I remember when Ryan was about 9 months old (almost 5 years ago), we gave him a normal bath with bubbles, playing, giggling, hair washing and he went to bed happy. This next morning we woke up, as normal, played as normal and got ready for bath as normal. But this night, bath was anything but normal. Literally every time we tried to put water on his body, he screamed bloody murder. We tried to wash his hair and you would have thought the kid was having his arms and legs torn off. So we just stopped and put him to bed thinking it was just a weird situational thing.
The next night, the same thing...blood curdling screams. It went on for weeks, then months, then years. Bath time was only okay if no water got on his head or in his face. We tried goggles over the eyes, we tried laying down in the water to wet the head, we tried holding a towel over his eyes and face to keep it from getting wet. We tried everything and nothing worked...every night for 4 years was like this. Nothing traumatic had happened, there was no slipping in the tub or face down in the water so that he couldn't breathe. That's the first thing everybody always said "well something must have happened to him"....well it didn't. It was literally an overnight transition.
It was so bad that we couldn't really get him in the pool. He wanted to go swimming, but he was scared to get the water in his face or on his head. So about a year ago, almost as suddenly as it happened, he decided that he didn't mind the water "so much". He wouldn't get hysterical if water was on his head or in his face, he would just sort of hold his breath with his eyes pinched tightly shut until you wiped his face with a dry cloth. Slowly over the summer and into this last fall, he got better and better about it. When we went to the pool, he started telling us he wanted to go down the big water slide. The only problem is that kids aren't allowed to use the slide unless they are able to swim unassisted, there are no life vests allowed down the slide and no adult accompaniment. This is when Ryan started asking about learning to swim.
Tim and I tried teaching him basics, but he never really took to it. So about a month ago, we signed both boys up for swimming classes at the gym. It's only 1 day a week for 30 minutes, but we wanted to see how they would both do. Ryan is in a class by himself, only because no other kids signed up for that time slot, so he's really benefited for the 1-on-1 he's been getting. The first two weeks were a little awkward but he liked it. Proper kick technique, submerging the face, proper way to move arms in the water...and then week 3 something miraculous happened. At the end of class he did this:
And he just kept doing it. Both he and I had the biggest grin on our faces and as I watched tears started welling up in my eyes. It was amazing to watch how excited and happy he was, how proud of himself he was...and I shared every bit of that with him. And since we've taken him back just to play, he's discovering that you can see people under water, he wants to sit "criss cross apple sauce" on the bottom, and he wants to live under water now. He wants to teach everybody else how to swim under water now. Being able to watch your child overcome a fear, be so happy and gain a world of confidence; it's just a feeling I can't describe.
This moment will be a still frame in my mind that I will be sure to remember in 16 years at college graduation, when I'm grasping to remember everything good I can when his life has passed by so quickly. And all of this over swimming under water? Slowly but surely, I'm starting to understand more of this thing they call parenting.
And this was class tonight...swimming unassisted. 4 classes...amazing, my son is amazing.
4 years ago