Sunday, August 18, 2013
Vivienne started swim lessons a few weeks ago and it's been a little rough to tell you the truth. I was surprised because she loves the water. Every time she swims at her Nono's house (my dad), she's fearless. She's been in the water a ton. She really likes water. That said, her first swim lesson was a bit of a nightmare. She clung to my leg crying and wouldn't go in. I had to sit near the steps and hold her hand, just so she would sit on the steps and observe. I tried every persuasive argument I could think of, but she was terrified. The second lesson was worse. It's like the anxiety of the first lesson was bigger than the pool itself, and by the time we were nearing the locker rooms she was in full blown panic mode. The tears started, and the pleading for me not to make her go in, and oh the screams. It's an indoor pool so I had the added pleasure of her wails being echoed off the walls. Finally her coach got her to sit on the stairs and play with a toy fish. Anyone watching would think she has never been in the water before. But by the time we left she was happier, and proud of herself for staying in the water and finishing the lesson (on the steps).
Today was round three. I really expected things to be smoother. We left the last lesson on a positive note and her swim coach is really kind and reassuring. The pictures above are her victory dance after the traumatic second session. But no no no. As soon as we approached the stairs to get to the pool area, the anxiety took over. She started to cry. She began pleading with me to take her to the locker room so that she could just try to pee. She wanted me to go in with her (which is not allowed). Ultimately, she was just miserable and shaking, and I found myself sitting there with her wrapped around my neck thinking that we should just leave. That it wasn't worth it. Swimming should be fun and all that stuff, right? But Mitch and I made a commitment that she would stick it out. She isn't allowed to quit because she's scared. So I began my patented pep talk, again. I told her as she clung to me and weeped into my neck -- that she was perfectly safe. No one would make her do anything in the water that she didn't want to do. She could sit right on the steps in the water, the whole class, and just observe if she wanted to. She would not have to put her head under the water. I talked to her coach with her listening and repeated all of those things. I told her I would be right there the whole time, watching her. I promised her it would get easier. I assured her that it was okay to be scared. That I was scared too at her age, and so was Daddy. I said one last time that all she had to do was sit in the water, and try her best. That I knew that she could do that. And then her coach came over and took her little hand and pried her away from me while she cried. I told her firmly to sit down on the steps and listen to Paige, her coach. I acted like it was no big deal, when inside I wanted to cradle her and tell her she could be scared as long as she wants. I stayed right behind her while she tried her best to hold back her tears.
And then something happened. After about a minute, I saw that she was starting to relax. A little boy came over to her and just started talking to her and showing her how he could put his head under the water. He was loud, and excited, and couldn't care less that she was upset. He was all smiles. She started to concentrate on him. I told her that I was going to sit on the bench about 3 feet away, and she just nodded at me. After about 5 more minutes she was fully submerged in the water on the bottom step. I saw smiling. She looked over at me with a cautious look, like she was getting approval for not being upset anymore. I gave her the thumbs up and looked as nonchalant as I could. She started having fun, and letting Paige (her coach) touch her and actually did a few kicking exercises with her. Toward the end of the class, she was completely comfortable. She was doing all of the activities with the other kids and every time she did something she'd look over at me with the biggest grin. Her eyes were full of pride and she was so eager for me to cheer her on every time. At the very end of class, she actually let Paige help her jump in from the side of the pool. She was beaming as I cheered and hollered.
I honestly can't describe the feeling I got in my chest when I saw her going for it. I know she isn't afraid of the water. I know she can already do all of those things that she's "learning" in the class right now. And even if she couldn't, it just doesn't matter, that's not the point. But seeing her break down her own boundaries, watching her be proud of herself, that was the single most accomplished feeling I have ever felt in my entire life. It's not about what we accomplish, but how we feel about ourselves during the process. It's the process that counts. It's her process that counts. This new stage of Vivienne's childhood, the one where she is taking an active role in becoming who she is, it's simply astounding. She knew she went for it today. She was dancing and singing and hopping around all the way to the parking garage after her lesson. She was high on her own capability to try. To give it her all. When we got in the car I asked her if maybe next time she wouldn't have to feel so nervous? She said, "I'm only gonna be nervous when I first get there mommy, ok?" Yes sweet girl, it's more than ok.