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Girl Goes To A Swim Class - Again

Madeleine went to bed after her first swim
class (see yesterday’s entry) calmly declaring her preference
of not going to swim class the next day. We’d talked about
it, and she’d agreed that though she didn’t like it
she’d give it one more try. But she’d prefer not to.

We almost gave her what she requested, but in the end Brian and I
decided to have her try one more day, to see if it got any easier.

It didn’t.

The second day was a near-identical repeat
of the first, with a few exceptions: first, she knew what to
expect, and started whimpering before the teacher even came to get
her; second, she was a bit more used to and trusting of the
teacher, and so cried a bit less as the lesson went on; and third,
a bully in the class made fun of her crying several times, which
made her cry harder.

So yes, it was a bit of a triumph – more trust with the
teacher – but mostly an apparently useless painful exercise.
I stared, astonished, as the boy – a five-year-old
technically too old for the class and nearly twice her age, with
FIFTEEN WEEKS of daily swim classes under his belt – turned
to my daughter’s red, panicked, screaming face, and smirked,
“WAAAAAHHHHH!” at her. Over and over. I’m telling
you, I’ve never been a fan of hitting kids, but I wanted to
punch him in the face. And the bully knew he was doing wrong, since
he only did it when the teacher was on the other side of the pool
and couldn’t hear him. Maddie kept staring at him with a
hurt, uncomprehending face; she’s never been in stress before
and come in contact with anything other than sympathy and kindness.
She’s never encountered meanness for the sake of being mean,
and didn’t see how he could take joy in her pain.

At the end of the session, Maddie was comfortable enough with her
teacher to tell her excitedly about a friend’s upcoming
birthday party, which is huge progress for my girlie. The teacher
recognized this and told me it was up to us – leave Maddie in
the class she’s in and let her just cry her way through it,
hoping it’ll get better and easier as the weeks go on; or
move her into a class specifically designed for kids afraid of the
water. The teacher’s only concern about the “water
bug” class is that at least one child in it is deathly afraid
of the water, and screams in terror the whole time, though they
never leave the steps. Not really what Maddie needs to be seeing,
you know?

In the end I came up with yet another option – having Maddie
take a few private lessons from the teacher. That way she can build
up trust with the woman and move at her own pace, without any more
advanced, older, bullying kids around and without any lesson plan
pressure. Then later in the summer we can put her into another
class identical to the one she’s in now, but with all new
kids – a clean slate for her.

I asked Maddie what she’d like to do now, saying,
“Would you like to go back to swim class tomorrow?”
“No, I would not,” she said politely but firmly around
her Silky. “Well, would you like to take a different class
with your teacher, that’s just the two of you, and no
pressure to do anything hard?” Maddie thought, and said
definitively, “That would be a very good idea. I would like

So we’ll see what we do. I know she’s interested,
because she spent the rest of the day at our pool showing me
everything she’s learned (in between screams) in swim class;
it’s simply getting over her fear. And when I asked her what
she was most afraid of, she replied, “I’m afraid
something will happen to me because you’re not there to
protect me.”

Those are the statements that make me want to wrap her tight in her
mermaid towel and never put her down again.


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