My friend, and training partner, Bryce has a story that sums up parenting pretty well. One day, after raising a child for a few years, he approaches his parents:
I figured you guys out! You had no idea what you were doing!
I've shared this story with many people, because it's true. There is no right way to parent.
The past month has been rough, in my parenting realm. The phrase I use to describe Savannah (my oldest) the most is "She is fiercely independent". It doesn't take being around her too long before you recognize it.
I used this same phrase in an email that I sent the YMCA yesterday.
Savannah has not had much exposure to swimming pools, or non bathwater water. She's also my daughter, which is already a genetic hit against being a good swimmer. With that in mind we signed her up for swim lessons. She started on the first Tuesday of February.
The first class separated the pikes from the polliwogs. Literally. That's what they're called. The test was jumping into the pool. When it came to Savannah's turn she did not jump. She did get in the water though. She now has a label: pike. That was the only time she got in the pool for the entire first half hour class. Following class she asked the teacher "can we do what I want now?" When we quickly hushed her she had a good sized toddler freak out. Aimee vowed to not go to another lesson. People say things like that in high emotion situations. We had some work to do...
Before the next class, we went to the gym early and I worked with her on getting into the pool. One side of the pool is 2 to 3 ft. After 15 to 20 minutes of prodding she walked down the ramp to get in the water. She loved it. She was jumping up and down and laughing hysterically. Life was good. We had three solid weeks of great pre class swimming, and attentive and excited learning in class. When the teacher asked for volunteers, and sometimes when she didn't, she yelled "ME ME MEEEE!!!" When it came to the exercises she didn't do the best in the class. She made up for it with spunk and tenacity. Then came the last week of class. Two days ago...
Tuesday morning I received an email from the YMCA alerting me of changes to that night's class. There would be a special guest instructor, to show the existing teachers some new "tricks". She came with 30+ years of experience!!! What could go wrong?
Class started good enough. Jumping kangaroo game. Kicking exercises with the paddle board (Savannah takes in some water and coughs a bunch but she recovers). Then come the "magic thumbs". It's Savannah's turn and the teacher takes her out for some paddling/kicking exercises. Savannah has a little floating mechanism the size of a half loaf of bread and the teacher just holds her by her "magic thumbs". Here's when it turned; the magic thumbs disappear!! So does Savannah. Wearing Tony Soprano cement shoes, Savannah goes under. Sitting there watching her eyes OVERFLOW with fear. Nerves hit me. The teacher grabs her and gets her back to the edge of the pool. Savannah sits on her turtle and is crying and shaking but she continues with the exercises when it comes back to her turn. This time each trip in the water is filled with screams and shock. I go up behind her and put my arms around her, just to let her know we are here and she is safe. Anytime she looks back I have a smile on my face...
The overprotective parent in me wants to pick her up and leave.
The strong male figure in me wants to sit there and assure my wife that everything is going to be OK.
The realist in me realizes that Savannah isn't great at swimming and this was bound to happen.
The anarchist in me wants to kick a foam turtle into the instructors 30+ years of experience face or show a different magic finger. (Pray for me)
I just hide it behind a never ending smile that never takes away her fear. It's the best option.
Class is over and her normal teacher, Michele, comes up and apologizes to Savannah for not being there and congratulated her on jumping in the pool twice. She shows each child the same amount of attention in the pool but hasn't spoke with the parents much. I wasn't sure about her at first but this spoke VOLUMES about her character. To be honest with you, even writing about it now evokes emotions in me. Savannah won't remember the exchange but I won't soon forget.
I wrote an email about my fiercely independent daughter to the director of the swimming program (replying to the Tuesday morning email). My email is to commend Michele for being an amazing instructor, and more importantly, person. I mention the series of events (minus kicking turtles or magic fingers) to the director but don't pass blame onto the teacher. This was her first time with Savannah. If she had been with her from the start she may not have let go.
I talked to Savannah tonight before class, "Are you excited for your last swim lesson? You're going to have your old teacher back!" Her reply "I want my last teacher to be my last swim lesson" (later Tuesday night Savannah told her Aunt, on FaceTime, "I don't like magic thumbs"). We went early, like normal, to get some pool time with Savannah. She comes in the water but doesn't act too excited. She doesn't want me to hold her on her back and she won't blow bubbles.
Class starts and Savannah gets in to do the kangaroo game. That's it. She doesn't go back in the entire class. Completely reverted back to day 1. The trust built was gone. Gobbled up by fear. I keep the smile on. The smile is always there...
She gets a completion certificate but the teacher's recommendation is back to pike level. In the locker room I talk to her about fear and she says "where is fear? I don't see it".
Good lord I love her so much.
Time to rebuild.
Thanks for reading...
P.S. There is no right way to parent, but there sure are wrong ways. Some of these ways include being on your phone, playing games, during the entire half hour swim lesson while your kid makes strides in the pool. Also, when your daughter is waiving to you and saying "Hi daddy", put DOWN your phone. Your email can wait. Acknowledge your child's existence. It's a half hour kids swimming class. That smile on their face will change your life more than clearing the spam out of your inbox.
I have been holding that in for the entire month. Thank you for allowing me to vent...