Monday, June 16, 2008

The Chink in My Maternal Armor: Why One or Both of Us Is Gonna Need A Little Therapy Sooner or Later

Now people, I know. I KNOW. That I am making too much of this. But what we are dealin' with here is my Achilles heel when it comes to The Bean.

You see, she may can play sports. She may can be funny and talkative and have a winning personality in public (got those traits from dear old Daddy), but when it comes to facin' the unknown/dealin' with new situations, this child? OHMYGRANNY she's ME all over again.

And it pains me deeply.

And although that sounds dead-pannish, I mean it very seriously. I drove home from the ding-dang swim lesson from h-e-double-hockey-sticks (that was not to be, by the way) literally swallowing and blinking back tears, wondering WHAT? What next? How do I help this beautiful, amazing, wonderful little person let go of her fears, trust herself, hold her head high and DO what I know she can do? What I know she WANTS to do? What I want her to believe SHE CAN DO.

She had her swimsuit on HOURS before it was time for us to leave for the lesson. She couldn't eat her breakfast for the excitement. She was out the door ahead of me, her little pool bag over her shoulder, saying, "C'mon Mama! Time fer my swimmin' lesson!" She dragged me through the locker room by the hand, "Hurry, Mama, hurry!"

And then it was time to leave me sitting 8 feet away and go with her (adorable, young, sweet, smiling and unsuspecting) three teachers and get into the water with the other kids, and SHE LOST IT. Which is her thing. Losing it at the last minute, clinging to me, and denying herself the JOY of this thing, whatever it is, to which she's been looking forward for days on end.

And inside, I lost it too. Outside, I held her tight, I talked into her ear, "Oh, honey, I underSTAND how you feel. This is all so new and different. You don't know what to expect and you're a little nervous because of that. See all those toys though? You get to step out into the water and grab those toys - they're like buried treasure! And the girls who are going to teach you - they're so pretty and sweet, just like Deanna (our babysitter, whom she adores). B, you CAN DO THIS. I believe in you, honey, and YOU CAN BELIEVE IN YOU, TOO. (Hug hug hug.)

And one of the girls came and got her and dragged her, SCREAMING, to the water's edge. And I watched. I smiled, even though inside I WAS WAILING. And she continued to get more and more upset. Her nose and eyes were dripping, and her chest was heaving with gigantic sobs.

"Leave. LEAVE." I heard conventional wisdom scream at me. "Walk away somewhere so she can't see you. She'll be fine. Just go."



I know my little girl. Leaving her is the exact wrong thing to do. Sticking it out with her, until she can get comfortable and warm up to the new environment. Just being WITH her, and FOR her, non-judgmentally, understandingly, patiently, not-giving-up-on-you-ly, you-can-do-this-ly - that's the right thing to do. But that's not what I did. I sat there with her for a bit. Then the inner conflict started. The "I have to win this one" conflict. Why do I always feel like I've got to save the day? Win the battle? Be the hero?

So I pulled the old, "Okay, honey, since you aren't going to have your swimming lesson, I guess we'll just go home. Get your flip-flops" And I got out my keys. And we walked out. And she was clearly torn, but when I stopped again and sat down with her and said, "Your choice, Beanie. Stay for the lesson, or go home?" she thought about it long and hard. And she finally pointed to the door that led to the parking lot, that would lead us home. So we continued out to the car.

And when we got there, I said, "I think we should ask God to help us with this. Let's pray." So we did. I held her and I told God we were a little bit afraid of the swimming lesson and asked God to give us courage. And then we walked back to the pool and sat down. And the lesson wrapped up as we looked on, and the kids got to slide down the froggy slide a few times, then they got out of the water, and Bean and I sat there as the other kids ran to their Mommies and got hugs and kisses and GREAT JOBS.

And I think I heard two hearts - a little Bean one and a big Mama one, break right in two.

"Tomorrow, I hope we get to do that too, Bean. I know we can do it. Do you think we can?"


And we walked out to the parking lot again. And she stopped and picked a dandelion and handed it up to me.

I love my daughter. It hurts so badly sometimes to love someone this much.

And later, once we were home again, she came to me and hugged my arm tightly, looked up at me and said, "I love you Mama. I know you're disappointed."

What she doesn't know, though, is that I'm only disappointed in myself.


  1. I think I'm having trouble seeing what you're disapointed about...I think you did a swimmingly great job with this! (pun intended)

  2. I reread it. Was it when you let them take her into the water? Still, I think you did a great job with her. It's hard helping your kiddos through stuff like this. Our oldest is terrified of thunderstorms. I have to really watch my tone and actions during one so I don't crush her little pee-pickin' heart.

  3. Dang it! You made me cry! I felt both your hearts break....

    When she conquers this you both will love each other even a hair width more because of this battle that is within each of you.

