Today was LittleBird’s first swimming lesson at the YMCA. It was both of our first time in the pool there (at least since my parents took me me in the 80s, and I’m fairly certain it’s been renovated a touch since then). She’s closing in on three now (2 more months!), and the husband and I thought it was about time to get her in the pool.
We made it through town at rush hour and arrived on time (no small feat). We made it through the noisy gamut of the locker room full of moms and kids in various stages of wet undress (even more harrowing).
We sat down at the tiled edge of the pool, and in the 3 seconds I spent taking off my flip-flops, LittleBird had slipped right into and back out of the pool.
She was surprised… it was deeper and colder than she thought, and LittleBird was out of it faster than I could say, “Wait for Mama!” I would have been terrified if I’d had the time—right into the water, right over her head, and right back out. All I could do was help her the rest of the way back onto the edge and sheepishly direct my “Wow! I didn’t even see you go in!” halfway towards the lanky teenage girl on life-guard duty.
Once the class started, she was nervous. She chanted intermittently for the first 5 minutes of splashing and singing in a circle, “I want to go back, I want to go back,” and refused to loosen her grip on my arms to splash with the other kids. But through all those nerves, it was clear she really didn’t want to go–the smile was plastered on, the eyes were wide, and her gaze was fixed on the water and the 8 pairs of legs splashing around her.
We practiced jumping from the edge into the mom’s arms, and she never hesitated, just launched herself at me. We practiced floating on our backs, and though her long, long legs were jack-knifed oddly in the air, and her blonde, pigtailed head was raised tensely above the water, she shouted, “I’m doing it!” Slow and steady floppy kicks, deep and ineffective scrabbles with her arms and paws… and then the prettiest, most elegant frog kicks I’ve ever seen.
Afterwards, we talked about how brave, how much fun, what a good time, all those post-new-thing things you say to an almost-three year old. Later, right before bed, I said, “I had so much fun with you, my love. I can’t wait to go swimming again.” She said, “I went in the water!” A pause. “I needed help. Can we do it again?”
I don’t know what metaphor for life and challenge and faith and optimism this all makes in my head, but all of it is staying with me hours later.
She was fearless, surprised by unexpected depths and took it in stride. She was nervous, but smiled through it. She knew she needed help and told me when to hold more tightly. She jumped. She didn’t care what she looked like. She was awkward and surprisingly instinct-driven, in her reactions and her actions.
She was excited to just get in the water and see what happened.
She wants to do it all again.