Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Wading is the Hardest Part

Today's swimming lesson went - well - swimmingly, to steal someone's lovely pun from yesterday.

We awoke at our usual pre-rooster hour and had our morning snuggles. Bean played dress-up for awhile while I worked on peeling my eyeballs open. I made our morning brews (hot cocoa for her, coffee for me) and we sipped them together.

"Where we goin' tday Mama?"

"Well, we're going to your swimming lesson first, then to the grocery store."

"My swimming lesson?! Are dere gonna be teachers again?"

"Yes, the teachers will be there again today, but I will NOT let them pull you away from me today, I promise. If you decide to get into the water today, you will go in by yourself because you want to. Okay?"

"Are you goin' in wif me?"

"No baby, I can't go in with you. It's a class for big girls and boys to swim without their Mamas and Daddies. I will sit right where I sat yesterday though so if you do go in, I'll be right where you can see me and get to me if you need me. Okay?"

"Well, I'm not goin'."

"Yes, we're going to go to the lesson. But you don't have to get into the water unless you want to. We can just sit and watch the teachers and the other children together and if you want to get in and join them, you may. No one's going to make you get in. And remember, you're taking Rainbow Dash today, so if Rainbow Dash wants to splash at the water's edge, you may take her and show her how to do that. Does that sound good to you?"

"Okay Mama."


(I came up with the Rainbow Dash idea late yesterday afternoon while I was in the shower. It occured to me that she'd been more comfortable in some other classes when I encouraged her to take Teddy with her. So maybe taking Rainbow Dash, her favorite water-proof My Little Pony, might help her with the anxiety over these lessons. I presented the idea to her then, and she smiled a tiny smile and said, "That sounds like a good idea, Mama.")

So we got dressed and ate our breakfasts and made sure Rainbow Dash was tucked away safely in the pool bag. We got into the car and prayed briefly for courage and FUN. And then we drove off to the pool, full of hope and trepidation.

And when we got there, Bean charged up the sidewalk and through the locker room and out into the breezy but sun-warmed pool deck with purpose. We'd planned to arrive early so Bean could watch her friend Bubba wrapping up his lesson (he takes the same class with the same teachers, but he's in the earlier session). She waved to him, saying, "HI BUBBA!" And he waved back. Waving along with him were the teachers, with great big smiles on their faces, and they all said, "Hi (Bean's real name)!" Oh, I could have KISSED THOSE SWEET GIRLS' CHEEKS!

By the time Bubba's class was finished and the kids were taking their turns on the froggy slide, Bean had her shoes and cover-up off and made a dash to get in line with her friend so they could both slide. At the bottom of the slide waited the teacher who'd taken Bean into the water yesterday. And Bean hestitated. And then she slid down, shrieking happily, and landed in the arms of that instructor, who smiled right into her face. Not a word was spoken of yesterday's incident.

It was then that the lump in my throat started to form.

Bean returned to my side after a second trip down the slide, and I bundled her up in her warm towel and loved on her a little, telling her how happy I was she'd gotten to slide. Did she have fun? YES!

Another teacher stopped by to say Hi to Bean, and asked, "Hey! Are you gonna SWIM with us today?"

And my girl stuck her chin out in a determined, solemn expression and nodded a GIANT affirmative.

And my lump became a goiter.

And minutes later, the teachers announced it was time to get started. Can you guess which tiny, bee-boppin' little mermaid in her red two-piece with her curly blond updo was into that water first, carrying a little blue pony in one hand and waving back to me with the other? And ran back briefly to give me a kiss before trotting out into the water up to her chest?

Y'all know who it was. Yes YOU DO!

My lump exploded into tears. My lips quivered and my eyes pooled up as I waved back, blew kisses and desperately tried to keep myself from SOBBING OUT the biggest


And you know what? She looked back to see me a total of two more times. I caught both checks and waved like a crazy woman. And her gaze never turned my way again for 28 minutes. She knew I was there, she knew she was safe, and she swam and played and hopped and blew bubbles and splashed and laughed, clutching Rainbow Dash by the hair the whole time.

My little girl.

She did it, y'all.

And every one of the teachers came to us afterwards and said, "Bean, you did a GREAT job today! You did everything so well - you're going to be a great swimmer!"

My girl. My little water bug. My Bean.


Lump's back.

Editorial Note:


Incidentally, I am very very torn over whether or not we'll be taking anymore lessons after this session at this particular pool. The pool manager sternly attempted to shoo me off the pool deck and over to the concession area 50 yards away and out of Bean's sight line three times during the thirty minute class, explaining that when parents sit on deck, the kids keep looking at them.

