into the deep end

This weekend was so busy that I’m going to have to cut this into two separate posts. The most important news item first… (dun-dun-DUUUN!!!)

Catie is no longer afraid of the swimming pool.

Trust me, this is huge.

A month ago, I had to bribe her to just to get her to stick her feet in the water. We’ve been to the pool a few times since then, and each time she’s gotten gradually a little more comfortable, but she still wouldn’t go past the two steps that lead into the pool. I didn’t push it that much. I figured that this was all just practice, and that next summer she’d be more comfortable.

Yesterday, we had my cousin and her gang come swimming with us. Elizabeth is probably just about as chicken as Catie is about the water. But you can use logic with Elizabeth (a skill Catie has yet to master), so I stood in the two-feet deep shallow end of the pool and showed Elizabeth, “Look, see, the water only comes up to here on me? And you’re way taller than this, so the water won’t be over your head if you come off the steps!” It worked. Elizabeth stood up in the pool, and she realized that I was right.

Catie stubbornly stayed on the steps and insisted the water was too deep. I pointed out that she’s actually a little bit taller than her cousin, so if the water was an ok depth for Elizabeth, it would definitely be ok for Catie. Catie finally eased herself off the second step into the water. And once they were both off the steps and in the pool? They were unstoppable. They hopped all over the shallow end like tiny kangaroos, they had us carry them out into the deeper water and spin them around, give them “horsey-back” rides around the pool, etc. It was great.

This afternoon, even though it looked like it might rain, Catie and I decided to quickly throw on our swimsuits again and go back to the pool. I thought we’d probably be there for five minutes before the storms rolled in and we’d have to leave, but we lucked out. The weather held out, and we spent an hour and a half at the pool, just playing in the water.

At one point, Catie was watching a couple of boys who kept jumping in the deep end. She wanted me to carry her over there so she could watch them. (There aren’t any diving boards, they were just doing cannonballs from the edge of the pool.) She watched for a few minutes, then said, “I can do that?”

I wasn’t sure what she meant, so I asked her if she wanted to jump in the pool. She said yes. So I helped her up onto the sidewalk, and she walked over to the lounge chairs, turned around, and ran to me. I caught her around her mid-section as she jumped so that she wouldn’t hit the water too hard. We repeated this about 25 times. (For the record? That’s a pretty great upper-body workout.) A few times I didn’t catch her quite in time and her head went completely under water for a split second before I pulled her back up, but she came up laughing every time.

I’m just stunned. A month ago, she cried when I mentioned going to the pool. Today, she jumped into the deep end.

I don’t know when this kid is going to stop knocking my socks off with the things she does. But apparently it won’t be anytime soon.

Bratty kid, or parenting fail?

When we were at the pool on Sunday, I noticed this stark contrast in child behaviors.

First, we met a little girl named Sophia. She’s 4 1/2, and apparently this is her first year taking swimming lessons. Her dad was in the water with her (along with her big brother, but he was 8 or 9 years old, and off in the deeper part of the pool with his friends), and she was practicing putting her face in the water and kicking. She came over to Catie and the two girls shyly introduced themselves. Sophia said to Catie, “I like your name,” which made me melt because I’m sure that an adult told her that’s a nice thing to say to make friends, but it was so sweet. I knew Catie wouldn’t know how to respond, so I said, “Well, I think Sophia is a beautiful name.”

She and Catie played together for a while, she showed Catie how she could put her face in the water, and Catie was duly impressed. Her dad was friendly and chatted with Dave and me while the girls played, and it was great. Soon they had to head home, and that was that.

Here comes the contrast.

Right as Sophia and her family were leaving, a new family showed up at the pool. Again, it was a dad (it seems the moms in our neighborhood get the day off on Sundays; I wish I’d gotten that memo), and there was an older brother and a little sister, but this time, the dad parked himself on a chaise lounge in the shade and started talking with another dad. The older boy jumped in and started playing with the older kids, and the little girl came over to me. Not Catie, just to me. She told me her name was Sarah, and that she was 4 years old. I did a kid introduction, “Hey Catie, this is Sarah. Sarah, this is Catie.” And I thought that maybe they’d play together nicely like Catie had just done with Sophia.

Um… not so much.

It became apparent pretty quickly that Sarah was in dire need of parental attention, and since her dad never once even glanced in the direction of the swimming pool to make sure that his kids weren’t drowning, she latched on to me. It started with her asking me a million questions and making me feel like I was in that Monty Python sketch about “Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!” Then she wanted me to watch her while she did all kinds of pool stunts… which, oooookay, but shouldn’t your dad be watching you?

Also, I don’t know what the heck this kid does in her off-time, but she clearly is not supervised nearly enough, because she was covered in band-aids, which kept coming off in the water. Every time one did, I’d point it out to her and ask her to please go put it in the trash can (which she did). Then I’d look at Dave and make gagging faces. Band-aids floating in a pool is just about one of the grossest things ever. And this is why Dave and I started referring to her (after we left the pool) as Open Wound Sarah.

