Something that’s been on my mind recently is how unaware the girls are around water. My childhood and Tom’s childhood were spent marinating in chlorine and saltwater; we had easy access to pools at home and neither of us lived more than fifteen minutes from the ocean. By the time I was four, I could swim confidently with an inflatable waist tube and thought nothing of jumping off the side, and I assume Tom was similar.
Maggie got off to the proper start:
Maggie had the advantage from her Hawaiian birth and and Florida-based grandparents, but she had gotten out of the habit of swimming since we moved to England–Yorkshire is cold, and our little borough is surrounded by rivers but nothing really appropriate for a young child to swim in, and some early water lessons when she was about a year old had made her wary of both pools and strangers. And while she’s been in one (!) hotel pool, poor Moira has never been in a natural body of water at all.
Two weeks ago I decided that strictly from a safety standpoint, having children who don’t know how to swim is irresponsible. They’ll still need constant supervision until they’re older, of course, but they need to know the basics. Luckily, there’s an inexpensive indoor pool in town with a shallow-depth teaching area meant just for small children, so I bundled us up and went.
At the reception desk, I was instructed to the changing rooms and locker area. “It’s mixed-changing.” Well! Isn’t this a progressive establishment, I thought. Then I saw that the changing area was full of fully-enclosed and lockable cubicles with extra-big baby/family rooms, thankfully limiting our exposure to anyone else’s pool noodle. Unfortunately, an automatic hand dryer went off just as we walked in and Maggie began to cry and quake with fear–it was a new, weird environment and it had one of those noisy obnoxious things? UNACCEPTABLE. I hustled her into a quiet baby/family room and convinced her to be brave and try something new while Moira bounced off the walls in her new swimsuit. To my delight, she agreed.
The shallow-depth pool itself posed no problem–heated, with nice wide stairs and a pleasing nubbly-textured bottom, and full of floating foam toys. At that point, my girls switched roles: Maggie remembered her early water training and walked right in, while my poor English rose clung to me like a barnacle. Her reticence was easy to understand; as far as she was aware she was being asked to float in an extra-large tepid chlorine bathtub full of strangers–fully half of whom had just peed, were peeing, or were about to pee.
At one point while Maggie had gone to investigate the hunter-orange water-wings (“I will try something new!”) I held Moira away from me so she could kick her legs freely in the water. Alas, I did not have a camera to capture Moira’s face at this moment, but this shot of her from a few months back is pretty close:
That was the first week. Today was our second round, and eventually Moira started to recover some of her natural fearlessness. She allowed herself to be spun and swayed in the water, and then…oh, then…she decided to dip her face in the water.
“Ma? Ma? MAAAAAAAAAAA!” That was pretty much the end of the day for Miss Moira. She got out and pointed out the large windows to the parking lot, where she could see our car: “Ousside? Ousside? MA! MAGGIE! OUSSIDE!”
Maggie, on the other hand, had strapped on her water wings and was holding on to the side of the pool, teaching herself to kick. I KNOW, RIGHT? SO COOL.
Upon exiting the pool area today, we noticed that there was a full-body dryer. Maggie was nonplussed: these stupid dryer things come in EXTRA LARGE so you can physically get inside one and let air blow at you? Not for all the mini-marshmallows at the store, Mommy. Moira, on the other hand, was more than happy to stand and have hot air blown at her backside.
And the best part of last week and today:
“Maggie, you tried to do something new today!”
“I tried something new! I feel proud.”
Kid, you ain’t kiddin’. I feel proud of you both, too.