Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Mermaid in the Back Seat

A couple of weeks ago, I took a calculated risk. I took a risk with my little girl.

I guess I'm more into taking risks these days, especially when I feel reasonably confident in my ability to succeed or at least to quickly learn from the failure.

I've been stretching within my limits, growing as a grown up.

On any day of the week, I'd rather put myself at risk than push my children. I'd rather make myself vulnerable than expose them to something for which they are not ready. Still, sometimes a mom has got to try something to see if it's going to work, knowing very well that it might not.

* * *

"You know how you know I'm a good mom?" I asked another mother in the parking lot after drop off one morning.

"I already know you are a good mom," she quickly responded to my rhetorical question, "but what's with the doll?

"I'm a good mom because I'm now going to buckle Ellie's toy into the booster seat because I told her I would. And then when I pick her up to go to swim lessons, she'll see that her mermaid is all ready to go and maybe it will make the rest of the day go easier."

"Yeah. Good luck with that."

(She meant this about the swim lessons and my attempts to hedge the tantrum, not the actual logistics of placing a doll in safety restraints. )


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Moms know these things. Moms know that sometimes you do things that are ridiculous because on the off chance that it will make a transition or trauma a little more manageable for you and your child, some stupid, impractical, foolish things are worth doing.

(And yes, I understand that the Mermaid meets neither the height nor weight restrictions to legally be buckled in the booster seat, though if it ever came up, I'd have a legitimate argument in my favor BECAUSE IT IS A TOY.)

* * *

Swimming Life Lessons

Ellie started out excited about taking swimming lessons. She'd done a stint in the pool last summer in a Mommy & Me class, and told me she already knew how to swim.

I bought her a new suit to wear. She was ready, at least until we were within sight of the water.

I won't try to scare you with words about how much she didn't enjoy the first few days of her lessons, though I did tell a friend that Ellie's response felt like all four months of colic condensed into twenty minutes, wet.

It was an awful, miserable experience on day one.

On day two, I worked in bribes (thus the Mermaid doll, a ride on the carousel, and ice cream), even though the lessons were canceled for bad weather. Her behavior was worse at home, she was regressing in areas she had mastered. My independent little girl had become helpless and needy.

On day three, I took off work to be with her; Ellie and the Mermaid became inseparable (except, ironically, in the water). She kicked at me (Ellie, not the Mermaid), screamed, cried and begged to go home, to not have to swim.

On day four, she didn't cry. She only negotiated.

On day five, she wanted to be the first in the water.

Honestly, I was very close to pulling her out of the lessons and waiting another year. I'd have done this, except I saw her learning and having fun in the water. (Before and after, not so much.) I believed in the instructor and I believed in my girl. I also trusted the other mothers who had told me it might be like this and that their children still learned, and loved, to swim. They told me that by the end of the week, the screaming would pass and she'd be begging to be in the water.

They were right.

Lessons.

Risk.

Vulnerability.

Fear.

Trust.

Learning.

Support.

Success.

Reward.

Fun.

Swimming could be anything.

3 comments:

Working mum said...

Thank you for this. I'm just reaching the stage where I need to take these kinds of risks with daughter as she develops new skills.

She starts swimming lessons at school in September and, even though she goes swimming with husband, this is the thing I am most anxious about. I know it won't be easy at first, but you have allayed some of my fears.

MamaNeena said...

I've got a dinosaur that should really meet your mermaid.

Ms Picket To You said...

wait? the mermaid isn't real? it's just A TOY?

i fully subscribe to the whatever works philosophy and have buckled a few "toys" in the car too.