Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Sink or Swim

Yesterday was perfect pool weather in Florida.  It's May, and the temperatures are already creeping up towards 90 degrees.  After school, I helped Ben change into his swim trunks, and we jumped in the car and headed to our community pool.  Because, you see, I'm determined that this is the year that he will learn to swim.

As with all things, Ben does things on his own timetable.  When he learns to do something, it is usually far behind his peers, but it seems to happen practically overnight.  Potty training was a disaster for months, until finally I let it rest and tried again right before his Pre-K year.  Suddenly, in the matter of a couple of days he was fully trained.  As in, never had an accident in the car, never had an accident during the night, never.  Completely dry, every time.  Lucky, I know!  

When we arrived at the pool, I had explained to Ben that this summer he was a big boy, so there would be no more floaties.  We brought a kick board with us, and, as we eased into the water, I pulled his little body prone on the board.  At first he leaned heavily on my arms, but gradually I encouraged him to trust the board.  Within minutes, I was no longer holding the board, and he was happily steering the board from one side of the pool to the other.  

And then, he wanted to venture into deep water.  My initial reaction was to hold back.  I'm a pretty strong swimmer myself, but how would he react if he lost hold of the board and plunged all the way under?  This is a kid who hates getting his hair wet, so you can imagine how shower time goes in our house.  However, I fought back my feelings of worry and said, "Go for it, buddy!"  And off he kicked, slowly at first, but gaining speed.  "Almost there....almost there!" he shouted with glee.  "I did it!" he yelled proudly has he grabbed for the ladder on the other side.  As he pulled his long, lanky body out of the water, I realized my little boy was growing up.  I flashed forward in my mind to him riding a bike without training wheels, to driving a car... There will be so many moments when I will have to strike the balance between supporting him just enough so that he can gain his confidence, and then letting him go on his own.  

A few minutes later we called Daddy from work and told him to stop by the pool on his way home.  When Daddy came, he watched proudly as Ben kicked across the pool as I watched from a close distance away.  In his zeal to show off, the board slipped away, and Ben was caught in the deep water alone with no supports.  For a few seconds, Ben managed to tread water, keeping his head above before he slipped under the surface.  Quickly I grabbed him up, but not before he'd gone completely under.  I watched to see how he would react.  He sputtered and sprayed water out of his mouth and then, to my surprise, a huge grin flashed across his face.  "You did it!"  I exclaimed proudly.  "You swam all by yourself!"  

Every day for Ben consists of treading water in the deep end.  Every day he navigates through social situations that used to cause him to drown and sink to the bottom.  He must fight to stay regulated as his sensory systems are assaulted by the process of living.  This year we've provided him with lots of supports that have helped him to stay afloat, but gradually he is shedding those and learning to swim on his own.  As his mom, I am proud to stand beside him, ready to catch him when his head goes under.  The hardest part is knowing how long to let him swim alone before I jump in to help.  Too often, I jump in too soon, because he has shown me, time and again, that he can do it on his own, if only I would give him the chance.

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