Thursday, October 8, 2015
Today I am grateful for my hearing. At least I will be when it comes back in my left ear. We have started a new swimming session for the daycare kids at the Y. That always presents a challenge. . .to my patience and my hearing.
The kids we had from last year forgot every single thing we taught them. My co-teacher is a bit new at this and looked like a deer in headlights. “Are you okay?” I asked over the din. She opened her eyes further. . .white-all-around the pupils. “Ah. . .this is your first time with the first session of the year, isn’t it?” She said she just didn’t want them to see her fear. An admirable goal that she met.
We had three newbies. One swam like a fish and got moved up almost immediately. Another one loves being in the water, but has frozen joints and muscles like a robot. She’ll be fine if we can un-clench her.
Then there was the screamer. Wow. She let her bubble get put on and sat on the blue line as requested, but after that she just wasn’t having it. “I HATE SWIM!” she screamed a billion times, snot and drool mixing with tears and terror. It took two of us to even get her toes wet. “Look at all of the kids having fun,” the lifeguard repeated gently over and over.
I’m becoming an expert on screaming. I can tell the “I’m being a brat, today” scream from the “I’m sick and want to go home” scream. I have no patience for the “brat” scream and I can cut a break for the probably sick kid alone as much as possible. I can also tell the “I don’t trust you at all” scream from the “I’m terrified and I’m sure you are going to kill me” scream. I can work with the “I don’t trust you” scream and usually it ends quite quickly as I dig in my bag of confidence building tricks. Today’s little girl had the terrified scream. That’s the most difficult to deal with. You have to put yourself in their skin. . .and mind. . .and they are probably thinking “first they haul me off to daycare all day long and now they’re throwing me in a huge pool of water with another stranger? Seriously? No way!”
While she is kicking at me. . .screaming at the decibel of an air raid siren, I have to convince her that I won’t kill her. . .that I can be trusted. But she’s wailing so loudly she can’t even hear me and I was using my best stuff. I forgot a sound like that could come out of a four-year-old girl. There is no sound in the world like it. Plus, a terrified four-year-old girl can also cause considerable injury to a pudgy old lady. I don’t want her to bite me. It’s my job to not let her.
When I finally pried her fingers off the edge of the pool, I hugged her so tightly that I’m surprised she had enough breath for those screams. I was clawed, kicked and pinched. I’m sure I flashed more breast flesh than is appropriate as she clutched and yanked at my swimming suit. Moving her far away from the other kids I kept my voice even and said, “I promise I will be with you. You are safe. The pool is fun.” She was not convinced. “I HATE SWIM!”
So I sang to her. The A-B-C song. It’s usually distracting enough so that kids forget to cry. “I HATE SWIM!!!!! I HATE A-B-C!!!! BRWYYAHASCREACHWAHAAAHHHAAA!” She wasn’t having any of it. I tried my go-to song for girls, “Twinkle, twinkle little star. . .” More screams. “I HATE TWINKLE!!!!!” Everyone is a critic!
I scooped up the warm water and rubbed it on her too-hot-from-screaming-back. You would have thought I dumped acid on her. What lungs! I look at swimming as a necessary skill, not an optional one, so I’m willing to persist with patience. This time. Ask me another day and I’ll be confessing to passing her off on the lifeguard. A solution for me. . .not the lifeguard. Ha-ha.
Near the end of the class we have the kids jump in the pool, onto noodles, so they can play independently with beach balls. We knew that wouldn’t work with this girl so I got two noodles and slipped them under her arms and dragged her with me wearing enough flotation devices to walk on water. We were practically levitating.
I didn’t let go and the wails eventually subsided, sort of, turning into screams of “SWIM IS OVER!!!! I AM OVER!! I HATE SWIM!!!” The lifeguard blew the whistle for the end of class. At least I think she blew it. I couldn’t say for sure because my hearing isn’t quite back in my left ear. Maybe tomorrow.