Two years ago: Lydia is five years old. As the summer begins she is just to that stage where she can doggy paddle along for about ten feet with confidence. Good deal, our fourth-born is well on her way to independent swimming. She'll be all over the pool by fall, no doubt.
Middle of the summer (still two years ago): On a dime, Lydia is now afraid of swimming. Terrified. Death grip clinging around your neck hysterical crying afraid to be let go of in the water. Even though she was totally comfortable with those short journeys between parents just a few days ago. We were perplexed. This leads me to feelings of annoyance, frustration, and a sense that it is not okay to suddenly digress for no reason. Enter power struggles. Me, feeling sure that if I just pry her off of me and point her toward the wall that she'll swim just fine like she's done before, she'll remember that she can indeed swim, and not be afraid any more. This mentality did not go over well with her. We battled our wills for awhile longer and I finally gave up for the season, recognizing we were getting no where but making her more and more afraid.
One year ago: Near the beginning of the summer I make a few meager attempts to work on swimming with her, but decide early on that if it creates tension I'm just going to let it go. It does, so I do. She spent last summer in a life vest, content as could be to float around while her peers jumped and swam. I still felt impatient that she was scared, swimming is a life skill, she's got to learn at some point. But I realized that summer that someone else needed to teach her because I didn't want to spend time together being frustrated, and started looking into swimming lessons at the Y or somewhere. Time passes, we get busy, the life vest is a convenient crutch, and we don't really go swimming that often anyway, so on we coast till fall strikes again and the summer is over.
This past spring: This is the year we'll take her to lessons. It has to be. The older she gets, the more cemented her fear. I try to find some in the spring, but between track, soccer, dance, gymnastics, and tennis among the five kids, I literally couldn't find a place that offered lessons any time that would fit into our schedule. Time passes and school ends. I plan to sign her up once we get in the swing of our summer routine.
Memorial Day, May 26: our first swim of the season with the Langfords, and her fear was strong as ever. Ben and Josh started swim team the next day, with practice every morning. Lydia watched them and talked about maybe probably being ready to join next year.
That very Saturday, May 31: we went to a friend's pool. Lydia started out with her life vest as usual, but realized that in the shallow end she was plenty tall enough to stand, so she spent some time walking around there sans vest. I very casually pointed out that she could try out swimming on her own there in the shallow end pretty easily. If you start to sink, just stand up. No biggie. And just like that, on a dime, she started swimming again. Just a little doggie paddle for about five feet at first, but she even put her face in the water, which was huge. Then she even practiced totally submerging (unprecedented!). Lydia was so proud of herself and I was so proud of her I almost cried.
We were thrilled with her forward progression, but I still thought we'd probably do lessons this summer to get her more practice and she'd be ready for the team next year for sure! I was telling my sisters about her incredible breakthrough and Lisa said the smartest thing ever: "Oh! You totally need to get her on the team this year!" At first I wasn't so sure that was the thing to do. Didn't kids need to at least be able to swim the length of the pool first? She was just barely, barely getting going. But I chewed on the idea for a few days, watching some of the youngest swimmers on the team at practice (who weren't that far ahead of her skills-wise) and decided it was worth a try. She started going to practice and loved every single second of it. Not just enjoyed it, thrived in it.
First meet, June 9: For the first time ever Lydia swam the length of the pool. All 25 yards without stopping.
At meets, the swimmers always write their events on their arm or leg with a sharpie so they'll remember what they're racing. The tradition is to then write age-old slogans like "eat my bubbles" on each other's backs (the kids can't believe I wrote the same thing on my back when I was growing up). Lydia had fun taking part in this swim-meet-body-graphitti as sharpies were passed around. During warm ups I noticed what she had written on her own arm.
And I about cried again.
June 23: In her first few practices she was still too scared to jump off the side. Eventually she would jump only in the shallow end. Then finally the deep end only if someone was right there to catch her. Then, we went over to the Langfords to swim one day and she was all...
...and I was like, girl where you been?
June 24: Second meet. Leaps and bounds this girl has been improving. 25 yards is no sweat now. She's learned to do backstroke since the last meet, and she killed it. She had the second fastest time of all the 8&U girls. She just had to conquer the fear, and then her natural athleticism took over.
|They've been working on side-breathing at practice lately.|
She obviously doesn't have that down yet, but I have no doubt she will.
Things like this--like watching Lydia overcome a major challenge for her in her short life--are pretty much some of the best perks of parenthood. I hope she'll always remember this experience and it will help her know she can do hard things. She can! She did! She heard the phrase "get back on that horse" recently, and she has learned and embraced the meaning. Like when she was making pancakes the other day (cooking is one of her favorites) and accidentally burned her finger a little trying to move the griddle. We got her some ice, and I asked if she wanted me to take over the pancakes. "No, I'm just going to get back on that horse," she said and got back to pouring and flipping. My seven-year-old said that. Love her.
So that brings us up to present. There are still several more weeks of practice and three more meets to race this summer and a lifetime of challenges to conquer.
I can't wait to watch.