And so it begins… We signed Don up for swim lessons and soccer. We planned to do swim over the summer but were just too busy so we postponed until now, but we’re still pretty busy and now we have two things that we’ve committed to on a Saturday morning. Hmmm, an indication of what’s to come?
I had been warned. I have the good fortune of knowing women in town with children older than mine. They talk about their children’s activities schedules and the coordination that goes into making it work. I wasn’t entirely ready, but I had an idea, and so we went for it. What I wasn’t at all prepared for was the way my son would respond to being asked to participate in activities that he’d never done before with people he’d never met. I was also not prepared for my reaction to his reaction.
Swim lesson number one was a complete disaster. We showed up exactly on time (late). My husband introduced me to being late which means that I must always take on the role of Drill Sargent in order to get us out of the house and to anything early (on time). When we got to swim lesson number one, I waited where they told us to wait until I realized that the lesson must have started and we were just sitting there…all of us.
Yes, that’s right, we made it a family affair–dad, mom, son and daughter. So began my multiple trips around the enormous pool filled with children getting lessons, everyone looking to be around my son’s age but at varying degrees of swim proficiency. I finally found my son’s teacher after getting visibly upset at having to yell to various teachers to ask where the beginner 1 lessons were.
Meanwhile, as I was walking around the pool shouting to high school aged teachers, my son was panicking. He was completely freaking out at the thought of getting into the pool without either me or my husband, so he was following me around the pool holding onto my leg repeating the same phrase over and over, “but I don’t want to go in the pool, but I don’t want to go in the pool…” Of course I stopped and tried to comfort him and talk him through it, but this was as I was also trying to figure out where he was supposed to be and failing miserably.
As some may recall, I experienced a lot of guilt for not getting my son swim lessons sooner, he’s 4. So his freak out reaction took me off guard and was compounded by those lingering feelings of guilt. He loves swimming. He loves school. What was the problem?
My son is a pretty routine kid. He doesn’t like us to divert from the plan-ever. I prep him for things weeks in advance, gently divulging pieces of a future activity in bites that I think he can handle. I’ve learned to behave like this after experiencing many of his melt downs when things don’t go according to plan. I work very hard to prep him, so when I couldn’t snap him out of this freak out at the pool and I couldn’t find his teacher, I nearly had a mental breakdown myself.
He finally got in the pool, and participated in the last 8 minutes of class. Week one, I repeat, was a disaster.
Bring on week two, which happened last weekend, and this time, why not add some soccer in there! Wow. For lesson number 2, I brought my son to swim while my husband and daughter went to the grocery. Better plan. I talked to Don about what to expect at the swim lessons and attempted to get him all jazzed up. Weirdly, the street we needed to turn down was closed and then I turned down a dead end. Frustration from me and Don’s panic begins to rise.
We finally got to the lesson, walked in, and went to rinse off in the shower. Don’s apprehension continues to rise even as I try to talk him through it. My anxiety also rises as I realize he’s freaking out again. This week he began to repeat over and over that he wanted me to hold his hand…even in the pool. I’m fully dressed mind you, because parents aren’t allowed in the pool with this age group, a mistake we learned during week one of hell after I made my husband show up in a bathing suit. Woops. (HA)
I let my son watch his class in the pool while talking to him calmly. I told him that I’d always be there watching and cheering him on, but that he needed to be brave and if he was brave it would be so worth it because of all the fun he was going to have. After about 8-10 minutes, he finally got in. I did raise my voice a few times, as my own anxiety about the entire situation was also hard to manage.
Now comes soccer. This was once again a family affair because my husband is coaching. I figured we wouldn’t have a problem because his dad was right there, but once again he began to pull the, “I want to hold your hand” card. Now…I’m not an ice queen, his requesting to hold my hand is sweet, but this wasn’t about holding my hand. This was about his discomfort with a new situation. In the end…after much prodding, some threats, and a lot of encouragement, he participated in the soccer practice/game and had a genuinely good time.
I’m definitely glad we have weeks 1 and 2 under our belts. And I am also reminded, once again, that parenting is a constant and ever changing journey. I don’t know if we can every be fully ready for what’s ahead, but I’m proud that my little family has taken the plunge into organized activities and are handling it as a team. (swim and soccer cliches intended)