On Monday night, Auburn Aries started swim lessons. It was the direct result of her being stuck in the shallow end of a pool while her other friends were jumping off the diving board and splashing around in the deep end. When I picked her up that day, I could see in her eyes her heart was breaking. I had been talking about getting her swim lessons for months. We got busy with all things unimportant and time slipped by.
Auburn Aries is in the throes of a self-esteem issue. Tough stuff for a seven year old. Hot Toddy wrote about my little girls' dilemma and all the Toaster Oven family was very supportive. Reading the comments everyone left that day, helped me find peace.
While meeting with the psychic lady (PL) over the weekend, I showed her (once again) a picture of Auburn Aries. Again she reminded me that AAries is strong-willed, determined, funny. Once again she reminded me that because of her stubborn nature and strong mind, I had to practice tough love with her or I was going to have a problem on my hands somewhere down the road. Boundaries. That's what I need...good, strong, non-negotiable boundaries. Why did I think being a parent was going to be just as easy as raising and training the best dog on the planet? How is it possible I had forgotten the reason the dog was so well-behaved is because he couldn't talk back?! No talking back...mental note to self...kids develop a mind of their own. Crap.
In addition to these already-shared words, PL also confirmed AAries has a self-esteem issue. Let me back up for a quick moment and tell you about Auburn Aries... She is seven and a half years old and she's over 4'7" tall. Her hair is very red. Not fire-fuzz orange, but a rich red with tons of natural highlights. Her Dad is scandanavian and she looks just like him. She's fair-skinned and has just a small, light dusting of freckles across her nose. Her eyes are green. She is, to me, the most beautiful little girl in the world. I tell her often how lucky I am that her spirit was put into her body and given to me. I tell her that I am the luckiest Mom EVER. She is very smart, very funny, loves to horse around, she's creative, artistic, she has a big heart and surprises me daily with what comes out of her mouth. I have never been more in love with anyone in my life, like I am with my little girl.
You can imagine the sound of my heart hitting the floor when PL confirmed that which I had already suspected. PL told me that AAries doesn't like being taller than everyone in her class (as was I in school); that AAries doesn't like her red hair (I was the only red-head in my elementary school in San Diego, so I know her pain) - yet AAries can't go anywhere that she isn't approached by strangers and told how beautiful her hair is or how they would love to have her color hair. PL told me that AAries doesn't like the extra weight that's hanging off her body (she's a bit chubby right now). She said that AAries has abandonment issues stemming from the divorce (lovely, divorced parents and a gay Mom - no baggage there). She told me to get her a child psychologist to help her with these things. That type of help needed to come from someone other than me.
I am guilty of loving too much when it comes to Auburn Aries. We are together constantly, laugh at the drop of a hat and feed off each other just for the giggle. We are content in each others' presence.
Monday night at swim class I saw for myself that I need to let go a little. As much as it makes my heart hurt, I have to let her do more for herself. As she stood, apprehensive to remove her towel from around her body, I had to remind her she was beautiful and that no two people look just a like and that I was built just like her when I was a kid and she didn't need to worry. Off came the towel. I watched as the new students headed for the shallow end of the pool to begin their lesson. I watched as my daughter sat on the side of the pool, frozen, afraid to jump into the water. The flood of emotion was hard to distinguish. Angry because she was being a "sissy." Guilty because I don't get her out more, if even to lessen the fear of adventure. Sad because I know she wanted in the water more than anything.
At one point she reached out with both arms with "pick me up Mommie" tears in her eyes. I sat there on the bleachers poolside, crushed. "No" I mouthed to her. "You can do it." I begged the Goddesses to help her. To give her strength to find her way. Finally, the owner of the Swim America program got into the water and helped her. Instantly, she was okay. Before I knew it she was yelling "Mom, look at me!" "Good job, Baby!" I responded with tears in my eyes. I was so proud of her.
As parents we don't ever mean to disable our children by loving them too much. We only want the best for them. Sometimes giving them the best means giving them what's hardest for you to give which often times means not *everything*. She apologized to me for being afraid to get into the water and for being afraid. I reminded her she didn't need to say she was sorry to me. The important thing was that she finally got into the pool and it didn't matter how long it took. What I meant to say and couldn't was, "It's not your fault, Little One. Everything will be okay."
I think I'll just sit here on the bleachers for a while and let her find her way. I'll always be here ready to catch her if she falls.