Today was the first time I took my five year old son swimming. That is not strictly true; we have been swimming quite a lot. We did lessons and had a regular Saturday morning playdate in the pool when he was 3-4, but he has always been terrified of the water. Bath time has been an absolute nightmare until we came up with a complicated system where I had a towel ready, rinsed his hair and immediately wiped any excess water from his precious widdle face. Daddy is not allowed to do the rinse process, only me. Otherwise the result is BLOODCURDLINGSCREAMS!!!!!! So, this was the first time we were going to lessons to properly learn how to swim. As a grown up five-year-old.
I too do not like water on my face. On my honeymoon, I was presented with a terribly excited '9 headed shower!!' which I confidently entered into...only to find water was attacking me from every angle. And... surprise surprise... the young man has picked up the ame wimpy gene I possess.
So when he was crying in the car going to the swim lessons, begging me not to go because he didn't want to put his face in the water, I promised him that he didn't have to do anything he didn't want to. I would talk to the swim teacher and explain his fears and that maybe he needed to go slow. He sniffed in agreement and off we went. So I pulled the rather robust swim teacher aside while she downed a thermos of what I can only hope was coffee and said in my low voice that D was feeling scared about putting his face in the water.
"He'll be fine," she barked.
"Well, he's is feeling terrified and..."
"If he wants to learn how to swim, he's got to put his face in the water!"
I gave her one of my "I completely disagree with everything you're saying" looks. But she just bounded on through the group of parents waiting with their little fishes, her voice rising as she continued lecturing me to the crowd now.
"Everyone has to put their face in the water. Dump a bucket of water over their heads in the bath! Everyone has to put their face in the water!"
Suitably shamed, I nodded and sat down to watch my son, who was much bigger than the other children. I watched him cry and shake, biting his lower lip and shaking his head when she pulled out the hullahoop and each child slipped under water and through the hoop. Eventually he reluctantly eased 3/4 of his head under water. I was embarrassed for him. It was like seeing a grown ass child in a push chair. I was so sad and I wanted to go over and pull him out and make it all okay.
Then I remembered -- crying never killed anyone.
Some of my best parenting lessons have emerged from that lovely phrase. Swimming is a life-skill and it is, in my opinion, non-negotiable. In the same way that crossing the road is a life-skill: We can't just stop and cry in the middle of the road and feel comfortable with the process. It is literally a sink or swim experience.
So suck it up princess. I did learn to dive under water. I hated swimming lessons, but I know that if I ever fall into the water, I get wet rather than die! I have to toughen up, so I will dump water on his tender sweet head in the bath tonight while he wails in response, because I am the Mama. Stronger than the girl riddled with fears that lives in my past. Mama!
Get busy living or get busy dying
Photo Credit: icma.
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