Evie has made amazing strides over the course of her first swim class. She went from refusing to put her face in the water, to being able to honest-to-goodness swim for a couple of feet. It seemed like every class there was noticeable, significant improvement.
Finally, the big moment: the test to see who would pass on to the next class, and who would retake the class again. Evie was so proud to have passed, she burst through the door shouting as soon as we got home. And she deserved it, too. She worked so hard, doing something she really didn’t like. She really had come a long way.
Starting the second class was much easier than starting the first class. She was really excited this time, even though this class would be in the big pool instead of the little 2 1/2 foot pool where she could touch the bottom.
“Will we have to dive off the diving board?” she asked as we were getting ready in the locker room. “No honey, that’s for the big kids,” I replied. “Maybe by the end of the class, but not on the first day.” I assumed that going into the big pool would be enough of a change, and they’d probably do pretty much the same things that they did in the other class, just in deeper water.
Boy was I wrong!
No sooner had the kids lined up, then they were lead over to the diving board. The kids took turns diving in, plunging completely underwater in the deep end where they couldn’t touch, and then swimming to the side of the pool. The difference between the first class and the second class was like the difference between riding a tricycle and riding a motor cycle. It was taking something that was sorta fun / sorta educational and turning it into something that was 100% pure torture.
As each kid went down the line and it got closer and closer to Evie’s turn, she got more and more nervous. Her face turned into a mask of fear, baring her gritted teeth, eyes watering. Her whole body started to shake, and she compulsively kneaded and pulled at her swim cap. Bravely she climbed the ladder, but when she got to the end of the board she burst into tears. Even though the glass I could see her mouthing, “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!”
It was one of the most difficult things I’ve had to watch as a parent. I wanted to burst into the pool and sweep her up in my arms.
Five times they had to jump into the pool. I was repeating, “You can do it! You can do it!” until Sara tapped me on the arm and said, “You don’t actually have to say it out loud, you know.” My heart just went out to her. Even after all these years, I remember very clearly being in the exact same circumstance in my own swimming class as a kid, and being completely terrified.
She did it though, all six times. And the last time she did it without holding on to anybody’s hand (even if she did almost brain herself on the edge of the pool, because she lost her nerve and more fell off the edge then actually jumped).
Afterwards, I’m not sure if I was more proud of her, or if she was more proud of herself. Doing something that you’re absolutely terrified of feels pretty good afterwards, even if it feels pretty awful at the time. I’m just not sure what next week is going to bring. I think as the day gets closer, so will the creeping dread, until I’d imagine we’ll have to drag her there, crying. Hopefully after a few weeks she’ll be through it, and enjoy swimming the rest of her life. That’s what I keep telling myself at least.
I said to Sara, “This is why you take swim lessons: so someone else can do this to her. There’s no way I could bring myself to force her to jump.”