In an effort to make sure my older kids didn’t feel short-changed in the time and attention department with the arrival of their new baby brother, I booked them in for swimming lessons once a week at a local pool.
To this point our swimming together had been a haphazard affair: occasional days out when I had summoned the time to organize the requisite suits and towels, body wash and hair dryers, water shoes and life jackets, hair ties and combination locks.
On more than one occasion, our efforts had been short and not-very sweet, ending in tears and tantrums in the change rooms: the pool was too big, too noisy, too wet.
In the weeks and days before the lessons, I’d prepped the kids: it will be fun! They will make new friends! The water is warm! The pool is small and not scary!
On the first day they arrived: all smiles and new bathing suits. They put their hands in the water and found it was warm. They saw the other new kids, equally shy and excited. They met their new teachers. They sat on the side of the pool brimming with athletic excitement.
Then the other kids jumped or wriggled or slid into the pool.
But my boys?
They refused to go in.
Instead they sat resolutely on the edge, stoically determined in the case of the five year old, or howling for the three.
What do you do when your kids refuse to cooperate? You laugh and shrug and make jokes with the other parents who you know are probably thinking, “I’m so glad that’s not my kid!”.
And you plan …
The next week, I arranged a sitter for the baby while I took each child one-on-one to the pool again.
But this time it was different. We weren’t just splashing around. This time we were preparing, and we all knew it.
The five year-old proudly announced to all who would listen that he was “training” for swimming. I’m sure the nice ladies in Aquafit thought he was the world’s youngest triathlete. And by the end of the morning, he owned that playpool.
The three year old took some coaxing but was soon kicking and jumping and diving was though he’d grown up in the water.
The following week we arrived back for our lessons savvier and more confident.
The lesson started and I held my breath.
After a minute’s hesitation, the five year old slithered in with his classmates, enticed by the proximity of floating toys and the opportunity to splash wildly.
The three year old took some coaxing as he hung onto my arm but it didn’t take him long to realize that there were baskets of toys and pool noodles to be played with. Splash!
A few weeks later, both boys will happily jump into the pool, their giggling and squealing only interrupted by bubble-blowing and furious dog-paddle.
But there’s just one small problem: now I can’t get them out of the water without tears and cries of “five more minutes!”.