You should listen to your children. No, really, you should listen to what they say and believe it!
As so many parents do, Brian and I discussed putting Pickle in swimming lessons this summer. She made three in February so she was eligible this summer to start. After researching a few places, I found an option that was reasonable and convenient. Despite the fact that we didn’t get in to the most popular swim class program – I didn’t realize I needed to sign her up for summer lessons in DECEMBER. I digress…I found another option and felt great about it. Our first day was June 1st.
We did a bit of prep work for the upcoming event, although getting Pickle excited didn’t take much. She could not wait to start! Each day after school she would ask if this was the day to start. Buying her two (green) one-piece bathing suits and a pair of (green) goggles sent her over the top with anticipation.
The day finally arrived….
Anyone who has done this before knows that there are two basic options regarding first time swim lessons. Moms know the big question to ask, “Can parents stay to watch?” These programs are either on one side or the other of this instructional fence. Either parents can stay or they cannot. I know why they don’t want us to stay. I know exactly why they want the distractions out of the way. I know this, however I’m not sure if I like it. The place we were starting did allow parents to stay and watch. To be honest, it made me feel good to be able to see her in the pool, but it also made me worry. I probably shouldn’t be there.
Up until the point of actually getting into the water, the first day was great. She was so excited to get dressed! Green suit, green crocs, and green goggles! She wore the goggles on the pool deck! The head coach identified our teacher and she soon motioned to us that she was ready. Time to get in. Standing at the edge of the pool is not where I wanted to feel my child start to freeze. “Mommy, I don’t want to go” she said as she tried to become one with my legs. Brian is behind me by the bleachers. I look down at this precious swim teacher and ask what I should do. She shrugged her shoulders. Oh dear God, please help me here! Pickle is now crying and trying to get away. I begin with some mild coaxing…”Look at him! He’s sitting on the bench, too! Why don’t you sit by him in the water.” She has turned into a stone and wouldn’t budge.
Let me set a small stage for you, too. This place is giant. Bigger than giant. To say it fits one 50 yard pool and one 25 yard diving pool with ample seating and meeting room is an understatement. It is a loud, active place that I am certain is totally overwhelming to a 3 year old. Don’t even get me started on the heat.
So back to the edge of the pool. I know by now my eyes are pleading with the teacher to give me some direction, some answer as to how to make this work. Fantasy negotiations do not work with my child. Telling her that Minnie Mouse is in the pool will not work. Ever. She knows way better than that. At some point during my stress, sweating, and balancing my very pregnant body on the edge of the pool I cracked my own internal whip. “Melanie! Get your shit together! She has to get in the water! Quit relying on the swim teacher to solve your parenting dilemma!” She has to get in the water. A minor obstacle but I was right. In order for her to ever learn to swim, she has to get in the water. I did what I never thought I would or could do! There I stood, at the edge of the pool and handed my crying child over to a stranger, right into the water. Oh dear God, what have I done!
As parents, Brian and I balance each other out quite well. If it were up to him, he would have certainly taken her out of the pool after ten minutes. “Is this cruel and unusual?” he would ask me as she floated out with her teacher with tears running down her face. “When can we leave?” he would ask. “When her lesson is over” I would respond. I sat and watched while he paced the deck. All of his belongings next to me – wallet, phone, keys, etc. all in the event he had to jump in and rescue her. He’s such a wonderful father, I thought, but he has got to stop looking at her! Every time she saw him she would turn the tears up a notch.
What seemed like four hours later, her lesson was done. Having her back on dry land was a relief to all of us. We hugged and celebrated how well she did. I asked her if she had fun and she answered with a resounding, “Yes!” Really? I thought you looked totally miserable at the hands of your dear mother, but ok, if you say so. On the way home I asked her if she wanted to go back and she said that she didn’t. Quickly realizing, not going back wasn’t an option, so I rephrased my question into a statement. “Well, Pickle, we are going back on Monday. What do you think about that?” We were at a stop light so I watched her in my mirror. She turned her head then looked at me. “Mom, I can go back. I think I will be fine, fine.”
Monday arrived right on schedule. I wasn’t sure what the lessons would be like so I did my best to hide my worry. We sat on the bleachers together enjoying a few goldfish before being summoned into the deep. At the time we saw the call from our teacher, Pickle happily took off her crocs and said, “See, Mommy, I’m not scared anymore!” Overwhelmed with pride I helped her step right into the water and sit happily on the water bench. Throughout the lesson she would look back at us for reassurance. Brian gave several “thumbs-up” and I smiled and waved. As she floated with her teacher across the pool, 25 yards away from us I said to Brian, “Well, she was right. She said she would be fine and she is.”
So even at three, our kids know more than we will (probably) ever know that they know. I’m amazed, proud, and blessed. Now if we can just get her to put her face in the water…