Just add water | March, 2014
Pool or beach, as long as there’s water involved, my kids will take it. Actually, that’s the understatement of the century. They’ll not only take it, they’ll wade in it, jump in it, float in it, splash in it, pretend to make water-cakes out of it, and just generally stay in it until I coax (OK, bribe) the little guppies out. It’s a wonder they haven’t spontaneously sprouted gills. I’ll be straight with you here. Sometimes, I make the executive decision to skip the beach in favor of the pool simply because the pool closes. That makes the lifeguard—not me—the bad guy. The process of leaving goes sooo much more smoothly when the kiddos know that there’s absolutely zero chance that the bronzed 18-year-old with the whistle will cave to their pleas of, “Just ten more minutes!” They don’t even bother trying. That’s what I call a Parenting Win.
Whenever I catch my blood pressure rising over their enthusiastic love of (obsession with?) the water, I try to remind myself that this is a good thing. Not just because they’re outside and active—both of which land solidly in the “plus” column, of course—but because all of my children are confident and happy in the water. Ben’s always been that way, but little Em? Not so much. Where Benny practically tore his Puddle Jumper off, flung his little body into the deep end and taught himself to swim, Em took baby steps. Lots and lots (and lots and lots) of baby steps. Some days, she could only work up enough courage to sit on the edge of the pool. So I’d sit there with her, brave girl, trying to make her less anxious by talking about things she already loved—the swings we’d visit later, the moon that looked so pretty last night, the theme song to her most favorite show. Seeing the look in her eyes as she watched Ben jump off the board and splash around with his friends—I just couldn’t bring myself to push her at all. I knew she’d do it in her own time. I held her hand when she needed me to, and gave her space when she’d let me.
I’ll never forget the day it happened. We arrived at the pool, all slathered in sunscreen and ready to go. We sat at the edge. I readied myself to start going through the routine of tricks to get her to take that plunge, and then before I knew what was happening, she was in - happily splashing into the pool like it was nothing. Like she’d been doing it all her life. Pride filled my chest so completely you would’ve thought the girl had just won the Nobel Prize. Suddenly, we had another swimmer. Ever since, I’ve had a crazy-simple recipe for happy kids. Take one sunny summer day, and just add water. Any water. And maybe ten more minutes, if they’re lucky.