  4. Oh Megan, I completely understand where you're coming from.

    Fear is a motivator and there are two kinds - the good one that keeps us from going 100 mph and the bad one that paralyzes us and keeps us from doing that which we need or want to do.

    And I don't think that conquering fear is not a matter of self determination, it's more a matter of dependence on God whom we can trust and love.

    It sounds like you totally did the right thing, here. You prayed about it with her and asked for help.

    In the end, that's all any of us can do. You're a great mom and it's obvious to anyone with eyes that can read that you're doing a great job with Bean. :)

  5. Yep, growing up sure is a tough business. On us parents, I mean.

  6. Oh, I know how you felt. I really do. And it does break your heart, but when you think about it, you have a sensitive, intelligent child who LOVES you - and even if that does mean that you'll have a few more fearful moments than most right now, sensitivity is still a wonderful gift.

  7. I second what Karen said . . . There is no right or wrong answer here. You know what you need to do in YOUR situation. And it sounds like all worked out fine. There's no handbook. We do what we can when a situation arises. Is it the right thing? It is for you. And I applaud. You talked Bean through it, you watched the other kids and you didn't freak out like maybe I would have saying, "You get in that water right now or else!"

    Cut yourself some slack, Megan. You're a great Mom dealing with all the challenges that every other mom has to deal with. And you're doing great. Bean is happy & healthy -- and THAT'S what matters. Swimming -- it'll come eventually! Chin up girl :-)

  8. You are a great parent! I agree with everyone else in that you did what was right for you and Bean at that moment. There is no real handbook for this parenting thing. If you are lucky you will get to where I am (my youngest moves out this week) with your sanity intact!

    If you listen to your child and your heart, you will do the right thing, even if it is the hardest thing you have ever done!

  9. Ya know, I think you did a great job. I think that staying with her (instead of leaving) and praying with her and just empathizing with her - all great moves!!! This mom thing is not an easy gig at times!

  10. Is there any chance you can watch the class from the sidelines? I know Camden cried and ooked at me so sadly when he did his first lessons (and he was only just over a year old) and I had to be tough. I knew that falling in the pool and drowning was way worse to me than him being upset for having to learn to swim!

  11. Emily had some issues with swimming lessons last year. She didn't really like the teacher and hated the lake that the lessons were in. She sat out a lesson while Christa swam and swam. This summer, Emily is swimming better that Christa - go figure.

    Don't beat yourself up - you know what works. I especially liked the prayer. Maybe y'all could pray BEFORE the next lesson?! Here's to a great next lesson.

    PS - We are visiting Mama Phyl and Bob-Bob this week, and we ran into your mom today at Wally world. She looks so good - it's been such a long time since I've seen her.

    Hang in there (both of you)

  12. Bless both your hearts! When your kiddo has a fear that you [secretly] share, there is almost nothing worse for mama's heart. That conflict, did you somehow transmit something to her without even knowing, but you so want her to conquer it. At the same time, it might still scare you, the strong adult who can take it, so what is it doing to her? Oh, I know! So hard. You handled it so well. Updates, please.

    Nate's Mom

  13. Oh dear! You did exactly the right thing. And I only hope I can react in such a loving way in that situation, too. Here's to tomorrow...


  14. This sounds like our OO. When B has some success at whatever, the resulting improved self esteem that generates will help move her on a little faster the next time something scarey comes along. You did such a good job with the swimming lesson thingy and maybe tom. will be better and can be a building block for the next challenge.

    I liked BerryBusy Moms idea of praying just before you get out of the car to go tom.

    PS Loved seeing M and Mom at WallyWorld this AM. All Kiddos are growing up and look great. Love that red hair. Mom

  15. Megan, you did the right thing. Just keep tryng--do you get to go back tomorrow? Sounds like you do. Just watch again if that's what happens. She'll join in when she feels up to it! I guarantee!
    Cary and Gay's Mom. Take my advice for what it's worth!

  16. Been there, feel your pain. Made my daughter get in the pool.......she threw up!! I still have nightmarish memories of my baby girl in her little blue izod swimsuit amid those floating hot dog pieces, it honestly scarred us both for life. She did go on to learn to swim, and like a little fish, but not that summer. Being a firstborn is a hard road to hoe sometimes. For both Momma and child.
    You handled it with grace and dignity, and prayer. How can that be wrong?!

  17. Maybe there's a bigger lesson than learning to swim. I think you did what was needed at the time. Praying with her is a good reminder for me with my boys.

  18. Yes,it does sound like OO. It has been my way to push, but now I know there's just no reason to in this sort of situation. You can even bag the swimming lessons if it comes to that. In the end, she'll probably surprise you and become a competitive swimmer on the swim team (or some other such surprise,rejected-at-first activity).

