Monday, July 11, 2005

what success looks like...

Yesterday S dunked his head in the water 7 times! This is big. This is huge and monumental.
Because S hates getting water in his eyes.
In the shower or bath, washing his hair is a chore that includes regular towel dabs to his eyes in order to get through rinses. And not only does he need those dabs, they're accompanies by piercing shrieks and screams.
"I've got water in my eyes! You did it to me again, Mommy!"
or just simply...
"Water in eyes, water in eyes!!!!"
And T has started doing it, too, even though she doesn't mind the water that much, but because her little sister status necessitates that she do whatever S does.

Needless to say, learning to swim has been very, very difficult because it really is quite a challenge to swim without getting your face wet.

I've tried a lot of different approaches to get him to swim. I've spent countless hours in the pool coaching, "paddle, paddle, paddle, kick, kick, kick." I've told him how much I love to swim and let him ride on my back in the pool. I've told him that he needed to swim in order to be safe, in order to go to kindergarten (okay, that's not exactly true, but I'm going to use peer pressure to my advantage for as long as possible), and I even tried to tell him that if he didn't start swimming soon, T was going to learn before him. That gave him a shiver, but he got over it.
"That's okay," he said. "I don't like getting my face wet."

So then I had no other choice. I committed the cardinal sin of parenting.

Warning: Those of you perfect parents out there may want to stop reading at this point.

I bribed my young son. With toys. Trashy ones. B was appalled.

"Listen," I told S. "You have to learn how to swim. If you learn to swim across the pool, I'll buy you anything you want." B gasped. But I felt confident in S's love for small, inexpensive, plastic toys. I could bribe him with the world at that price. And really, when you think about it, what is really wrong with offering a little extra incentive? I mean, I wouldn't continue to show up at work everyday if I weren't offered a monetary incentive, no matter how intellectually stimulating it is sometimes or how many free sodas I'm offered.

"I could get a Dash?" He asked. For those of you who aren't in the know, Dash is Dashiell Robert Parr, Incredible and Boy Super. "I really want Dash, but that's too hard," S said.

I took a breath. "Okay," I told him, "if you can dunk your head in the water as many times to feel comfortable, you can have a Dash. And when you can swim across the pool, you can have the rest of The Incredibles." B groaned.

So we headed out to the pool and though S didn't seem sure about this whole plan, he first watched B dunk himself and then he took a deep breath and dunked his own self under the water with his dad. And when he came up, he sputtered and wiped his eyes and smiled. And then he did it again and again. And there was no mention the whole time of Dash or any of his plastic family members, just a lot of shrieking, "Hey! Watch this!" as S when under again and again. S suddenly felt too big to play in the wading pool with T and wanted to practice his kicking. And then he even jumped off the side of the pool into our arms, making huge splashes that got into everyone's eyes. He was amazed by himself and of what he could do. First a dunk, and then who knows what would be next? He was proud of himself and I felt triumphant.

Later that night, after tucking both S and Dash into bed, we told him again how proud we were of him. He smiled, pleased with himself. And then, as we turned out the light and said goodnight, S sat up and said, "Mommy, I know that if I swim across the pool, I get the rest of the Incredibles, but I bet I could really get a lot if I swam across and back!"

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