So, I have a friend with a 3 year-old. I have a soft spot for him. I would take him as my own any day of the week, and I joke that its a good thing his parents keep him away from me because I might just kidnap him if I had the chance. Anyway... due to some trauma in their family history, they are very nervous about him being around large bodies of unprotected water. Since we have one of those, I feel bad when they come over because I don't feel that they can allow themselves to relax at our house when he's with them. I don't like that. Also, his mom is one of my best friends, and usually when we get together, its just for us... so I don't see the little guy very often. I suggested earlier this year that maybe I could take him to swimming lessons (at first I was thinking dance classes, but didn't think that would fly!). But the swimming would be a way for him to cope and know about water, they would relax, and I could spend some quality time developing a relationship with him.
Just because I don't want to have kids of my own, doesn't mean that I don't like kids. I actually love spending time with children, especially small ones, because you are always surprised, entertained, and educated by the way they process what's around them; and I love that!
anyway... Dad and son came over to get me... I haven't seen the 3YO since last summer, and I thought maybe if they picked me up, there'd be a lot about my house for him to remember, and he wouldn't be so shy. It worked. He was taking my hand, talking to me, and letting me pick him up right away. Off we went to the swimming lessons and dad and I were talking about how we were both expecting a FREAK OUT! Last summer when they were at my house, the 3YO would not get into the pool, even with someone holding him, he was very afraid!
When we got there, we had to wait a while to fill out paperwork, and he and I walked around looking at all the rooms of kids swimming, playing, etc. He got pretty excited to be one of those kids. I thought that was a good sign, but thought that as soon as the reality of what it meant to be IN the water hit, he'd freak!
When we went into the room with the pools, he desperately wanted to jump in and make a big splash like all the other kids. Dad and I knew that would be a bad thing because it was obvious that he hadn't associated the big splash with being under water, so we held his hand and explained he had to have his swimming lesson first. This was not an easy action to stop. Its not that easy to negotiate with a 3YO when you can't even hear yourself talk from the noise and the stimulation in the room is overwhelming!
When it was our time to go to the lesson, we were in a class with another 3YO who knew what he was doing, and a 10MONTH old baby! The teacher takes each kid out into the pool one at a time and does the exercise... all associated with saving yourself if you fall in the pool... NOT about actually swimming. I was really impressed at her patience, how easy it was for her to get him in the water, floating, following her direction, doing what she was asking. It was amazing! He was smiling, and looking at us, very pleased with himself. That was, until he realized that the instruction to "blow bubbles" meant there was the potential to get your WHOLE FACE IN THE WATER! and he did not like that! now you could see a little bit of the panic, but the teacher was so calm, that he was ok, but refused to blow bubbles again! He did the rest of the class, and kept asking if he could go swimming; I think that the jumping and splashing was what he associated with "swimming".
So after the lesson, we went back into the free-swim pool, and thanks to my planning (!) at least one of us had on appropriate attire for "swimming" with a 3YO in a pool that had a step-off that would result in him being over his head in water! so, we walked around the step for a while with me explaining to him that if he crossed the blue line he would have to blow bubbles. Eventually he got it, and we just circled the pool until Dad did the "time-to-leave" count down.
After they had dropped me off home, and left, I realized how crazy this whole parenting thing is. Not once during the time that I'd been with them had I thought about my life, work, me, my needs. I'd been in situations that were incredibly overstimulating for the senses - noise, colors, movement, activity - and had to be very focused on the reality of a little guy who had the potential to be in panic. I was actually amazed that the insanity of the location wasn't throwing the kid off the edge; but I think that his daily life at daycare must be just as full of stimulation... so maybe he's better equipped to cope than me.
I am also sure that when you are a parent, you get used to the giving, and you learn to cope with getting life done at the same time. But I can tell you, that after they left, and Greg and I looked at each other to decide what we were going to do for the rest of the day, every decision felt indulgent, OVER indulgent.
But boy, was I glad that I had made the choices in life that I have, and that the afternoon Greg and I planned together was possible!