I only took my eyes off her for a couple of seconds.
We were watching our two-year-old, Smiley, have her regular Saturday morning swimming lesson.
She was laughing and splashing on the pool’s ledge playing the role of class clown perfectly as she entertained the other kids with her antics.
I had glanced away momentarily to take in what was happening around me.
The pool is busy on a Saturday morning filled with adults and kids in a confined space. Nine times out of 10 there’s a handful of kids screaming at the top of their lungs as they refuse to go into the water. It’s noisy and hectic.
When I turned my gaze from the action on the sidelines back to the pool, I couldn’t see her. She wasn’t on the ledge where she was happily splashing just seconds before.
I leapt up and frantically scanned the pool as I teetered on the edge ready to jump in fully clothed. I spotted her under water not far from the ledge. Her little legs were paddling desperately trying to get her to the surface.
Her face appeared through the water, she spluttered and gulped for air, and went under again.
The chaos around me faded into nothingness as I stood watching her in horror. She was too far from the ledge to make her own way back. She cannot swim by any stretch of the imagination.
I screamed like a woman possessed to the teacher. She was across the other side of the pool with a kid oblivious to what was happening. It was not like Smiley to wander. She must have accidentally fallen in.
The teacher waded over to her, scooped her up and placed her on the ledge, where she gave her a right talking to. The teacher was in shock, we were in shock, and poor little Smiley was hysterical.
I looked to Dave who was sitting a couple of seats down from me. He had been distracted by Miss Four and hadn’t seen Smiley fall off the ledge. It occurred to me that if I hadn’t been watching her, if I hadn’t turned my gaze back to her at that time, the situation could have been a lot worse. She could have drowned in a public pool surrounded by adults.
Dave looked me in the eyes and shook his head. He knew I wanted to get her out of the pool and tell her she was alright. He was telling me telepathically that the teacher had the situation under control and if she needed me she would tell me. If I was to rush over to Smiley the lesson would be over for her and she may become even more upset.
I sat on the edge of my seat holding back tears attempting to be brave for Smiley, who was looking directly at me as she wailed. A stranger beside me rubbed my back attempting to distract me with light conversation.
When Miss Two realised we weren’t rescuing her, she pulled her goggles back down over her eyes and with a look of sheer determination, that strong little love of ours finished her lesson.
The experience has impacted her though.
She has gone from being an absolute mad dog in the pool, who used to love her swimming lessons and beg me to pack her swimmers for Nan’s house each week, to a child who is now afraid of putting her head under water.
The first time she went back, the teacher had to peel her off me. After about three minutes of hysterical crying the teacher told me she was making herself sick. We were to try again next week.
The following week I attempted to prepare her for her lesson talking about how fun swimming is and how important it is to learn how to swim.
She was not convinced … so I bribed her.
I bribed my two-year-old with the promise of a treat if she would get in the pool. She negotiated with me. Yes, my two-year-old negotiated with me. She would get in the pool for a lolly snake as long as she didn’t have to run along the floating mat. It was a deal and into the pool she went.
Fortunately, she was the only kid in her lesson that week which gave her the one-on-one attention she needed to help her feel at ease.
Alas, last weekend we were back to square one. As I attempted to wrestle her into her swimmers she kicked and screamed.
‘I will get you a treat at the corner shop,’ I attempted to bribe her again.
‘I don’t want a treat!’ she said adamantly.
I was screwed.
I wrangled her into her swimmers all the while remaining upbeat hoping and praying she couldn’t feel my body tensing.
As I placed her in the pool, I whispered words of encouragement in her ear.
A little boy ventured over and splashed her. She took her thumb out of her mouth with an agitated look on her face. He splashed her again. Her face broke into a smile as she splashed him back. She was back in the game.
She lasted half the lesson before climbing out of the pool and running into my arms. She is not yet ready to do anything that involves putting her head under water.
While we made a huge step forward last week, we have a long way to go. I wonder if we’re doing the right thing continuing with lessons, or whether or not we should take time off and start back when she’s older.
This parenting gig is tough, isn’t it?!
Have you had any scares with you or your kids around water? What would you do? How old were your kids when they started swimming lessons?
Linking up today with Essentially Jess for IBOT.