Tuesday, April 18, 2017
Today I am grateful for Charlie. I bet if I went through my blog and searched the word “jump”, I’d find dozens of references to it in various stories. Today will be another one. I don’t usually use names, but this time I’m making an exception.
Charlie is about three, with a round face pocked with dimples that look like they were drilled into his cheeks and huge eyes and dark hair. This kid is adorable. In September, when he started staying in the daycare at the YMCA he began group swimming lessons with me and the other instructors during that time period. Boy did he scream. Like a banshee! Like he was being stabbed. So loud that he couldn’t hear comfort from anyone even if we shouted directly in his ear.
When that first class was over we were all jostling at how to avoid him for the next class. We didn’t admit it, but we were. You have to situate yourself just so in order to not be on the end of the kid who causes you hearing loss. But not all of the instructors can be on one end. Someone has to take one for the team. So we’d switch off. It didn’t get much better.
After one particularly loud session, when the teacher was taking off his bubble and drying him off, I noticed she put a pair of thick lensed glasses on him and he quieted right down. “Aha moments” for me are much less grand that they are for Oprah. I asked the teacher if she would check with mom to see if we could keep those glasses on during swim lessons. Mom said yes, so we did. And he never cried again.
He tries very hard to do what is being asked of him and recently floated on his back without me helping him. Still with the bubble, but it’s still huge. For the last few weeks I’ve been trying to get him to jump in without my hands holding his. He stands, toes over the edge, wobbling and twitching like a cat about to pounce, flexing his fingers, like he’s squeezing oranges until I let him take my fingers. Only then would he jump.
Last week he was so close to doing it by himself. Yet there were those twitches, that anxious his glasses covered eyeball to my eyeball look of uncertainty. “Charlie,” I sad after the class was over last week. “Next week you will jump in by yourself.”
The lessons were over and it was time to jump. I had to pass him by and get the rest of the kids in first and out of the way. “Come on, Charlie! You’ve got this! I know you can do it. Show me.” He was not having it. Those little fingers clutching air with warp speed. I barely touched his fingers and he jumped. The teacher was so excited that she was videotaping to show mom. Everyone on the pool deck was focused on Charlie and me.
“That was close, but now climb out and do it again,” I said, as I shoved him towards the wall and he climbed out, hesitant. Encouragement is a slippery slope. You want to push a little, but not too much. At some point I let instinct take over and I KNEW Charlie was ready and anxious to do what all of his friends had done. Jump in.
“C’mon Charlie. You have this. I’m right here. I’m not going to let anything happen to you. I’m right here. Just push off with your toes and jump!” Repeat that for five minutes. This is the turning point. If I let him off the hook now, it will be much, much longer before he’ll try again. Patience is vital. His and mine. I repeat my mantra over and over while he wobbles and leans and almost. . .almost jumps. Then he does! And I’m ready. I slip the noodle under his armpits to the cheers of everyone in the pool area. Including me. He is beaming.
“Fantastic! You did it!” I am holding him and jumping up and down with him in my arms so fast and furious, sing-songing, “I’m so proud of youuu, I’m so proud of youuuu!” that we are causing a tsunami.
“Now climb out and do it again!” I am relentless and using the moment to full advantage. And he does. Proud? Him? Those glasses almost popped to his eyebrows because of his smiling cheeks, with the dimples deeper than ever. BING! Heartprint!