Jooge has been enrolled in swimming class every day for the past two weeks. She loves going and is doing really well. Three and four year-olds are a kick to watch too because they're in perpetual motion, heads bobbing, bodies bouncing, all the while the teacher gives commands and they follow them when they're not distracted by splashing or saying hi to their nearby moms. Hilarious.
Well today Tessa, the normal teacher, was gone and in her place was Malcom. I mentioned to Jooge that Tessa would be gone today, and expected that it would be an issue, but wasn't sure how much. Luckily, as we arrived, the other three year-old in the class, Dana, was clinging to her mom and pouting. But eventually she went in. And the Jooge? She did a facedown rigid collapse on the wet deck of the pool. Tears. No way was she going in the pool with a new teacher. I swept her showered pre-pool body up and sat with her for awhile. She came around a little. I talked to her about being brave, we sat and watched. Malcom beckoned with a game of her favorite: Ring Around The Rosy. But when we decided to go and sit closer to the edge, it turned into another freak out, and we were done.
I am really getting to know my child better through these new experiences. She does not like change. She does not like someone new to present themselves. It takes TIME to ease into these transitions, and a half hour isn't usually enough. All the persuading in the world may not have moved her into that warm water today. As a result, she missed out on a favorite part of her day.
I am really wrestling with the correct way to respond in these situations. Knowing how sensitive she is, it would have traumatized her to MAKE her get in the pool. Plus, she is so headstrong that there would have been no way because it's impossible to MAKE her do anything when she's made up her mind she doesn't want to do it. It helps to just accept her as she is, especially developmentally. Three year-olds and change? Forget about it!
But at the same time, there's a part of me that really wishes that I would have persisted in getting her into the dang water, giving her the message that I expected her to be brave, that I wasn't going to give her an out because I knew she could do it. IS she the wimp or am I?
After about ten minutes of gentle coaxing, I had to follow through with what I'd threatened: it was either in the pool, or we were heading home. And when we left, I felt frustrated, sort of like I feel a lot of the time when our wills are meeting for a showdown. I yearned for her flexibility. I'm sure I even said, "Someday you'll be more flexible." In the car I was able to breathe deeply enough to voice my understanding. In allowing her to be nervous she opened up more about it. It was OKAY that she like Tessa better. Validation goes a long way with anyone, but especially a reluctant three year-old.
With motherhood it seems there is no such thing as an easy stroke. All I can I do is plug my nose and keep diving in. There are tantrums lurking beneath the surface and new wakes I must daily cross no matter WHO is teaching the class, breathing and persisting, the only way.