Adventures in Attachment Parenting: Following Her Lead by Allison Silver

Last summer, at nine months old Charley absolutely loved being in the pool. She was my little water bug! She would kick, and splash, and had no qualms about putting her face in the water. Everyone commented on how comfortable she was in the water. Having had this wonderful experience last summer I had no reservations about signing us up for a two week parent/tot swimming class at a local pool this summer.

Over this past year we haven’t really had much exposure to a pool, besides taking a bath in our sunken tub, but based on last summer’s experience I just assumed she would love it. Before our class began I took her to the pool at my mother-in-law’s house and it went …..ok. This should’ve been a sign! She wasn’t incredibly enthusiastic about the experience, like she had been last summer, but she didn’t hate it either! It took her a bit of time to warm up and she didn’t want to leave my side but she wasn’t upset just a bit nervous and apprehensive.

Our swim class started two weeks ago. I immediately noticed on the first day that we were one of the older pairs in our swimming class. The class is mainly compromised of parents and their six to twelve month-old babies. On the first day Charley tolerated going into the pool and liked some of the games we played as a group. But that’s where the fun ended! Each of our sessions is only thirty minutes long which doesn’t give you a whole lot of time to warm up. Our instructor is very nice but she has her own agenda and is trying to teach us many different water safety skills in a short amount of time. My little Charley could care less about this lady’s agenda! From day one the instructor encouraged us to help them get their faces wet in the water by blowing bubbles, Charley screamed. The instructor then had us manipulate their legs to practice kicking in the water, Charley screamed. Next we flipped them on their backs to practice floating, Charley screamed! And we ended by helping them to climb out of the pool….yep you guessed it, she screamed! By the third day of class I felt like every parent in our class was staring at me when Charley began to scream. I wanted to shout, “Just wait bitches my kid loved the water last summer, too!”

Later that week I attended a music class with a friend of mine from La Leche League. She asked me how swimming lessons were going. I was a bit embarrassed to tell her because she had just finished the same swim class a few weeks earlier and her daughter, who is a similar age to Charley, loved it! I told her that Charley wasn’t loving it. She said, “Then just sit on the side and have her get her feet wet.” “She doesn’t mind being in the water,” I told her. “She doesn’t like doing all of the different skills the instructor wants us to do.” My friend then said, “Oh that. We didn’t do most of that we just played around.” To which I replied, “You didn’t do what the group did?” And she said, “No. I did what ever made my daughter comfortable.” Then she said something to me which really resonated with me. She said, “Remember, the relationship is more important than the activity.”

Why had I not realized this? I had gotten so caught up in staying with the group that I had lost all perspective. I could really care less about teaching her water safety. The whole point of this class was because I thought it would be fun!! Screaming is not fun! On the final day of week one of our swim class I went to the class with a completely different attitude. Instead of following the instructor’s lead I was going to follow my daughter’s lead. And guess what? It was the best class that week! Instead of screaming there was laughing, lots of laughing! In fact other parents were turning to look at us because Charley was laughing!

Tonight is our last night of swimming lessons and our second week has gone much better. I have continued to follow her lead and there has been much less screaming and much more laughing! Charley has even participated in a few of the “group” skills this week but when she protests we stop and do something different. We might be the only ones, but that’s ok! Heaven knows her daddy and I have never been ones to follow “the group” so why would we expect her to?

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