Which, HELLO! YES THEY DO. AND THAT'S WHY I'M STAYING RIGHT WHERE I AM, DEAR. My child is 3 years old. This may be your pool to manage, but THAT'S MY DAUGHTER and I will not be leaving her when I know good and well that she may need me. We have a bond of trust that I do not intend to break for some fleeting "summer pool policy."

(Of course I'm a wimp and didn't say it like that, but hopefully she saw it in my eyes. I remained planted where I told Bean I would be and am thinking a letter requesting a review of the "no parents on deck" policy may be in order. Perhaps it's okay for the parents of older children to leave, but most three-year-olds are still quite attached to their parents - and they should be. They're still practically babies!)

I'll leave it at that for now. I don't get fired up about much, but I got a little steamed about this one. I'm curious as to what y'all think.


  1. Hello? Are they crazy? I would NOT have left my spot either. That's just silly -- she's 3 for goodness sake! I agree - stand your ground!

    On another note, congratulations for the break through! I'm so proud of you BOTH :-)

  2. I am so excited for you both. Your pride shows through. =)

    As for the pool 'rules.' Some rules are made to be broken. Reminds me of when my daughter chipped her tooth at two years of age and the dentist wanted to take her back, tie her up and fix it with out me anywhere close by. We chose to live with the chipped tooth. Yeah, you stay put mama. Obviously, the pool manager doesn't understand that sacred mama/child trust (and neither did my dentist).

  3. YEAH BEANIE!!! We are so proud of you her in E-town.

    I'd continue the lessons there, since she has made the breakthrough. If you go elsewhere, it may take a few more days for her to warm up.

    If someone bothers you again, just let them know what you told us - that your child is doing fine with you there, but if you move, she will melt down.

    Is this a "rule" that they gave you before signing up? It is a rule in the dance class that the girls had this year - no parents allowed except on certain days - for that reason. But we knew that going into it. With our swimming lessons, parents were right there watching. Some moms did get out of their children's sight when the child wouldn't even look at the instructor, but it sounds as if Bean was just "checking" on you.


  4. Those rules are absolutely preposterous. There's no WAY I'd leave my 3 year old in the water with a group of strangers.

    I understand the pool manager's desire to have the children focused on the task at hand, but at the same time, our kids need to know we're going to be faithful to honor our word with them and have integrity.

    You did the right thing by staying there and I'm positively overjoyed for you that Bean's lesson went so well! I'd try to talk to the management, because I'd hate for her to have to switch teachers and whatnot right after she's braved the waters, so to speak. :)

  5. I am so glad things went so well the second time around. I am so proud of you as a mama for not giving up on getting Bean into the lesson and also for not giving in to the manager's STUPID rule! I was always there beside the pool when my kids were taking lessons as were most of the other parents. I found that after they got used to being in the class I was the last person they would look at or listen to when they were in the pool!

  6. Just to clarify - even if I never take Bean back again for another session of swim lessons a week and and a few days, we'll finish out this session there, and I'll stand my ground on not leaving my poolside post. So it'd be next year before she had lessons anywhere else.

  7. I'm a former swim lesson instructor, life guard and swim coach. I would say that in 95% of my experiences, the parents are asked to leave (or go to the other side of the pool deck where they're not so noticeable to the child). Even if your child is ok, sometimes just seeing any mommy upsets any other children that might be having a hard time and causes them to not be focused on the task at hand. Then of course, if it is your child (which I'm happy to hear Bean did so well today!), then sometimes it is better for you to not be right within eyes notice. I'm not saying either way is right or wrong, as I have seen both ways work, depending on the child...but more just trying to let you see the other side possibly. I will say that with my 3 year old taking lessons, I was right there beside the edge of the pool and was asked to move and I shot them a look much similar to what I'm sure you gave them today. :-)

  8. They have the same policy at our public pool and I think it is barbaric. Very stupid. Why can't the kids look at their parents? Dumb answer. Like, this is a big deal to them, shouldn't they get that reinforcement from mom or dad? Well, your Bean is awesome and very brave and she does take after her mother! The great mother that you are.

  9. Yay for Bean!!! And yay for you! I would have boo-hoo-ed too! :)

    As for the rule, I totally understand why they have it. I really do. But I sit where my kids can see me too. Thankfully our pool allows that; I don't know what I would do, if they didn't. Sorry, I'm not help.

  10. Yeah, what a great breakthrough for you both!!! I am so glad for you, and am sure that Bean was able to do such a great job today in part because of your reaction yesterday and today that helped her get comfortable. I agree you should stand your ground, knowing your child and especially since she wasn't always looking back at you! My friend at work had a similar situation at her pool and she still does the same thing.


