Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Maylin's magic day at the pool

Last weekend, John convinced me in joining him and Maylin in a family outing to the public pool, knowing that Mommy would give Maylin some extra confidence. Last year, John took her to the pool about three times, to mixed reviews. The last visit, as I recall, ended in screams and tears. I can imagine. John put her into the pool when she wasn't mentally ready to go in. I saw him doing that before. It's terrible to see a kid in the pool against their own will. I told John I wouldn't go if he was going to continue forcing her in. That just doesn't work with some kids. Besides, I have had bad memories of public pools and swimming, in general, myself -- having feared every moment under water and having failed every swimming lesson I ever took. How many times did those instructors quickly strip away that teeny ounce of trust I had in them that took so long to develop by dunking me in the pool, despite their promises not to do so?

With the agreement set, we set off for the neighborhood public pool -- a 10-15 minute walk away. We paid 6 euros for the three of us, took off our shoes and socks like everyone else on the benches, and then entered the co-ed locker rooms. The free lockers were cool -- your choice of lime green or banana yellow pods, which automatically open and shut after you type in the locker number and your chosen code. We changed in lockable changing rooms, and of course, had access to private toilets, but public showers (everyone kept their bathing suits on, thank goodness). We also donned our required rubber bathing caps which you could purchase from a vending machine if you forgot to bring your own. Finally, it was time to enter the pool area. John opened the door and I thought, "This is great." It was quite a nice facility. An indoor pool with several dozens of meters of glass from floor to ceiling, allowing natural light to enter and providing for a more natural ambience with our connection to the world outside. I'm more accustomed to unending stretches of cinderblock walls. There was the a large lap pool for the adults and young adults, and the shallow kiddie pool for the families. It was crowded, but not uncomfortably crowded. I could usually move around without bumping into somebody.

We let Maylin set her own pace. She didn't want the swimming cap on. We didn't force her. She wanted to stay seated on the stairs at the shallowest end of the pool. We let her be. We sat next to her, played with the water together, showed her we could sit on a deeper step with no problems. Eventually, we were able to carry her into the pool and move to the deeper end and back. She enjoyed that and the piggy-back rides. One or two hours later, I stayed in the deep end with her -- we hugged each other and bounced up and down for the longest time. She loved that. After that session, she was ready for some solitary activity. We all went back to our "stations" at the stairs. Maylin quietly moved away from us, interacted with other children, found a boy to splash with, and then proceeded to "test the waters" on her own. She developed a rhythm where she would enter the pool from the stairs, and continue walking as far as she could while keeping in contact with the wall until she couldn't touch the pool bottom anymore. She would then, climb out, walk back to the stairs, and repeat the same thing over and over again. She eventually gained the confidence (or maybe she was forced to do it -- there were so many people on her end now) to leave the side of the pool, and venture into the unknown. We were amazed and proud. One time, she went a little too far, got a mouthful of water, and panicked -- reaching for the shoulder of the closest human being, a nice mother who brought her to John, who went in to get her. After that, she stayed near the wall, but I'm sure the next pool trip, she'll be able to regain her confidence and try to be daring again.

She didn't want to leave the pool. We were there for nearly four hours when I finally convinced her to get out -- the pool was closing!

I'm glad she had a positive experience. I had one, too. Glad John made me go. John and I got in some nice cuddle time, too. The pool can be a very romantic place, even with all the kids splashing you in the face.

No comments: