Okay, so they don’t actually swim yet, but put water wings on them and they do everything they see the big kids do, except swim along the bottom of the pool; something that they find fascinating.
The Girl has always been drawn to water. Last summer when she was only 18 months she would run headlong into any body of water she saw, lakes, rivers, wading pools, the ocean. It was nerve wracking to say the least. The first time I put water wings on her and actually let her go in the water she swam like the fish she always pretends to be. She has never looked back, even the time her uncle took her swimming at the pool and I forgot to tell him that she thinks she can swim on her own and he had to make sure she had floaties on before she got near the pool. She walked right in kicked out, and sank like a stone. He pulled her out a second later. He tells me she spluttered for a second and then tried to go right back in. Nothing, it seems, can scare her. (Unless we count strange objects floating in the water, then she screams like she’s been bitten.) I’ve seen her go in and go under one other time. In the split second before I was able to pull her out I watched as she kept her eyes open in surprise as she kicked and kicked trying to figure out why she couldn’t stay on the surface. She maintains her fearlessness when it comes to water.
My favorite memory from this time is of the Boy, standing at the side of the pool, body stiff with excitement as he cheered for his sister as she swam around. He was so proud of her. He told all of the bigger kids that came to swim that day to look at his sister, “She’s swimming ALL BY HERSELF!!!!”
The Boy is not like his sister. His favorite position when we were in the water was usually clinging to my neck and choking me to death while we stood in three feet of water, which he is tall enough to stand in. After a while he got brave enough to hold on to the side of the pool and pull himself along around the edge. He refused to let go of something solid and allow himself to float, not even in a life jacket or on a raft. His dad was afraid of water as a child so we’ve been gentle and slow with him, doing our best not to do something to add to his fear. This last month during the heat wave we spent almost everyday at the pool, and he has ever so slowly gained confidence. With the help of a little girl, who is an amazing swimmer, and daddy’s goggles, he got brave enough to put his face under water and retrieve dive sticks. Although he had water wings he often refused to put them on. We would have heart-wrenching conversations, for me anyway, where he would be full of confidence and excitement that he would swim today.
“Mom can you teach me to swim today?”
“Sure honey, do you want to put your water wings on and practice floating?”
“Yeah, that would be so cool, and then I can learn to SWIM.”
“Okay, let’s do that when we get to the pool.”
We would get there he would put them on, I would try to lead him out into the water a bit holding his hands, he would latch on to my neck, and cry that he wanted me to take him back to the side. Then he would take them off and go back to clinging to the side.
But he would wake up the next day full of hope again, most of the time.
Finally I asked him why he was afraid with the water wings on and learned that he was afraid I would let go of him if he was wearing them. So I promised not to, and held his hands as he floated all over the pool. This went on for days. As long as he held onto one of my fingers with each hand he was fine, but he panicked if I let go with one hand, even if he held the other still. Finally the day came, at a friends pool, when I realized that this child is just like me, he will not step over the edge of something scary or hard without a little push, so I let go. Or rather, I pried my fingers out of his steely vice grip, I wasn’t sure I would be able to use them after. He panicked, he flailed, I smiled into his panicked eyes and said, “Look, you’re floating.”
As everyone else echoed me, and he looked around his panic was replaced with a proud smile. “I’m floating, look, I’m floating by myself.”
Since then he has tried everything. He jumps in, he does flips off of the side into the water, he races with his friends, he tries back floating and front floating. He has finally taken to the water.
Tonight we went up to the Genius Husband’s grandparents’ for a barbeque and pool party. It’s been a few months since we’ve been to their house, and the last time they saw him in the pool he was clinging to daddy’s back or the side still. It was so fun to watch him show everyone how he could jump in, from the mini trampoline even, and flip and swim all over the pool. He could join the play as his dad threw his younger brothers and sisters, the Boy’s aunts and uncles, around in the pool. I am so proud and thrilled for him to have overcome his fear in this area and to be enjoying his newfound confidence.