  11. Oh, I'm loving your post titles. And I would have been bawling, too!


  12. Yay!!!!!!!
    So happy and crying at the same time :D
    Well done Bean!!!! I knew she could do it and hey that little bit of caution in her naure is a good thing not a bad. The World needs people who look before they leap, especially if they then leap with sch success :)

  13. Yeah for Bean - I'm so proud of her! And I'm proud of you! You handled the whole thing really well and did right by Bean.
    I would definitely send out a letter - they need to rethink that policy. I bet most of the kids are like that - they need the security of knowing where Mama's at and then they are able to concentrate on the lessons better.

  14. Hurray for Bean!!

    I suppose I can see the pools point - I know when Abbie took swim lessons there was a little boy that was a mess when his parents were there. But when they moved to where they could see him BUT he couldn't see them, he did fine.

    I don't know the psychology going on there... but I guess in some cases it is needed in order for the child to progress.

    That being said - they better have a spot where I can see my child CLEARLY and it better have a cushion on the seat.

    xo ~K

  15. All of the pools in my area have the rule of no parents at the poolside. They do have locations, very close by, for parents to watch and also be seen by their child. It didn't work for us so we went to a private teacher that allows parents to sit by the pool or get in the pool.
    I think you did the right thing for Bean.

  16. Oh how great that she was able to participate today! Maybe in the future when you start something new, you could do a practice day before the new event begins. You know, like yesterday turned out to be the run-through for today?

    I think with the no parents on deck pool policy, I might've tried to meet them halfway. "I told my little girl I'd sit right here today because she was nervous about starting swim lessons. Would it be alright if I sit here today and then from tomorrow on I'll sit over there." Or something like that.

  17. As a former teacher, I can understand their policy. Kids have a REALLY hard time paying attention to teachers when parents are around. I often wished that parents would just LEAVE and LET ME DO MY JOB.

    However, as a parent, I understand how you feel. You are right. Three is still a baby. Pools are dangerous and scary. I would not take my eyes off my babies if they were in a big pool, no matter how many teachers and lifeguards there were.

    The trust you have between you and Bean aside, parental rights trump any pool policies, IMHO.

  18. Yay Bean!

    There's no way I'd leave either!

  19. Woo Hoo, Bean! Atta girl! I love those moments when I don't know whether I'm more proud of the independence or wistful for my needy baby.
    Yes--letter. Don't get run out of a place with so much going for it--Bubba, sweet girls, strong instructor--just because of a whiny manager. Good for you for sticking it out. Even if it looked like Bean wasn't watching you, I'm sure she knew you were there, safe as a rock.

  20. I am so thrilled. I have been on pins and needles all day waiting to hear how the "swimming" went today. Do you think B's self confidence was increased with today's success? I bet so. Who cares if she doesn't learn a thing about swimming, if she only learns she can face a fear and overcome it. You know you handled the situation spot on cause look at the results. I am so happy!!!! Hope there is much positive reinforcement of job well done going on, but not too much, of course. How does one know how much is too much? Love, Mom

  21. Score one for Mom. Stick your ground. It is important for Bean to know you are there for her. Good going to both of you!!

  22. First: YEAH!!!!! That is a huge accomplishment. For both of you!

    Second: Do you remember what happened when I had to sit on the bench at the far end of the pool area for Princess's swimming lessons? If you do then you know exactly where I stand on this issue... right next to the lifeguard.

    At 3 years old you, the parent, need to be comfortable with the competency of the instructors and how Bean interacts with them. It also helps when the parent provides additional encouragement. Honey used to give swimming lessons to little kids and he preferred that parents be near by until the children became familiar with him and they had formed a relationship. After that the parent can be out of sight.

  23. I think you are right and they are WRONG. I think that person does not have a 3 year old. And I think you deserve applause for so patiently handling the ENTIRE situation. Bravo to you both!! :)

  24. I agree with everyone else about the pool rules--pooh!

    But you were tuggin' my heart strings there with that perfect description of the ambivalence we moms feel when we're so proud of them, off doing fine without us...while we're simultaneously dying inside's so hard to let go and watch them grow up! Without us! (sniff)


  25. ooooo this post made me so happy inside. :) sigh....I bet Bean is so proud of herself as well. :)

    as for staying where she can see you....oh yeah....that will be ME as well.

  26. I would never have left my baby and gone to the concession stand!

    What a great life lesson this post and the last one are!

  27. That's awesome! I totally pictured you frantically waving so that the munchkin could see you were watching! I do the same at gymnastics! Uh, Momma Bear will always beat up Pool Manager any. day.

  28. Nauph - I'd have stayed planted, too. Of course, I'd probably have started to cry on the manager first. Just like at the car fixer place the other day...

    I'm glad she did so well!