When I was a kid, I signed up for a lot of activities. Basketball, ballet, flute, softball, piano and swimming lessons. Sounds like I was a pretty well-rounded kid, right? Not quite. You see, I quit all of those things before I could even tell if I was going to be good at them or even like them. My parents never put up a fight. If I didn’t like something, I could quit. No arguments. Sometimes, I just didn’t like the activity. But most of the time, I quit because it was too hard. I had high expectations of being good at whatever it was right away. And when I wasn’t, well, I was done.

Of course as an adult, I totally regret not sticking with some of those activities. I would love to be able to play piano now and hey, it wouldn’t hurt my big butt if I knew how to play tennis (Yeah, I quit that too!). I actually wish I was not allowed to give up so easily. It’s one of those lessons that translate into so many facets of life as you grow up: Don’t give up. Don’t Quit. Try your best. So when my girl starts something, I try to do everything I can to keep her involved until the end. She often will tell me that she doesn’t want to go to dance class anymore because it’s too hard. I don’t want to force her to do something she doesn’t like, but “too hard” just doesn’t fly with me. “Keep trying! It will get easier if you practice!” I tell her. Usually, by the time the music starts, she’s fine and wiggling with the rest of the class. We’ve managed to keep it together for the season and her recital is on the horizon. When it comes time to start again in the fall, she can decide if she wants to take lessons again.

The activity she was looking forward to the most, though, is the one she now fears the most: Swimming lessons. It started off as a fun thing for us to do after daycare. I’d pick her up on my way home from work, we’d head to the Y and she’d have a blast learning to swim. Not so much. On the first lesson, I handed her over to her teacher with the disclaimer that she takes a little while to warm up but once she does, she’s fine. Oh, and she’s a little bit of a scaredy cat. And I sat down to watch. Class progressed fine. We finished class and moved on with our lives. I was so proud of my girl. 

Before the screaming... Photo: K Stevenson

Before the screaming…
Photo: K Stevenson

The next week was a different story. The last activity was jumping into the water while the teacher held on to Buttercup’s hands. Let the freak out begin. My girl was screaming that she didn’t want to, that she was scared and wanted to go home RIGHT NOW! Um ok, what the hell happened? She was fine last week. Now all of a sudden she’s scared and crying, real tears. The teacher handled it okay. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling from her but she’s doing her job. She firmly told Buttercup that she could do it, that she wasn’t going to let go of her but that she had to do the jump if she wanted to go home. I fought the urge to swoop in and say “OK. That’s enough. Let’s go.” I sat there and let her cry and reach out to me. Did I mention the real tears??  She did the jump, crying the whole time and for her next two turns it was the same thing. I was getting looks from the other parents but I’m not sure if they were sympathetic looks or “Go save your kid from that monstrous teacher!” looks. I chose to just sit there and let the scene play out. When it was over, I wrapped her in her towel, gave her a huge hug, and told her she did great and that I was proud of her.

That wasn’t the last time this same scene happened. She’s fine until the jumps. Then she dissolves. It takes every ounce of strength not to whisk her away. It’s painful for both of us. Last night was our fifth class. I worried about how she was going to react the whole way to the Y. She was in a good mood which was a good sign. We got to class and I held my breath. But you know what? When it came time for the jumps, she didn’t cry this time. She did it, and when she resurfaced, she looked at me and said, “That was awesome, Mommy!” I am so glad I didn’t let her quit.

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