We were at my cousin’s graduation party. It was perfect weather, a beautiful outdoor area inviting outside games and family time. It should have been enjoyable and relaxing — but right around the corner of the building was a large pond.
And fearless Reagan ran toward it any chance she could get.
There was no sitting down; there was no relaxing. There was constant watching and chasing her down every time she took off that way.
You see, this girl truly thinks she is invincible, and I certainly was not going to take any chances. I have heard all of the heartbreaking stories of curious 3 year olds around water, and I did not want to make the news.
Some of the older kids were throwing rocks in the pond. Miss Maylie was one of them — and I was fine with watching her cautious little self stand back 15 feet and loft a stone in the air. She wasn’t going in or even near it. No sir, water was not for her. Oh, I still watched her like a hawk, but all of my anxiety rested in her gutsy sister who didn’t know a thing about swimming or going under water.
Needless to say, we didn’t stay long. I had to get a break from the constant worry. But it is summer, so it wasn’t long until we were faced with another water situation and a confident girl who was determined to get in the pool. It was clear that I wasn’t going to avoid this, so I signed them both up for swim lessons.
Originally, my thought was Reagan needed them the most. However, at the first class, Reagan was a little fish. She quickly learned the safety entrance from the side of the pool and was kicking, floating and blowing out birthday candles to make bubbles. She even bravely jumped off of the side, and the instructor let her go under.
I almost freaked out for the entire millisecond she was under. But she came up, wiped her eyes and said, “I want to do it again!” I frantically asked if she was OK. The instructor just smiled at me and said, “Look at her, she is fine!” And she hasn’t stopped going under since.
Maylie, on the other hand, refused to enter the water. She cried and innocently asked me why I was making her do this. She was so afraid. I put my hand on her chest and told her I understood but we were going to overcome the fear together. Promising her I would never let anything happen to her, I tried to encourage her, saying we had this. I was right there with her. I finally got her to sit on the side of pool and at least practice kicking with me.
But that was as far as it got. Half of an hour goes quick so I told the instructor to just focus on Reagan this class. While I anxiously watched my brave baby kick after floating fishes, I looked over at my Maylie and understood exactly how she felt.
What if she can’t do it? What if she doesn’t know how to breathe out or hold her breath? What if the instructor lets go and she can’t touch?
It was then that I realized that these swim lessons were for me as well. Regardless of how much I want to hold Reagan back, I have to let her experience new things — but I can prepare her. I had to release my fear and let her go. And I did, but I wore it on my sleeve and sweet Maylie picked it up. I had to do better.
Because of my work schedule, our awesome sitter took the girls to their second class where Maylie didn’t advance much. By the third lesson, I decided it was time to take some additional steps to overcome her fear.
After talks, prayers and encouragement, I picked her up and dragged her to the pool. She finally agreed to get in herself. She did the safety entrance and uneasily grabbed the instructor’s hands. Then, she kicked from one side of the pool to the other. And then she did it again. By the end of lesson three, she even jumped in and went under.
She went from hating swim lessons to loving them. And I went from being terrified with my baby in or around a pool to being able to breathe a bit. We still have a way to go until they are fully swimming on their own, but they are improving every class.
As for Maylie and I, well, we may have already learned the most important lesson of swim class. And we are ready to jump in and overcome our next fear — together.
Sarah (Pitson) Shrader was born and raised in Lima. She is a Lima Central Catholic and Tiffin University graduate. Sarah is a full-time working mama who enjoys writing about her somewhat crazy, always adventurous life as a mother. She lives in Bath Township with her husband, Paul, and their daughters, her writing inspirations, Maylie and Reagan.