I was that mom at the YMCA swimming pool tonight, as I coaxed, begged, and cajoled my daughter to get in the water for her swim lessons.
This was lesson number four of a six-week session. These are not her first lessons, and she is no stranger to the water, but it is the first time that neither of her parents are in the pool with her. The first night – last Tuesday – she seemed a little nervous at first but warmed up quickly and participated fully. But then for the next two sessions, she refused to get in the water at all. She would sit on the side of the pool with the other kids, but as soon as the instructor came near her, she’d scoot back away from the edge and shake her head. He was very patient and tried everything he could think of, too, to get her to come in. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I thought it was him she was afraid of, not the water.
Tonight, finally, I resorted to bribery, and told her that if she got in the water and did what the teacher asked, we could celebrate by going out for burritos afterward. She still didn’t want to get in, but she really loves burritos, so she finally conceded and let the instructor take her for a lap to the rope and back. After that she was fine, of course, and grinned at me as she swam by.
Then, however, she was holding a noodle and waiting for her next turn, sitting on the side of the pool. The noodle proved to be too tempting just to hold, so she started using it as a fishing pole (I know this because she turned around and shouted to me, “Mama! I’m fishing!”), and then started smacking the water with it to see what kind of noises and splashes she could make. At one point, the noodle flipped out of her hand and into the water. She reached out for it and plopped right into the pool. I saw it happen and came over – I suspected she could probably stand up, or that I could reach her from the side of the pool – but the lifeguard was watching, too, and had jumped down to pull her up before I got there.
She looked soggy and a little surprised when she was finally sitting back up on the deck, but it didn’t really seem to faze her and she finished out the lesson with the other kids. Afterward, as I was helping her get dressed, she said, “I did a great job! I’m so proud of myself!”
And then she fell backwards off the locker room bench and hit her head on the floor. Being three is a harrowing business.
In any event, we got to have our celebratory burrito dinner, and it was delicious.