Tuesday, September 23, 2008


I just returned from being the Helper Mommy for Bambina's preschool swim lessons. Oh my hell. A few thoughts:

Do you ever wonder if your kid's preschool teachers are paid enough for the work they do? Short answer: They're not. They are soooo not paid anywhere near what they deserve. There were three of us and 10 kids under the age of 5, and we damn near didn't make it out alive; that's all I'm sayin'.

Trying to herd 10 little kids down stairs, down a hallway, down more stairs, into a locker room, get their clothes off, get towels in hands, into the pool area, then out of the pool, dried off, clothes back on, wet stuff in bags, socks and shoes on, bags on shoulders, back up the stairs, down the hall, up the stairs, and into the classroom ready to begin a new activity...well, it ain't easy. Every little thing catches their attention, one kid forgot his underpants so is standing playing with his willy while I'm trying to get his pants on ("Can you move your hand so we can get your pants on, Jacob?"), one kid can't put her shirt on, one kid cannot sit still and wants to stare at any adults getting changed in the locker room ("Staring is not polite, Benjamin"), one kid wants to be at the front of the line, the other doesn't want to be holding his bag, the other can't carry her bag, the other also wants to be at the front of the line, drama between kids ensues, one kid keeps looking backwards while walking up the stairs, on and on and on. It's quite literally an exercise in futility, trying to ensure that no one gets lost, bloodied or gets their privates out in public in the space of one hour.

And then there was Bambina. Terrified of the water ever since she got dunked over the summer. And, as you know from your own adult fears but which we seem to forget when we are dealing with kids, you cannot reason someone out of their fears. You cannot explain to someone why they really shouldn't be afraid. You cannot get mad at them for being afraid as if they are willfully just trying to ruin your day. Fear is what it is; it's real to the person feeling it, and you can't dismiss it just because you aren't similarly afraid. But it's surprising how much and how often we try to do just that with kids, even though we'd leave our husbands if that was continually their reaction to any of our own fears. (As Bambina's awesome teacher said, "Sometimes we forget that these little people have only been on this earth for 4 years. Not a long time, and they are just really learning and things are still very big and scary for them. We need to give them a break from the expectations that they'll have all these finely developed social skills and physical skills and academic skills, when what they need to be doing is being kids." This is why I love her teacher.)

Anyway. So there was Bambina the Banshee. And, luckily, then there was Nathan. Nathan looks like Jesus. Not that that matters to Bambina, us being Jewish and all. But I find myself wondering if he might just walk on that water someday... ;) Anyway, Nathan is a burly and sweet lifeguard who--I kid you not--conducted the entire swim lesson with Bambina doing the deathgrip on his neck the entire time. He just put her on his back, with her arms around his neck, and worked with the other kids while she floated, attached to his body. I damn near kissed him on the lips, my friends. The key is keeping her in the water, getting her comfortable in the water, and he did just that. It also doesn't hurt that she weighs less than your beagle, so it's not a huge load for big ole Nathan to hump. But, Bambina the Albatross or not, he was amazing. So I have signed her up for 5 private lessons with our friend (and swimming messiah?) Nathan. My goal for these lessons? Phelpsian skills? Nope. The dog paddle? Nope. Simply, I want to dial down the threat level from "terror-stricken" to "just plain scared."

If we get there, Nathan might just find himself with another Haggis girl wrapped around him in gratitude.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I have a 7-year-old who was similarly if not quite to that degree afraid of the water (getting her face wet/going underwater was her phobia). I took it upon myself when she was six to just take her to the pool every day with no pressure to perform anything, just to make it a more comfortable, usual thing to be in the water. She was swimming inside 2 weeks.

This may not work if Bambina just doesn't want to get in the water at all...hope it helps!