I want my children to persevere—so I have to, too

As seen on Motherly

The smell of chlorine floods my nose as we walk into the building. Kids are everywhere tightly holding onto their parent’s hand unsure of where they are going.

“Okay, everyone, it’s time to get in your lines,” announces the lead instructor.

“Mommy, I don’t want to go,” my daughter says while burying her head into my leg.

“You’ll be okay. Come on, let’s go.” I gently push her forward into the arms of a teacher waiting nearby. The teacher smiled and winked, which tells me a reluctant child is not out of the ordinary.

I know in the grand scheme of things it’s only swimming lessons, but seeing my child teary-eyed and unsure of the situation, saddens me. Last year we tried lessons, and it didn’t go over very well. Let’s just say there were lots of tears from both kids and a very fragile feeling parent.

This time it was going to be different. It has to be. Each child is a year older and if other parents can do it, so can I. Besides, I don’t want to be purchasing floaties for a future 30-year-old.

I focus my attention on a group of moms walking up the stairs to the balcony, carrying coffee and holding squirmy toddlers, and wonder why I can’t be so calm and collected like them? Maybe they didn’t notice their own child’s first day jitters while being distracted by their fussy little cherub.

As I find my seat, I stare at a giant swimming pool with a sea of children anxiously awaiting the arrival of their coaches. I scan the area and spot my 3-year-old son sitting in line hugging his knees. Our eyes meet and we both wave. Phew. He’s not crying. Yet.

One kid down, now where’s his sister? Like a hawk, I stare at the locker room door waiting for her to exit. I start to panic a little. Did she get lost? Is she looking for me and can’t find me? The locker rooms were rather dungeon-like and reminded me of a never-ending maze.

Thoughts start to flood into my mind. You’re acting ridiculous, I think. Get ahold of yourself. I shake myself into reality and focus on the end goal of getting through two-weeks worth of lessons unscathed.

Grasping the hand of one of the instructors, with tears rolling down her cheeks, I spot my daughter making her way to the pool. I read her lips as she cries, “I want my mommy.” The instructor does her best to make her feel better by rubbing her back and reassuring her that everything will be okay.

I wave my arms to get her attention. “I’m over here, sweetie. You’re going to be great. Now, get in the pool.”

She shakes her head no. I mouth, “Yes. Look, your brother is in already. See?” She finds her brother, who’s now starting to cry.

Great, I think. Now what? I’m not exactly dressed to get into the pool with them. Not to mention, I paid for these lessons. There’s no backing out of this now.

As I see others kids swimming, laughing, smiling, having fun, I wonder why mine isn’t doing the same? Maybe I didn’t expose them enough to water as babies? Perhaps they’re not ready yet? This is when I notice my son screaming at his teacher, “Let me go! I don’t want you!” He’s fighting with all his little body strength to swim to the side. Oh no, not another round of lessons wasted.

I find my daughter. She’s in the pool swimming. Quick, look away before we make too much eye contact and she starts to cry again.

“Excuse me. Ma’am, excuse me?”

I peer down over the rail where my son is below. The head coach, a stern looking lady, was trying to get my attention.

“Is this your son?” I’m starting to feel that I’m picking him out of a line-up.

“Yes.” Oh God, what is she going to say. Kick him out of swimming? He’s only three.

“Have you thought about putting him in the Splash and Babies class? If not, that might be something to consider until he gets more comfortable with water.”

I glance around. Some of the parents are looking at me. Possibly feeling sorry for my son or me because as a parent, how can you not tell that your child isn’t ready for lessons? Please don’t judge me. I know they can do this.

“Should I come and get him?” I ask anticipating a shaming response.

“There’s no need. Just consider taking it along with this class,” she says with a wave of her hand.

I smile. Easy for you to say, but how am I to convince a 3-year-old who can’t wait to be a grownup, that he has to go to a baby swim class? This isn’t going to go over very well.

Eventually, my son gets used to the water, and by the end of the hour, he’s smiling. An assembly line of parents and babysitters wait in the lobby with towels in their hands ready to pick up their swimmers. My son comes out first. Shivering, I bundle him up in his Olaf towel and tell him how proud of him I am.

“Mommy, I can swim now. I don’t need any more lessons,” he says to me in all seriousness.

I smile. “Okay, honey.”

Next, my daughter comes out of the locker room nervously scanning the lobby for me. I rush over to her and wrap her up in a pink mermaid robe.

You did it! You were amazing!” Again, she buries her head into my leg, but this time, smiling and feeling proud.

I’m happy to say that we made it back the following day and eventually completed the full lesson. There were tears, moments of doubt, and true bravery not only on my children’s part, but mine as well.

In life, there will be times when we all feel we want to quit. I have felt it many times. But what kind of example would I be setting if I let them give up? This was the perfect time to show them the meaning of perseverance. After watching parents return day after day coaxing their child to get into the pool, they gave me hope and encouragement to keep trying.

So, to be honest—this was a lesson in perseverance for me, too.

Maybe last round of lessons they just weren’t ready yet (or perhaps it was me?). Either way, we’re accomplishing this milestone in life. When it comes down to it, in this season of my life with two young kids—it’s time to sink or swim. And we choose to swim.

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