  19. Megan - it seems to me that you handled everything really well and I don't think you should be disappointed in yourself. I think yo were loving and encouraging.
    I do know how hard it is to watch your child in those kinds of situations. - I really think it's harder on us then them!
    I'll be praying for Bean (and you) tomorrow.

  20. I think that you did infinitely better than most would have done in the situation. You were compassionate but helped her face her fear... and tomorrow will be better for her and swimming... or the next day. I think the most important thing a kid can have you have been, a parent who doesn't judge but supports.

  21. No, sweetie, you're not disappointing! And neither is Bean. Lean on the God that loves you both and He'll come through with the courage - for both of you!

  22. Oh, oh my aching heart.

    Let me say that Princess is just fine with transitions and doing new things but that first round of swimming lesson where we couldn't go in the water with her, well, not so fun.

    One week she lasted 2 minutes then ran to her daddy crying. Week 2 she cried so much in the car they didn't go. Week 3 I took her and bribed her with gummy bunnies just so she would sit on the first step in the pool.
    Week 4 was the fiasco I wrote about on my blog where there was only 1 instructor and she got stuck out in the water by herself with the life vest on and I think she flipped over on her face for a little.

    Hang in there. Let her take baby steps. You can take them with her. And praying for help is always, always a great first step.

  23. Oh Megan, I feel your pain so much on this one!
    Sam has inherited one of my most hated traits & it is so painful to watch him deal with it. My heart breaks, I get mad & sad, I feel exactly what he is going through but in my mommy role it hurts so so so much more.
    I think you did the right thing. My sister's oldest had issues like that with any class she did. (swimming, dancing, name it) At first they had to go watch together for awhile & after a week or so she felt confident enough to join in, ever so slowly, and eventually she did it.
    My momma heart breaks for you my dear, and my prayers are with you. Keep us updated please!

  24. Your post made me so teary- it is such a parent's dilemna to know when to step in and to know when to back off.

    Two years ago when my oldest son started kindergarten he had a tough teacher and it was his first year in school. I contemplated whether to take switch teachers and in the end I didn't because I was affected more than him. With my other son, when he got the difficult coach recently I pulled him out right away because I could see how it was affecting his spirit.

    "Should I stay or should I go. If I stay there will be trouble, if I go it will be double" Like the old song it is a hard call!

    I have never been a fan of leaving my children when they are melting down or struggling. I think the standing by and understanding in this "new" situation was so much more important than the tough love approach. Love hurts, but it prevails!!!

  25. would help if I knew for sure what you are feeling bad about.
    Sugar is a very adventurous, go getter. BUT...when it comes to people....she is shy shy shy! It is WHO she is...not who I have made her.
    We will be doing private swim lessons soon...and I worry that she will not want to swim with a stranger. but we'll see. I will get in the water with her...if she needs it. I take baby steps with her, and try to not push her. I have NO idea if that is the right thing to do though....where's my Sugar Handbook? I think I left it at the hospital.


  26. Aw honey she'll get there. Well done for being such a lovely patient supportive Mama! xxxxx

  27. *sniffle* There's no right or wrong way. When my nephew had swimming lessons, my SIL was able to go in with him - do they not let the parents participate there?

  28. You are such a great momma to that Bean. She will get it and then you will never be able to get her out of the water.

  29. Poor thing. I was the same way as a kid. I have one like that too. She didn't want to slide on the water slides at school for fun day because she was too scared. So she sat in the hot sun and watched everybody else have fun.

    Then cried in the van the whole way home.

  30. Oh, my goodness, how that brings back one memory, in particular, but it also well describes motherhood in general.

    When Claire was about Bean's age (well, maybe four...), we were new in town and I signed her up for mother's morning out (my one friend told me about it). One morning a week. Paid the initial fee. We showed up but it was very unimpressive, and none of the teachers bothered to even get up off their chairs for this new baby who knew no one. Babies were crying, unattended to.
    Claire looked up at me, obviously scared, a bit teary... and I finally said, "let's go, Claire." No one cared, no one ever got up... very weird!

    We walked to the car, little Claire with her eyes brimming, holding my hand, apologizing. She said, "I pwomise I'll go next week, Mommy." I could tell that she felt like she had disappointed me. Talk about a lump in Mommy's throat.
    I hugged her and said, "no next week, sweetie. We'll just go to the mall, me and you, and you can be my friend today." I cried, too, because neither of us had a friend anywhere in sight, and I didn't know how to handle that, either.

    What a good mommy you are, Megan. These are the things that have a way of becoming defining moments...
    thankfully we only have to take them one at a time!
    The good news is, they may not get easier, but you do build confidence with each one - not so much confidence in yourself, but in the Father, who is Himself THEIR Father, too. I think so far, that is the bigget lesson I've learned yet. It's a biggie! Yes, He is able to communicate quite well even with a 3 year old. :)

    God bless, Megan.