Friday, January 14, 2011

An extremely long and wordy post

Today was a day that tested this mama. 
Last night I worked until 11:30pm. Got in bed around midnight with half a dose of nyquil to quiet this nagging cough. The big boy woke me from crazy nyquil-dreams at 6:30. I was a little tired.

There was no time for fatigue though, today was the big boy's first solo swimming lesson.

I had a feeling this really wasn't going to go well, but I had no idea just how hard it would be for me.

This morning was a comedy of errors. As I struggled to lug one twenty pound baby, one diaper bag, one swimming bag, and still hold the hand of a wayward three year old (did you know he turned three last week? Yah, it was his birthday - did I mention that?) all while trudging through about 4 inches of slushy, dirty snow a mile through the "plowed" parking lot of the YMCA - I nearly dropped the baby. Seriously, slippery winter coats plus overloaded arms is clearly hazardous to a baby's health. Luckily, I managed to catch him before he hit the asphalt.

We got inside and I discovered that KidsStop (babysitting) doesn't open until 9, which is unfortunate because the big boy's lesson starts at 9, so I dragged both kids and both bags down to the family changing area - stashed the coats, bags, and boots in not one but two lockers and lugged everyone to the pool.

Just getting to the lesson itself had tested this mama's patience, but I gathered my courage, handed him over to the instructor, and dutifully took my seat on a faraway bench to wrestle with a restless eighteen month old.

"We have some rules to follow," began the kindly swimming instructor.
"That," interrupted the big boy, at maximum volume, "is a fan!"
Oh dear, I thought, this isn't going to go well.
My beloved three year old did not sit on the step as he was instructed. A handsome teenage lifeguard eventually came to stand right next to him and continually remind him to sit down, lest he fall off the step and potentially drown.
He also did not want to get in the pool with the instructor, and she eventually asked me if it was all right just to haul him in.
"Yes, of course." I said apologetically, "I think that's the only way you'll get him in."
What was I thinking?
Once he was in the water he began to holler, "I don't wike dis!" at the top of his wee voice - which is not at all wee, really - especially with the awesome acoustics in a giant indoor swimming pool.
This continued for thirty agonizing minutes. Watching him squirm off the step, toddle around, ignore the instructor and the lifeguard, holler, whine and complain - I began to break out in a cold sweat.
I am a horrible mother. Look at him. The instructor hates him. Hates me, too. Why can't he sit like the other kids? He loves the pool and he's familiar with this instructor - why oh why is this such an epic fail?
I should go back to work full-time and send him to daycare. It would be better for him. I'm obviously not doing a good enough job here.

Afterwards I asked the instructor if I should put him back in the parent-child class, and she said "Let's give it a few weeks and see how he does."
This seems perfectly reasonable, yet for some reason I had to thank her and quickly dash away because I was about to cry and I was mortified.

Cry? Over swimming lessons? Really?

Yes, really.

I can't help but feel as if my parenting is on trial when I send him out to the world. If he's not perfect - it must be because I am a bad mother.

If I were a good mother he'd sit still, cooperate, listen.

I realize as I type it how ludicrous that sounds, but it seemed perfectly reasonable as I watched the lesson unfold, sweating, embarrassed, and desperate to get out of there.

I don't know if I can do this, guys. I know I can't take responsibility for every move he makes, but I am responsible.

I have to let him go. He has to go out into the world of teachers, instructors, coaches, peers - and I can't go with him. I can't stand over him, guiding his behavior. Unfortunately, watching him from the sidelines - it hurts. My own judgement is so harsh - I can hardly bear it. A minor misstep on his part fuels a deluge of guilt and self-recrimination. Bad mother. Bad mother. He deserves better.

I imagine this will get better with practice - both his behavior at swimming lessons and my ability to watch him struggle. I imagine that if this were my seventh child - I wouldn't even bat an eyelash at his inability to sit still, but would instead regale the other moms with tales of, "That time billy-bob whacked the teacher with a noodle." or some other hilarious misadventure.

I knew this wasn't going to be easy for him, I just had no clue how hard it would be for me. God, motherhood. It's a pisser.


  1. only the 1st time you will have to put him in someone else's hands. wait till he gets on the school bus and you watch it pull away. you will want to run after him..i am sure he will adjust or you can give him another attempt at later should not second guess yourself you boys are great and you are doing a great job but that is just a mother's opinion he he..

  2. Ohhhhh, Melissa I have SO been there. It will get better - Owen had a total and complete thrashing, kicking, screaming meltdown at the library yesterday - and he is a strong little bugger - I couldn't even bundle him in my arms to get him out of there. Was I embarrassed? Heck, yeah. However, some kindly mother opened the door for us as, and said "Yup, been there." And you know what? We ALL have. And if you get irritated stares, then either those folks a) don't have children or b) are mortified that they will someday be in the same position. I have so much more I could add; however, this is becoming an extremely long and wordy comment :)

  3. I feel for you! I can only imagine how I'll feel when Maeve gets big enough to make me feel that way. But I'm sure he's not the very first non-compliant three year old they've ever had. That's what I tell myself when I take Maeve to restaurants now: "She's not the first kid to throw cheerios all over the floor!"

  4. Oh, what mother couldn't relate to this?! I too have a son (he is now 10), and I remember very clearly that three, was a dark, dark year! I don't know why the 2's get the bad rap; 3 was far, far worse! For us, the weekly test of my patience was a toddler music class. All the other kids would be playing their rhythm sticks correctly, while my son would be whacking me in the head with his. I would be drenched in sweat every time we left that 30 minute session!

    Hang in there, because it does (eventually) get better! My son is very well-behaved now, so just think of the 3's are a rite of passage if you can!
    P.S. Found you via Soule Mama

  5. You're a good momma. Don't worry what people around you are thinking- you know when you're doing a good job or not.
    We've had all kinds of shenanigans over here, too. Some things discipline helps, and other things they just grow out of. :) Hope today goes better for you.

  6. Oh guys thank you so much. Your comments really ease my mind.
    Tonya - doesn't it totally make your day when someone gives you an understanding look or word? glad to know B's not the only one disrupting the library quiet :)
    MM - you're totally right, i'm not the only one who's travelled this road :) thank god for mommy-friends
    Christy - oh thank you - that's EXACTLY how I felt. glad to know I'm not alone
    R&T - thank you. just wish i felt like i was doing a good job a little more often.

  7. The term 'stepping out on the right side of the bed' comes from an ancient yoga practice. The technique is; when you wake, check your nostrils to see which one is less predominate - or a little stuffy. Step out of bed on the same foot of the nostril that is stuffy. What this does is that it triggers the other side of the brain which is turned off to a degree because it is not getting the same amount of oxygen. Try it for a couple of months - it will enhance your life. Hope this helps, Katie x

  8. crackin me up! i have 3 boys & when one of my little "billy bob's" pull that kind of trick I like to look over my shoulder at the other parents & just say "who's kid is THAT?"

  9. uh huh. I SO get it. I want to HOVER in these situations so badly. My Miles had a hard time with swim lessons. He wanted nothing to do with it and he looked so scared and took everything in me to not just pull him out and take him home. But you're right, we have to let them go...and it hurts! Hang in there, Mama :)

  10. Eek! Heather from the EO just commented on my little blog! I have major hero worship! Thank you!!
    Okay, I have regained my composure.
    Yes, exactly - I totally want to hover and control, but I can't and it's awful. Thank you for the understanding - it means the world to me.

  11. Oh my I feel like I'm reading my own life. My "B" is 3 as well and tests me daily. I enjoy reading your blog! It's neat to see how one of the people who helped bring my son into the world parents her children. You are a great mom and role model!