With the onset of the warmer weather, we’ve been swimming a few times. While both my kids LOVE the water, I was dismayed to realise that they’d completely forgotten what they’d learned last swimming season, i.e only about 8 months ago? Remember this post? My kids were swimming really well. Liam was swimming unaided, without any floating devices across the pool – from the shallow end to the deep end. Hannah was cannon balling off the deep end, albeit with her Winnie the Pooh arm bands. They were completely fearless and I was comfortable to leave them in the pool while I just watched, and didn’t necessarily have to GET in with them. I was already anticipating weaning Hannah off the arm bands this season, as it was about this age that liam started to swim without his arm bands.
These last few swims have seen them excited, yay for the water and splashing each other and … sitting on the top step only. And that’s it. They both wouldn’t venture off the steps unless one of us were carrying them. Now while I love the water, I also have hair issues which prevent me from doing the white girl thing of washing and wearing and still looking fabulous. So I don’t always just rip my clothes off and go for a swim, it is a calculated decision, I have to work out when I’ll be doing my hair, if my hair is dirty enough to warrant letting go of my blow dry, do I have any important dates coming up that I NEED to have blow dried hair for, etc.. hey, it’s hard out there for coloured girls.
Anyway, I digress.
So the hubby and I have been annoyed with these two. I’m like HEY YOU KNOW HOW TO SWIM, STOP BEING FOOLISH AND GET INTO THE WATER. To the point where I said to them that I was not going to waste time getting the net off, just so they could sit on the step and splash each other, they may as well do that in the bath. Their father told them that they would not be joining the swimming class again next year because they were wasting our money. (We’re lovely parents, aren’t we?)
They were begging me to swim on the drive home. It was really hot and I was feeling for a dip too, so I agreed. Of course, I went off on a tangent about how they needed to let go of the fear and embrace the swimming and pick up where they had left off last season blah blah blah. I went on for what felt like 5 minutes of what I thought was a pep talk. After a minute’s silence, Liam pipes up “you know mommy, sometimes children are afraid and we forget. But you can show us again and talk nicely and we’ll try remember how to.” AND Hannah went “YES!”
Cue waterworks, ugly face crying, guilt, shame, horror, guilt, guilt, guilt.
You all know that I am a fairly hard parent. Yes I give them sweets and let them drink Coke, but I am quite tough when it comes to day to day parenting, and I take more of the drill sergeant approach. I felt sooooo bad, I felt like I had been slapped in the face. I said I was sorry on the spot and I told them that I was going to start from scratch and teach them again and instead of using negative terms, I changed my speak and started saying things like “I KNOW you can do it, you’ve done it before” and “you’ve just forgotten, but if we practice, you WILL remember” and “it’s ok to be afraid, but I will hold you and I won’t let go until you tell me to, or I will tell YOU so you ready.”
Do you know that in the hour we swam together and I took this approach of positively coaching and coaxing them, the kids were cannon balling again, Hannah was doing laps with her arm bands, Liam’s eyes were red and burning and his ears were sore from all the underwater swimming he was doing (and he was proud as punch with these ailments). That’s all it took.
I have blogged lyrical about how we speak to our children, the effects of our words and how they impact the hearer. I KNOW this. But I forgot. Just like how they momentarily forgot how to swim. It took my 4 year old to remind me that sometimes it’s the way I say things that makes all the difference. A lesson well learned from my kids.