Learning the Lesson

Our J started swimming lessons a few weeks ago. After screaming for the entire 30 minute lesson, he had formed an attachment to his teacher, and once I pried him off my body, I could finally get him to swim with her. For that reason I knew it was important to maintain consistency, so after thawing out from the Arctic blast that descended on Texas last week, we headed to swimming class.

When we arrived, they informed us that J would have a substitute teacher that day. Totally understandable. To me. J was not so pleased. As we waited for his brother to finish his lesson, he kept telling me he didn’t want to swim, that it was time to go home, that it was not his turn today. As we got closer and closer to his lesson, he became more and more upset. So I wondered. Am I doing the right thing? Should we just leave? Because as much as I believe that our children can do hard things, I also know that change for a 2 year old is h.a.r.d. I decided we should go for it even if he only made it half the lesson. As I was putting him into his swim diaper, he made one last swipe at my heart. “Sing me a song Mommy,” he said in his most wobbly-I’m -trying-to-keep-it-together voice. Except it sounded like “Ting me a tong, Mommy” making it that much more pitiful.

He would not release his grip on me so I peeled him off my body, convinced him to hold my hand, and walked him to the side of the pool. I told him in my brightest and most confident voice that I would see him soon, and then I left. Parenting is hard, y’all.

I was helping W change into dry clothes and trying to keep an ear to the pool, but I didn’t hear anything. I must be too far away I thought. Surely he’s not swimming quietly. Surely he’s screaming his head off in there. But he wasn’t. He wasn’t! Once I got back to the observation window there he was peacefully floating, following directions, and dare I say even smiling.

There was indeed a lesson to be learned that day, but it wasn’t intended for J. It was aimed straight at me. As my dear friend who was watching this all unfold so wisely stated, “sometimes they just surprise us.” But how can they if we don’t give them the chance? How can they be brave if we don’t let them try? How can they experience pride in their successes if we never give them the opportunity to try something difficult?

J had an incredible lesson. He bonded with his instructor. He sang the little songs all afternoon. He was proud. I’m so glad that my own fears didn’t prevent his heart from soaring, because the joy that came from the struggle was worth it. I’m sure both of us would agree on that.

Find the joy,


Jessica McCauley, M.Ed. is a parenting coach/consultant. She draws on her background as a Montessori educator and Child Life Specialist to help families navigate the challenges of the early childhood years. Contact Jessica at http://smallhandsbigsteps.com/contact/ for more information or to schedule a consultation.