Funny that today’s prompt should correspond so well to the journey we have already been traveling this morning. Today marked Katie’s first day of Beginning Toddler swim classes. We are all eager for her to learn and to be more water safe, so I have been excited about this! Before I write further, here is the writing prompt for today:
Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind. Absolve you to yourself, and you shall have the suffrage of the world. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
We live in a society of advice columns, experts and make-over shows. Without even knowing it, you can begin to believe someone knows better than you how to live your life. Someone might know a particular something better – like how to bake a three-layer molten coconut chocolate cake or how to build a website – but nobody else on the planet knows how to live your life better than you. (Although one or two people may think they do.) For today, trying asking yourself often, especially before you make a choice, “What do I know about this?”
(Prompt Author: Jen Louden)
9:30 AM, at the pool. Sunscreen is on. Katie assesses the water, and it looks great!
Wahoo! She seems excited, and soon, we meet our teacher Miss Jessica.
9:40AM, and class officially begins on time. The beginning toddlers stand on a raised platform in the water. Only four to a class—great! I am off on the side in the shade snapping pictures. Katie is still enthused. She doesn’t seem to miss me. Whew! I thought we might have an issue with that, but so far so good.
Is this the same girl who expressed worry about swim lessons this past week? 9:45 AM, and I am thinking, So glad this is going so well! I even feel the brush of self-satisfaction on my shoulder—the kiss of death.
But at 9:47 AM, Katie is whizzing around on the paddle board… Okay, we’ve got this, we’ve got this! I cheer silently to myself.
9:50 AM: Katie melts down. I realize my daughter is blubbering in the pool. Miss Jessica lifts her out onto the deck. I go over to talk with her and find out what happened. (An hour later now as I write this, and I am still not sure, but I think it has to do with being afraid she’d fall off the platform and not being able to see me once when she looked up). But I do know the sentiment, “I am never going in that pool AGAIN!” was expressed…uh, several times.
9:52AM: What do I know about this? What do I know about how to get my daughter back into the pool? We have two long weeks of lessons signed up and paid for… “I want to go home!” Katie wails. I am sure everyone, EVERYONE is looking at us.
I explain: we’re not going home. I tell her that she does not need to get back into the water today, but that she must sit on the deck and listen to Miss Jessica and watch everything—she is still expected to learn. Having established this and seeing Katie become calm, I go back over to my waiting spot.
One of the other mothers asks if my daughter has ever been in the water before. I feel like everyone must think I’ve raised my daughter in a cave.
About a minute later, Katie launches into one of her most theatrical crying techniques. You know, the one we’ve been working on quelling for half a year (or more). I put my finger to my lips to signal her to be quiet. Whoops. Obviously I must not be getting the point, and she launches in louder. All the mothers and fathers are shifting eyes, it seems. Yes, I have that child. The only child in the whole pool area who is crying and not in the water doing her class.
What do I know about this? What do I know about mothering?
I walk back over and remind her of the consequences for that kind of crying. Not surprisingly, she stops immediately—because she was only seeing if it would work in this case. I tell her again that she is still in class, and that she must sit and watch quietly even if she does not wish to participate actively. I tell her I am going to wait over with the other mothers.
This works. She finishes class this way. It gives me time to ponder my next moves, which are critical to success in this game.
What do I know about being a mother? Still feel like I know next to nothing… It is funny how so many of us think we have it all figured out before the kiddos arrive, and then, boom, we’re so humbled everyday by how much we don’t know.
So I try a different question: What do I know about being a teacher? I was still refining my craft when I took a leave of absence, but I feel that I was born to be a teacher. I love/loved teaching. I am more naturally a teacher than I am anything else, and I often have to rely on that training (the patience, objective distance when dealing with behavioral issues, etc) to help with my mothering (which, at its worst, takes things too personally and too seriously—oh, the gravitas!).
A teacher knows how to work around frustration. A teacher knows how to arrive at creative solutions to issues with student performance or desire. A teacher is tenacious. A teacher can sell ideas. And a great teacher can show a student that he or she has the ability to succeed when the student doesn’t believe it.
So. What do I know about this? 10:10 AM. I get the towel out, pretend Katie hasn’t been drying off for the last half of class, and wrap her in it. Say goodbye to Miss Jessica. I stand with my daughter as she does this. Tell her that we’ll see her tomorrow, I say in my best cheerleader voice. Katie does. She knows now that we’re going to return. I decide to act almost exactly as if Katie had done the whole class. I play up what she did do: You stayed in the water half the time. You did great on the paddle board! I wish you’d been able to do the twirly thing with Miss Jessica—that looked fun. You will probably have another chance to do it tomorrow.
I tell her that tomorrow we’ll see if she can stay in the water even longer. Katie seems a little surprised and relieved that I am not focusing at all on how she got out of the water…although I do remind her later that crying fusses are never acceptable.
I accentuate that this was just the first day, and now she knows what to expect tomorrow. She knows who her teacher is, and she knows where mommy will be waiting. We’ll wear a different bathing suit to represent the new day. I tell her that she will help me pick out a very brightly colored shirt to wear so that, whenever she looks up, she will be able to see me easily.
I do not know at all if my daughter will get back in the water tomorrow. I do know that right now, both of us believe she will. I’ve got her sold…for now. I know for her that it is easy to not worry about a situation or to think it will be fine, until she actually gets there. I know that tomorrow we could be doing this all over again. Yet I also know for sure that a teacher never gives up.
Will my daughter do her swim lessons (uh, in the water?) this summer? I guess we’ll stay tuned to see!