One summer day when Sophie was just a few weeks old, our little family went to the neighborhood pool. I perched in the shade in my yoga pants and nursing tank, Sophie snoozing on my boob.
I enjoyed watching Marc and Lily in the water, but it pained me at the same time. I wanted to get off the sidelines and be there with my big girl.
Marc noticed this, hopped out of the pool and took the sleeping baby out of my arms. I walked over to the edge of the shallow end, rolled up my pants and dipped my feet in the water.
Lily had been holding onto the edge, waiting for me. Once I settled in and gave her a kiss, she pushed away from the wall with a noodle tucked under her arms.
Then she kicked funny and flipped herself over, face first into the water.
She struggled and flailed. I panicked, jumped into the pool fully clothed and snatched her up. She was hysterical, so I rushed her out of the water and tried to calm her down. Of course she refused to get back in.
I can’t help but think that was a defining moment in Lily’s relationship with the water, and that I am in large part to blame for the crippling fear that has prevented her from enjoying swimming for the last two years. I should have kept her in the water and comforted her without revealing my panic — the “brush it off” technique that works so well on dry land.
She doesn’t jump off the edge of the pool like other kids her age. She won’t swim without being surrounded by an innertube or a grown-up’s arms. She panics when her face gets wet.
So you can imagine my joy when, for the first time, she unglued herself from her teacher’s arms at Saturday’s swim lesson and swam alone in her life vest. I sat poolside, tears pricking my eyes, phone camera in hand, making that embarrassing laugh/snort/cry sound that I imagine will be much the same when she walks down the aisle on her father’s arm years from now.
This was a HUGE moment for Lily. She let go of fear.
It was written all over her face, as her grimace gave way to a smile. A beaming, ear-to-ear smile.
And later that day, back at the neighborhood pool, she paddled right past the scary spot from two years ago, swatting my arms away.
Mommy, she said. I got it.