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Shades Of Potty Training

Summer’s here again, and we’re
back to hot-weather pursuits, namely, swimming. And with the return
of chlorine and pool toys comes Maddie’s good friend, Fear of
Putting the Face in the Water.

If you’ve been with me for a year or more, you know that last
year we ended up putting Maddie in private swim lessons most of the
summer; the group thing didn’t work out when Maddie’s
grave concerns with the water took up most of the
instructor’s time. By the end of the season Maddie was
happily jumping into the pool – as long as Daddy was there to
catch her and make sure her face didn’t go under water.

I’d hoped she’d spring
forward, but Maddie pretty much picked up where she left off. She
spent the winter practicing blowing bubbles in the bath tub, so
that’s still coming along, but she refuses to jump in at all
now and strongly desires not to put her head under water.

Let’s be clear that this is not a fear of water itself:
Maddie will put on water wings and happily swim all over the pool
all by herself. She will splash in the baby pool for hours, and
begs to stay longer in the bathtub. No, this is a fear of losing
control, of getting water in the ears, of swallowing water –
something – that makes the wet head thing completely
unpalatable. Both the water thing and potty training come back to
one thing – loss of control – that worries Maddie. Our
pediatrician has assured me that this is normal, and indeed is the
sign of a highly intelligent child.

Which means that she’ll get a scholarship to Harvard, but
probably not as part of the swim team.

At any rate, we’ve got to get Maddie past this, both for
water safety and so she doesn’t become captive to her fear,
so we’ve resorted to that tried and true parental tool
– bribery. We’re offering Maddie one Thomas dollar
every time she goes all the way under water, and when she’s
earned ten Thomas dollars she gets to pick out a new Thomas train.
Not surprisingly, Maddie is suddenly resigned to going under water,
and has gone under six times in the past two days.

You’d think this would be the beginning of the end with the
water fear, but I’ve been down this road before with my
eldest child, and it’s simply the beginning of bigger and
bigger bribes. I remember when we did rewards for Maddie using the
potty: go a whole day, and go pick out a toy. Which she would
easily do, then return to using her pull-ups. We upped it to going
two whole days, which she again easily did – until she got
her reward and reverted to pull-ups. So my guess is that
she’s focusing single-mindedly on getting a new engine, and
when that’s achieved she’ll be back to being Dry-Hair

So I’m reminding myself that the only thing that worked with
potty training was time – lots of it – and patience
– LOTS of it. And I know that if we can simply grit our teeth
and walk that fine line of playing it casual while still being
positive and encouraging, she’ll eventually be ready to step
up and take the literal plunge. After all, no one ever went to
college without jumping into a pool, right?

In the meantime, I’m getting ready to be suckered out of
quite a bit of Thomas dollars.


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