Swimming Without A Float

Summer is in full swing in our house. School is over and we all survived my first year back to work full time. Our family has had a great year and this summer feels like the perfect opportunity to kick back, relax, and enjoy the rewards of all of our hard work.

This summer, we joined an athletic club where we have been spending most of our time. It has a great child center with lots of activities and an amazing pool. Many people we know have joined so everyday there is a chance to meet up and hang out with friends. The girls love it and so do I! It’s been great so far!

Summer had always been my favorite season until I had a sensory child. When my girl was a toddler she just couldn’t tolerate the heat, sand, sweat and sun. She hated getting wet and the minute a drop of water hit her bathing suit she would ask to change. Vacations were a disaster. Summer became stressful because there was little we could do that didn’t send her into a tailspin.

Little by little my girl has grown to love summer. It takes her a few weeks to get used to the heat but, by the time school is out, she is raring to go. She loves the beach and has gotten used to the feeling of a wet bathing suit clinging to her skin. So, in the last few years, with some accommodations, we have been able to enjoy summer as a family. However, there is still one thing that my girl hasn’t learned to do. She is now seven years old and she still does not know how to swim. Typically I am not bothered by the need to explore things on her time table but swimming is different. Swimming is a life skill…a survival skill. Having a child (and now two children) who cannot swim puts my stomach in knots. But we have tried swim lessons in the past and it just didn’t work. In the early years, the water itself was too uncomfortable for her. Last year we tried at the town pool but the water was too cold.  Minutes into the first lesson, I see my girl crying in the pool, lips blue and shivering. So, we stopped.

When we joined our club last month, I signed both my girls up for swim lessons. I knew by the end of last summer that my girl had grown comfortable enough being in water and that it was the right time to try again. Our first few days at the pool, she insisted on wearing a float even though she never enters water deeper than she could stand. After a few days, I finally weaned her off the float. She was uncomfortable at first, but got over it quickly. Then, days before her first lesson, something amazing happened. We go to the pool at our club and I notice my girl swimming. Not doggie-paddling above water but full-fledged, underwater swimming. She is wearing goggles and holding her nose and just diving in. She is swimming under a sprinkler, she is jumping in off the side of the pool. She is SWIMMING!!! An hour or so later, we head to the indoor pool. My girls always like to end the day there before we hit the showers and head home. I had just gotten to a chair to put our stuff down when I hear, “Hey, mom, watch this!” And there she goes…swimming again but, this time, she isn’t holding her nose. I asked her where she learned how to do that and she said, “Nowhere, mom, I just taught myself!”

Since that day last week, my girl has been swimming without a float…something that doesn’t just represent what she can do in a pool but rather something that she has learned to do all her life. I have always thought that she was given to me because I was supposed to teach her how to navigate through life. Instead, she has been the one who has been teaching me. There are so many things in life I never pursued because I was afraid to “swim without a float.” But not my girl. She has been taking risks her entire life. Even when she falls flat, she gets up and dives back in before I can even reach out a hand to help her. She is resilient and courageous. She will try anything once before deciding if she can keep going where I don’t even dare try for fear of failure. And when she falls short, she just tries again when she is ready. She doesn’t care about what other people around her are doing, she moves at her own pace. She doesn’t feel pressured to keep up with others. One day at the club she asked to take the rock wall class. She is afraid of heights. After the class I asked her how it went and she said she only went as far as she felt comfortable. This is just another example of just how comfortable she is with herself. She knows her limits and she tests them but also knows when she has gone as far as she can tolerate.  Others may have gone further but she doesn’t care. She is comfortable enough with who she is to do what is right for her.

In her seven years, my girl has learned to fight the impulses that overwhelm her. And, just as she has learned to do this, so must I resist the impulse to handle her with kid gloves. She doesn’t need me to do that. She has proven she can handle more in life than I can. But, I am her mother and it is my natural instinct to never want my kid to fall. But just as she does things on her own timeline, so will I. The more I experience life with her, the more I learn and the more I am inspired.

Come to think of it, I just realized I never learned to swim….maybe it’s about time I give it  try!

“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.”

-Winnie the Pooh

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