Apparently it is a universally recognized truth among parents that the more you want a kid to do something, the more the kid doesn’t want to do it. John is stubborn (like his dad) and he doesn’t like being told what to do (like his mom). I’ve learned to choose my battles.
But here’s one where I’m not backing down: swimming. In my opinion (standard disclaimer here: everybody can do whatever they want with their own kids), learning to swim is mandatory. If you can’t swim, you’re going to miss out on a lot of fun over the years. And it’s a safety issue. I need to know that if John goes in, even by accident, he’s going to come back up.
Unfortunately, I’ve made strategic errors when it comes to this swimming thing.
First, I started him in swimming lessons when he was really little and when he didn’t want to do it, I stopped. I should have stuck with it. I also should have left the room so he couldn’t see me when he was being pulled into the water. It made him think (apparently correctly) that there was an alternative.
Second, I started him at the college pool and when he said it was cold, I agreed with him. I shouldn’t have let on that I agreed — is it possible that an aversion to cold water is genetic? He’s supposed to be a Vermont baby! Anyway, I still should have left during the lessons.
Third, and possibly most importantly, I’ve inadvertently let him know how important this is to me. I really, really want him to learn to swim, and he knows it. So he’s not doing it.
Or so he thinks. But I’m not giving up easily.
Lately, we’ve been spending at least two hours a week at a gym nearby with a warmer pool. I’m trying not to make a big deal of it, but we’re in the water as often as possible and mixing time for learning with time for fun. Plus weekly lessons. Plus, he’s spending time with his cousins in June. They’re like fish, and he wants to do what they do. As an added bonus, I’m offering milkshakes as reward for hard work and bravery (see picture above) which has helped. The apple doesn’t fall far from this tree, I guess.
Family legend has it that our neighbor, Mr. Kingery, threw my brother, sister and me into the pool when we were little, and we swam. I’m sure it was actually much more complicated than that, but I was very young — I don’t remember learning. So maybe that’s making it hard for me to relate. And my sweet John’s progress is, frankly, agonizing. It’s teeny, teeny, tiny baby steps. I try to remember to celebrate the little teeny tiny steps, but I do wish he’d just figure it out. Soon.
As a parent, I’ve noticed that there are certain milestones that seem impossible before and inevitable after. For example, potty training used to seem like science fiction, and now I can’t remember the time that came before. I have a feeling that swimming will be one of those things as well. But it sure doesn’t feel like that today.