She looked a little frightened as she scurried into the Y with her children. It seemed possible that she was foreign born; she didn’t have an “American” look. She was dressed poorly, and her hair was unstyled and in desperate need of a trimming. She was carrying a child who was clearly old enough to walk and was holding the hands of the other two so tightly that she nearly tripped over them with each step.  My first thought was, “Oh, poor thing, I’ll bet she’s abused.”

She sat quietly and did not speak to any of the other parents.  The two children that are not participating in swim lessons huddled close to her.

About fifteen minutes later a very confident and well groomed man in blue scrubs walked hurriedly through the door.  Hmmm…a doctor.  He strode over to the pool where he disrupted class.  The instructor looked at him strangely, and he responded, “It’s okay; I’m his dad.”  I’m not sure what shocked me more, that he thought his cocky explanation excused his rude behavior, or that he was that child’s father!

Her eyes lit up when she saw him, but he paid little attention to her.  He grabbed the youngest child from her and held him tightly.  I kept thinking that she must indeed be foreign born, that she must be a mail order bride and was “purchased” by this arrogant physician.

The next week she did not come.  The father came alone with two of the children.  He was dressed sharply.  His shoes looked very expensive, and his hair was perfectly styled.  He cradled the youngest child like you would an infant, though the boy looks about three.   He reluctantly let go of the other boy’s hand in order for the child to get in the pool.  The father continued to hover.

The boy cried for fear of the water, and my heart broke for him.  I remember being afraid of the water when I was a child.  The instructor held him tightly though and smiled her sweet, Midwestern smile, while she encouraged him on how well he was doing.  He looked like he was beginning to enjoy himself when the father suddenly rushed to the pool and grabbed the boy off the steps.  He was still holding the preschooler under the bottom and legs with one arm while he retrieved his other son from the pool.  I couldn’t make out what he was saying, but it was obvious he wasn’t happy and was giving the young instructor a piece of his mind.

The head instructor flew through the water and out of the pool.  She told Dr. Dad that the boy was doing fine until he did that and that he needed to sit down and give them a chance to do their job.  You could tell  he did not like this woman talking to him like that, but he backed down and let the boy resume his lesson.  He did hover for a few minutes before taking a seat again.

I remember my husband hovering, too.  He would panic over small, normal things in a child’s day.  His first response was always to withdraw the children from the potential danger of the activity.  He was “just so nervous.”  These were the same children my husband broke a guitar over, broke a BB gun over, tried to kill in the car and the truck on numerous occasions, bit, and choked.  He let a toddler run all over a department store in a large city totally unsupervised, claiming he knew “about where she was.”   He removed the battery from our son’s little ride-on Jeep and replaced it with a car battery.  He then sent the 3 year old outside alone to drive his “hopped up” Jeep.  He let a 3 year old and a 9 year old run a Big Red Horse tiller in flip flops while he stood in the yard drunk.   He let my children swim in the river unsupervised at the ages of 7 and 10, the river that claims many lives each summer.  Safety wasn’t really a priority in my husband’s mind.

He wasn’t concerned about their safety though I’m sure certain activities did make him nervous.

He was nervous at the idea of them gaining self-confidence.  He was nervous that they might look up to another adult.  He was nervous that they would not be totally dependent on him.  He was nervous they would realize and embrace their own individuality.  So, he hovered.

He hovered over me, too.  He had absolutely no interest in me–my needs or my dreams.  But, we never lived in a house with a lock on the bathroom door.  He would barrel into the bathroom, hitting my legs with the door, demanding entry.  I would try to block the door and tell him that I was going to the bathroom and would be right out.  His response was always the same, “I don’t care!  Let me in!  I’m your husband!”  About a year before he left he confessed that he wouldn’t be so controlling of me if I would just let him watch me go to the bathroom.  Basic rights to privacy did not apply to me once I became his marital property.

He hovered over me while I talked on the phone and typed emails.  His chin nearly rested on my shoulder when I was reading and writing on the computer.  And, he would sit as close as possible to me, leaning his head into my ear, in order to hear the other person on the phone.  He talked incessantly, interrupting, and making it nearly impossible to carry on a conversation with someone else.  He questioned everything I did.  Yet, he never listened to the depth of my thoughts nor the cries of my soul.

He just hovered, like Dr. Dad at swim lessons.  I think I called that one dead on.  I think that poor scared looking woman is abused.  Maybe he doesn’t hit her.  Maybe he just denies them the right to explore, to interact with others, to gain self-confidence, and to learn new skills.  Maybe he just hovers.