certain areas. The ocean is a vast, deep, unknown place. You can’t see the bottom and have to swim and tread water the whole time. You never know what might suddenly appear next to you – jellyfish, sea grass, fish (and we caught some big fish this summer!) … They wondered if there were sharks in Norway.
When we first arrived, like all other summers, the boys were hesitant to go in the water. They wanted me to go in, too. So I did because I wanted them to go in. I became a buoy for them to swim to and hang on to. As the days went on, they hung on to me less. Suddenly, one day I realized that neither kid had a need for me. They were happily and comfortably swimming between the rafts and playing on them. I swam ashore and admired how at ease they now seemed in the ocean.
One day we went on a boat ride to the outer islands by Jomfruland. It was a gorgeous, windless day. All of a sudden, my father stopped the engine and suggested we go swimming in the middle of the ocean.
My sister’s girls quickly accepted the challenge and jumped in with their father. My boys needed some coaxing, and of course, they wanted me to go in with them. Sonny was quick to join me after I was in.
But I had to practically pull Doobie into the water. I didn’t want him to miss this opportunity. He stood at the edge ready to get in but just couldn’t do it. Once I got him in, he jumped in a few more times but always turned back to the boat practically before he had hit the water.
Sonny eagerly jumped in several more times but always wanted me to be in at the same time. He loved it. He even said, “If only Daddy were here” and “Next year we should force him to come” because he knew how much his father loves swimming in the ocean.
The swim in the ocean from a constantly moving boat was a turning point. After that they were what we call in Norwegian “bade engler”, or swimming angels. They swam every day several times a day. The ocean became their backyard. Sometimes they even went night swimming.
Their swim pants were constantly damp. Doobie lamented the fact the he only had one pair with him while his cousins had several suits each. He vowed to bring all his swim pants next year.
By the end of the summer, they were jumping from the highest rocks along the shore and staying in the water without concern for anything. They were swimming further out from shore. They had contests to see who had the craziest jump or biggest splash. They played in the water like they would have on land.
It was an amazing transformation to observe, one which ended in complete comfort and ease in the ocean, which I hope carries over to next summer. Unfortunately, the temperatures we experienced this year will not likely repeat themselves next year. The “tropical” temperatures were quite an anomaly but they certainly created a lot of wonderful memories this year for which we’re extremely grateful.