For the last two weeks, Turbo and Cuteness have been enrolled in swimming lessons at the local pool. For a full four weeks before said enrollment, Cuteness had used all of her stubborn will and powers of acting to try and weasel her way out of it. She lead me to believe she had a mortal fear of water. This was easily accepted, because, when she was just two years old, we visited a pool with friends of ours. She was genuinely terrified, and would not dip a toe into the water.
My first daughter has a (mostly) hidden, independent nature. I allow her to do quite a few things on her own, because she is capable, willing, and I can trust her to do them. She has a strong will and desire to learn and try things, but only on her own initiative. Thus, I let her decide non-essentials. What to wear, within limits of modesty. What she eats, within the limits of what I have already made. What to do during quiet time, within the limits of…well…quiet activities. This arrangement seems to work well for us.
However, her decision-making does not extend into certain areas. Like swimming. As a parent, I feel like this is a non-negotiable safety issue. Since I, her mother, was the one to decide she would learn how to conduct herself safely in water, it became an issue. Every time it was brought up, crocodile tears, whining, and a look of utter dismay turned my Cuteness into a much less cute and cuddly creature. I remained unmoved.
In certain areas, I stand on the solid bedrock of my Motherly Authority, and wage battle. I try to be very selective in the battles I fight. That way, when I fight, I have the energy, the wits, and the endurance to achieve a decided victory.
I was not cruel and heavy-handed, however. There was no yelling, begging, or cajoling involved. I simply reassured her, each time she began her fight, that I would be close by, where she could see me. I made it clear that she would never be alone, that she would be safe, and that it really would be fun. I also told her that if she could just learn to float, I would not take her to a pool again until she was ready. I made sure to speak with Turbo, within her hearing, about the things they would be learning, and how excited I was for them both.
All to no avail.
On the first day of class, I showed up a little early, to get them familiar with the locker room, the shower area, and to give them a chance to look around at the pool. There was a class going on when we walked out to the pool, and I pointed out each of their age groups. Cuteness still clung to my hand, wide-eyed and whimpering until the very last moment. Class began, and Turbo jumped right in. No worries there.
I introduced Cuteness to her teacher, and told my girl I would be right by the side, in case she wanted to get out. I quietly warned the teacher about Cuteness’ behavior, and that she might have a scared, belligerent child on her hands. (Cuteness can be very belligerent when she does not want to do something.)
The teacher told me she could handle anything my girlie dished out. I felt reassured.
The teacher beckoned to Cuteness, and invited her to come sit with the class in the ankle-deep shallow end.
Grinning from ear to ear, Cuteness joyously complied. Keep in mind that up until this very moment, I had not seen any sign that she would comply, let alone a single ounce of enthusiasm.
She practically skipped into the water. Not a teeny-tiny-leetle hint of hesitation, fear, or belligerence was evident in her sparkling, happy eyes. A minute later, and she was chest-deep at the other end, happily playing “Ring-Around-the-Rosy” with her class. (Neither of my kids have any experience in water, so this is more an intro to water class than actual swimming just yet.)
Flabbergasted, and feeling rather sheepish, I looked on in utter disbelief as my daughter made a complete fool of me. Not for the last time, I am sure. I can still see the odd one-eyebrow-cocked look the teacher gave me. She looked rather amused at my apparent over-motherliness.
I really think Cuteness knew exactly what she was doing. I think she planned the whole thing. She is way smarter than I have ever given her credit for.
The Battle of Wits has begun. And she’s already ahead one point.
I shudder to think of the form it may take when she is *gasp* a teenager. She has a very strong will. May the Lord equip me to help shape it and mold it so that it becomes her greatest strength, and not her greatest detriment.
Now…go get a paper towel and wipe whatever it is you were drinking when it came out your nose from laughing at my troubles off of your monitor. Seriously. That is just gross.