Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Just Blow Your Nose in the Pool

Every Monday evening is swim class for Auburn Aries. As we know from my post last week, she struggled with the first class. Yesterday morning as we were hussling around the house trying to get out the door to start our week, we passed each other in the hallway:

AP: "So, tonight at swim class..."

AA: (with an "I was so ridiculous" tone in her voice) "I know, I know... Tonight at swim class I won't have to sit on the side of the pool crying for 10 minutes before I can get in."

AP: "That wasn't what I was going to say, but I'm proud of you for saying that..."

I breathed a sigh of relief and amazement as I stopped and watched her walk into the livingroom. It was good to know the bigness of the lessons had diminished; and it was remarkable that she had processed the events of last week and drawn her own conclusion. She didn't need to be afraid. I didn't finish my conversation with her - I found myself preoccupied with the thought that I do, indeed, try to do too much for her. The pride she exuded by making that statement made her having to experience the fear seem worth it, and she had gotten there on her own.

In this particular swim curriculum, they have specific skills they are taught and must demonstrate before moving up to the next level. There are levels one through ten. Level ten gets you an invitation to join the swim team.

She didn't hesitate to get into the pool last night. She was cautious but not paralyzed by fear of the unknown. She had to perform 10 consecutive relaxed bobs, i.e., take a breath, go under the water exhaling, come up for more air, back under the water and so on. She worked with the instructor and had beautiful form. She was very fluid. It was obvious that she has extremely high expectations of herself. She performed each one to perfection...all five of them...

She started over again practicing...to five. Again...to five. Again...to five. Crap. I could feel her frustration beginning to build and I couldn't even see her face. I lowered my book (the one I pretend to read so she won't know I'm watching). I felt my heart melt onto the floor. 'Come on baby, you can do it...' I couldn't have sent her stronger vibes if I had wrapped them in a box with a bow and handed them to her.

She turned and looked at me with alligator tears in her eyes. "I can't do it." I mouthed to her "You can do it." "No I can't." Then she asked me to come to her. Believe it or not, my kid actually wanted me to bring her a Kleenex...in the pool. Now, please understand that I'm no proponent of doing the nose thing in the pool. In fact, the thought of it happening naturally when you swim makes me gag and I have no gag reflex! But bringing her a Kleenex. Good Christ...could she be a bigger girlie girl!!!! This was a talk we hadn't had. These are the things in life you don't realize you have to explain to your child.

"Now, honey, when you swim, your nose gets snotty. It's normal... Usually you don't notice it because your exhaling through your nose when you swim. BUT, in the event you start crying in the pool like a big sissy find it's bothering you just...." You get my point.

I approached her reluctantly and as coincidence would have it, had a Kleenex in my pocket. I knelt down and sheepishly handed it to her. We conversed about the "I can't" mentality versus "I can." I pointed out to her the we are of the Auburns and we can do anything. I made up some excuse about getting in trouble if I interrupted lessons and headed back to the bleachers. I'm quickly realizing those damn bleachers are not my friend.

I picked up my book and wiped the sweat of irritation from my forehead, trying desperately not to cry from pure frustration myself. I don't want her to be afraid. I thought any child of mine would be fearless and conquering. I don't recall being afraid of so many things as a child. I'm certain I was fearless and conquering! (I have no parents alive to ask so you're stuck with my interpretation of when I grew up). I opened my book on Celtic magick and promised myself I would actually read it.

The next time I looked up, the instructor was knelt down at the side of the pool counting. There was my little girl. Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten. "Congratulations Auburn Aries, you passed!" Before the instructor could reach out to high-five the new Level Two Swimmer, she turned to me beaming with smiles, wiping away water from her drenched little face screaming, "Mommy, I did it, I did it!!!" My eyes swelled with tears. "Good job, Baby!" She held up her fingers in a peace-sign... "I'm in Level 2."

How is it possible that as a parent you can go from wanting to freaking tear out your hair in patches to trying to swallow past the lump in your throat when your child succeeds? Parenting is the hardest job in the world. It's also the most rewarding.

All of the swimmers gather after their lessons and cheer for the kids who advance. AAries got a gold sticker to put on her Certificate proving she had graduated to the next level. I had to laugh though when Auburn Aries told me later how she "was the only one in her class to move up." And how she was so disappointed when she couldn't get past five then "like magic" she did all ten.

One thing I do know... next Monday...things won't be any different, I'll still want to tear my hair out in patches and probably still cry every time she succeeds. I guess we'll just stumble through it together.

No comments: