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Mommy's Little Water Baby

Summer is officially here, and Madeleine’s discovering the joy of water.

I’ve been wanting to get her into swim classes at the YMCA (might as well put that monthly membership fee to good use!) for a while now, but it occurred to me that I might simply take her into the pool on my own, and save myself a bit of embarrassment if she screamed like a banshee when entering the water for the first time.

So I planned carefully (shocking, I know) the day I would take her to the pool for the first time.  Baby swim cap (required by the gym) purchased?  Check.  Baby swim suit, and swim diaper purchased?  Check.  Swimsuit for mommy tried on to make sure mommy won’t weep in the locker room?  Check.  I picked a day when I wasn’t working later, in case it was traumatic.  I knew it’d be a tight fit, getting to the gym for Family Swim Time (the only time they allow people under 18 into the pool outside of a class) because Maddie’s nap runs pretty close to it, and then comes lunch.  So while she napped I had her lunch all made, swimsuit laid out, bag packed, ready to go.

Well, life happens, and one super-long nap, ill-fitting diaper, parking-spot-stealer, and line-to-check-into-the-gym jumper later, we were in the locker room with a mere five minutes left on Family Swim Time.  I crammed our gear into the locker and raced to the obligatory pre-swim shower.

Mistake number one:  not introducing Madeleine to a shower before this point.

Maddie screamed, everyone stared, it was not pretty.  One 30-second shower later, I hung up our towel, kicked off my flip-flops and eased myself down the ladder into the water.  One foot on the bottom rung, one foot on the pool floor, and I hear a lifeguard say to me, “Lady, Family Swim Time just ended.  Get out of the pool.”

Always knowing the best thing to do in a tense situation, Madeleine began screaming.  She’d had it with the rushed lunch, the scary shower, the locker room where Mommy wouldn’t let her put her feet on the (athlete’s foot-infested) floor, everything.  She let loose and enjoyed the phenomenal acoustics afforded by the combination of a high ceiling and the amplifying power of water.  Everyone stared, I sighed, and we went home.

I clearly did not plan enough, and am mommy enough to admit it.  I missed that crucial “introduce kid to shower” step.

The next day, Maddie and Mommy began showering together.  It took a few times of palsied shaking and frantic Mommy-climbing but now she loves the shower.  Which is good, because the whole sprinkler concept is kind of hard to miss during summer days, which is another reason I needed to make sure she was ok with the whole “water falling evenly from the sky” thing.

For her birthday (did I mention she turned 1 recently?) Maddie received a Little Tidepool outside water play area, replete with mini sprinklers.  It stores very small, is easy (read – no inflation necessary) to set up, and isn’t too deep for Paranoid New Mommy’s comfort zone.  A couple showers under her belt and Maddie was ready to try the next step.  And you know what?

She loved it.

Maddie’s finally gotten the concept of Fun With Water, and she was squealing and splashing and stomping all over her little tidepool world.  Even her “massage” beforehand with SPF 50 didn’t dampen her excitement, and well, look at that flowered little hiney!

The tidepool led to Madeleine’s new obsession with her playground’s rainbow: it’s a metal rainbow with water spraying out of it continuously during hot summer days.  She’ll gaze longingly at it from the slides, sometimes pointing and speaking emphatically towards the fun.  The end of our park time now includes heading over to the rainbow and putting all four limbs in for a good sprinkling.  And I’m sure when her walking independently is more solid, she’ll be running back and forth through it shrieking with all the other neighborhood kids.

All of this, though, was simply a warm up for The Gym Pool – Round Two.  And last week we made it back to the gym.  Short nap, easy lunch, second towel on the gym floor for Maddie to stand on, a shower that didn’t even slow us down, and we were there.

At the ladder.

I eased in cautiously, slowly letting the cool water lap at her body.  She looked apprehensive and we stood there, hugging, for a few minutes.  Her teeth chattered a few times and she kicked her leg reflexively.  It splashed back down in the water.

She looked down.  What was that splash?  Is that . . . water?

When Madeleine realized she was in a big giant bathtub, it was instantaneous love.   We swam.  We splashed.  We hung off the edge and pulled ourselves in and out.  She flipped on her belly and kicked wildly.  She lay, belly-up, on my belly as we floated down a lane.  We twirled around and around, trailing our hands and making ripples.  We jumped up and down, taking big moonwalk steps.

Maddie’s played with her tidepool several times now, and showers regularly.  The pool’s a bit more work for us but we’re trying to get it into a regular part of our weekly schedule.  To see my daughter in the locker room after her swim, nonchalantly standing on a towel and holding on to a bench, naked but for her Dora the Explorer swim diaper, you’d think she’s been doing this her whole life.

I might have created a monster.



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