The High Dive

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.”

Lions and Tigers and Bears oh my

Sara: “Ollie, would you like to be a ring bearer?”
Ollie: “No!”
Sara, surprised: “No? Why not?”
Ollie: “I not a bear.”

Evie: “I did not! You’re lying!”
Oliver, going bonkers: “No! I’m not!”
Oliver: “I’m not a lion, you’re a lion!”
::laughing by the rest of us::
Me: “Evie, tell your brother he’s not a lion.”
Ollie, sullen: “And I’m not a tiger, either!”

He was more upset about being called a lion than a liar.

I took Ollie to watch Evie at swim class. He was so excited, like a proud papa, that he tapped a total stranger on the leg. When the man looked down at him, he pointed to Evie and said, “That one’s ours.”

That’s got to be the most embarrassing way to break your nose

Evie traditionally does not like to put her face in the water. She gets this from Sara, who also doesn’t like putting her face in the water. I love to swim and put my head under the water, so I don’t really understand it, but there you go.

In order to help Evie get better in the water, we signed her up for swimming lessons. Swim class was a constant in my life for many years, conversely, Sara never had swimming lessons. So we thought maybe this could explain our differences of opinion when it comes to water. In any case, just having more opportunity to be in the water is probably the biggest help to becoming more comfortable in the water. And swimming is certainly a more useful survival skill for a kid to learn than ballet or music.

Evie has made remarkable progress in terms of her comfort level with having her face in the water, but it is probably due more to the fact that we make her practice her swim class “homework” of putting her face in the bath twice a night. As this is something that she doesn’t like to do, it sometimes takes a little encouraging in the form of Sara and I sticking our face in the bathwater.

It quickly became obvious that I couldn’t care less about putting my face in the water, since I often held it under for much longer than necessary, blowing bubbles and goofing around, while Sara was not super thrilled about it. You can guess from which of us Evie demands quid pro quo.

The other night, in an effort to spend as little time as possible under water, Sara decided to just dunk her face in as quick as possible. Unfortunately, she…shall we say, misjudged the depth of the pool. She slammed her face down hard and fast, eliciting a loud *CRACK* from her nose when it struck the bottom of the tub.

Almost immediately, the bridge of her nose swelled red and purple and started to bleed.

Right away, Sara thought her nose was broken. There was much speculation on whether the nose was crooked, or just lopsidedly swollen. She had swelling and a persistent headache for about three days, and continued to bleed from the pores on the top of her nose. She now maintains it was never broken, but I’m not 100% convinced. Her breathing was never impaired, so whether or not it was actually broken is sort of academic, since there’s not much a doctor could have done for it anyway.

Nose breaking aside, Evie has really developed a love/hate relationship with swim class. She gets so excited about going to class, practically vibrating with it as we approach Friday. At the same time she makes bold proclamations like, “I HATE swim class” or “Friday is the worst day of the week because of swimming”, even while she’s dancing around in anticipation (specifically, “It’s fun to swim at the Y!MCA!”).

Watching her at class is both heartwarming, and heartbreaking. There are other kids who are better at swimming, but nobody that tries harder. Evie doggedly puts her face in the water time and time again, even without being told, despite body language that clearly indicates she would rather be doing about anything else in the world (such as slamming her face on the bottom of a bathtub). Whenever she gets done with her turn in the water, she immediately turns toward the windows for a little encouragement from me, even as she’s spluttering and wiping the hated water out of her eyes and looking like she’s about to break into tears. But she’s gone from refusing to put her face in the water at all, to holding it under for 6 mississippis in the bathtub.

She might never enjoy swimming, but I have no doubt that at some point she’ll do it anyway.