I watch him move through the water, slowly, methodically. Fingers together, hands cupping the water, one arm overhead, then the other, deliberate movements prompted from instructions from further down in the pool. He has better form than I do, and I’ve got 30 years on him. He’s focused (mostly) on what the instructor is telling him, and he works on his form, on trying side breathing, on the little adjustments that go beyond “learning to swim” and move into “becoming a swimmer.”
He works through his lesson well, mostly paying attention and following directions well. And then he’s done–signified by the instructor throwing him up in the air (this is apparently required by every kid in the place, judging by how many little kids are suddenly up in the air before making a big splashdown). He gets out of the big pool, and comes over and when I say “Good job buddy!” he says “Well, it was a little bit not ok. I got frustrated when I couldn’t do the new thing without help.” And then before I can really say much of anything, he’s off into the little pool, to play and splash around like a spastic four year old.
When J was really little, someone wrote something (it may have been a comment on a blog post somewhere, I don’t actually remember) talking about how the worries of infant-hood change pretty quickly, and someday you’ll look back and wonder why you were so freaked out over whether your baby was breastfed or formula fed or did CIO or not or whatever other things you worry about so incessantly when you have a baby (barring illnesses or other health stuff of course). It wasn’t meant to be diminishing, in fact it was more supposed to be along the lines of “this too shall pass and you’ll all make it through this” which is how I always took it. And clearly, it stuck with me, because here I am, with a 4.5 year old and I still remember that sentiment.
Sometimes, when I’m in the middle of whatever thing I’m mentally wrapped up in as a parent, that sentiment comes to mind, and gives a dose of perspective. It’s held true from infant-hood, to toddler-hood, to preschooler-hood, and I can guess that it continues that way. Because the challenges of parenting don’t go away, they change and morph to fit the stage that your kid is in at that moment. Where once I worried about nursing, then I worried about potty training, then I worried about hitting, now I worry about…all the things I worry about. I’m sure in a year the things I’ll worry about will make this stuff seem mild in comparison.
This weekend was challenging with the kiddo. We had some behavior issues, and some of them in quite a public forum, which just amplifies my already present feelings of “I’m totally screwing this parenting thing up.” Nothing like the judgment of strangers to magnify all the things you’re already worrying about! Anyway, after a series of events that had me frustrated, embarrassed, angry, and worried, I took some time to chill out at Target (walking the aisles by myself is soothing, shut up), and then spent some time talking with N.C. about the kiddo, and our parenting, and some things for us to try, work on, or do differently. In the course of all this, one of us said, “Are we ever going to get this?” and the thing is that, no. It’s never going to be the same, it’s always going to be some new challenge or worry or whatever, because kids are little PEOPLE who are trying to figure out themselves and the world, just like us but without 30 years of experience and knowledge to draw on.
All we can do is keep doing our best, and remember that we’ll make it through this, that we love him, that he’s a good kid, and that because we care we’ll always make it a priority to keep TRYING to figure it out.
He’s turning into this little kid who says things and does things that I don’t know how to deal with. I fumble my way through parenting him on a daily basis, and there are times when I think, “man, if there WAS a test you had to take before having kids, I’d have failed it for sure.” But he keeps growing up, whether I know how to deal with these new challenges or not, and so I have to hang on, and do what I can do, and hope I get it right more than I get it wrong.
“I’m really proud of how hard you were working during your swim lesson today. You did a really good job of listening, and trying your best.”
“Well, but I got a little mad frustrated when I couldn’t do the new part without help.”
“I know buddy, but it’s ok to get frustrated. And it’s ok to need help. I’m just proud that you kept trying.”
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