Until this week, Tuesday was swimming lesson day. In September Anna excitedly jumped into the ninety degree swimming pool at Goldfish Swim School for her first ever swimming lesson. We started off in a class where I swam, too, and after two or three of these, it was clear she belonged in the next level. She did wonderfully in her first "solo" class with her teacher, Miss Alex, and one other little boy. I've lost track now of how many sessions she did where I watched her from the viewing area, she and I smiling proudly. She chatted and giggled with Miss Alex and appeared to be having loads of fun. Until one day she wasn't. It was shortly before our trip to New York, and she had a meltdown about me leaving (even though she'd be able to see me watching her on the other side of the glass). The next week, the meltdown grew. It was the kind of painful thing I feel like I've witnessed only in movies; she was gasping for breath, purple-faced, hanging on to me for dear life.
In the midst of this, we switched to a different class time with three little girls, but with the same instructor. This was a big mistake on my part, but I'd thought the difficulties would come to an end after our trip to New York passed. I thought the new class would be a better fit for her and for our schedule, but it only served to make the parting worse. And, instead of getting over it and having fun, as she'd done when she was with one other kid, she sat sadly in the corner of the pool. She did not participate much and cried when she would get splashed or kicked, which happened a lot with a bigger class and less one-on-one teacher time. She looked lonely.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, Anna verbalized a few reasons that she did not like swimming anymore: she couldn't do what she wanted to do in the water, namely flying; she didn't want to put her face in the water, and they wanted her to; she didn't like it that I was on the other side of the glass; she was uncomfortable when the other kids got close and splashed and kicked her. Blake and I also wondered if, because her gross motor skills are not very strong, she wasn't able to perform the way she wanted to; she is such a perfectionist. We talked through some of these as best as possible, and decided we would go back into our original, smaller, quieter class. This was much better - the separation was tough, but not unbearable, and she had fun again. It seemed that minimizing the sensory input was a good way to go. Then we missed class to travel to Midland, and when swimming came up last week, she absolutely did not want to go. Up until that time, she at least expressed an interest in being there, until we got there. So, after much pain and deliberation on my part, we didn't go last week. We went to a "free swim" on Thursday instead, thinking she may just need to get comfortable again, but she still insisted that she did not want to go back. So, we pulled her out.
You can imagine that each and every time the painful departures happened I was a pillar of strength (can you hear the sarcasm)? I'm sure she was actually better off than I was, despite her discomfort and tears. I was a mess inside on the other side of the glass, feeling sad that she was sad, wondering what was the right thing to do. Having a hard time was OK, but this was supposed to be fun, and she just looked miserable. I did not want her to lose her love of swimming. We never intended this to be more than something she would enjoy, and she obviously was not loving it.
I really struggled with the decision to stop swimming lessons. What kind of message is it sending to her if we pull her out? If we force her to stay in? What's the lasting impact either way? Is there a lasting impact at three? Probably not. I thought of every possibility with either option, as I tend to do; I examined the good and bad of both sides. In the end, Blake and I felt like she stuck it out for a good amount of time...if I did what was comfortable for me and her, I probably would have grabbed her the very first time she was upset and walked out comforting her, but I knew that was not the best thing for her. I just hope that she continues to love swimming in the future, that we didn't steal away this thing that she loves, her thing, from her by continuing on for as long as we did.
A couple of months ago, Anna mentioned wanting to take a dance class. Serendipitously, a Living Social deal came up for a place in our small town, so we bought an eight-week package. We went to watch the class last Friday, and we signed her up starting in January. More learning opportunities for both of us ahead...