Then she started to get a little obnoxious. She and her brother had brought a ton of pool toys with them, but every. single. item. warranted this high-pitched, eardrum-piercing “THAT’S MINE!!!” shriek from her – and I’m not even talking about Catie, I’m talking about when her brother tried to use the toys. Even the things they’d brought two of (like, say, beach balls or pool noodles), she insisted that they were both hers, she didn’t want her brother to touch any of them. And I think it’s worth noting that none of her shrieking fits warranted even a glance from her dad, who was still engrossed in his conversation.

Next, she turned her attention back to us. Catie was playing with her inflatable pirate ship, putting her toys in it and pushing it out to Dave and me in the pool. Sarah asked if she could ride in the pirate ship. I said sure, if she wanted to share one of her toys with Catie. She gave Catie a beach ball (which Catie was happy to play with), and we let Sarah play with the pirate ship for a while. That’s fair, right?

About ten minutes later, Catie decided that she didn’t want the beach ball anymore, she wanted her pirate boat back. Sarah refused to give it back. I kind of stumbled with that one while Catie gave me this, “WTF, Mom?” look. I honestly wasn’t sure how to handle it at first. Then I decided that you know what? These are not communal toys, we are not on a playdate, and this kid has about a bajillion things of her own to play with. So I said, “Sarah, you know, Catie brought this pirate boat to the pool, so it’s hers. And if she wants to play with it, she should be able to play with it. You have a lot of your own toys here, so maybe you should go play with them instead.” Sarah gave back the pirate boat, then turned around and kicked the water to splash both me and Catie in the face. I said, sharply (and loudly), “Ok, that’s not nice, we don’t do that.” Her dad? Yeah, he still didn’t notice.

Sarah took off for the chaise lounge where her dad was sitting, rummaged around in their bag o’ pool junk, and came back with one of those Super Soaker water guns. I looked at Dave and muttered, “Great. Now she’s armed.”

And as I predicted, she spent the next few minutes filling up the water gun and spraying it into the air so it would come down on Catie’s head (which, hello, I barely got the kid to go down to the 2nd step, don’t get her head wet or she might freak and never come back). I told her to stop a couple of times, then finally said very loudly, “Ok, Sarah, that’s enough!” Apparently that was loud enough to get her dad’s attention, and he looked over just in time to see me making a face at Dave that probably indicated I was about to throttle his kid. He called for her to come put away the water gun. Finally. But that was basically his only parenting contribution for the hour that we were there.

But she still wouldn’t leave us alone, she kept trying to boss Catie around and take her pirate boat away from her, and it was just aggravating. Finally I said, “You know, I think it’s time to go home for lunch!” By that point, all three of us, even Catie, were happy to leave just to get the heck away from that kid.

I still can’t decide, though. Is Sarah just a bratty kid? Or is this her parents’ fault for not paying enough attention to her, and causing her to seek attention in negative ways? I was only around the kid for an hour, so I probably don’t know enough to judge, but I’m leaning toward the latter.

I just really hope we can avoid that family at the pool in the future. I have a feeling I’ll end up snapping and yelling at the dad to pay attention to his children if we have to go through that again.

toes in the water

We had a really lovely weekend, the perfect mix of fun stuff and chill-out time. Saturday night, we had my cousin & her family (plus her parents, my aunt & uncle, who happen to be visiting) over for dinner, which was a ton of fun. I think it’s pretty rare that you can have two 3 year-olds and a 1 year-old in the same house for hours and not have any major tantrums or tears, so we’ll call that a raging success. (There was a slight issue at the end when Catie refused to help clean up & had to go sit in time-out, but still. Overall it was great.)

Then, Sunday happened.

First of all, it’s rare that we have a day with absolutely nothing on the agenda. So I decided ok, this is it, the time is now for us to work on Catie’s fear of the water. I told her that we were going to go swimming today. She said no, I said yes.

She said: “I can’t want to go anywhere, I just stay home all day.”
I said: Ok then, no TV all day.
She said: Fine.

Damn. I hate it when she calls my bluff.

I said: I know you’re scared of the pool, but I want to show you that it’s a lot of fun and not scary at all. And! If you come with me to the pool? I’ll let you have a cookie with your breakfast.
She said: No.

I said: How about a new toy as a prize for going swimming?
She said: No.

But you know what? This kid inherited her stubbornness from me. If she thinks she can out-stubborn me, she’s dead wrong. This is when I dug my heels in (and made Dave raise his eyebrows).

I said: Ok, that’s it, until you decide to put on your swimsuit and go to the pool? You can go sit in your room and not come out.
She said: Well, she said nothing. She lay on the floor of her bedroom for 20 minutes and didn’t make a peep. No tantrum, just silent refusal to cooperate. Child is STRONG. WILLED.

About to give up, I said: Ok, how about if you don’t go swimming, but you come to the pool and just put your feet in the water?
She said: Oh. Ok!

Finally! So, the 3 of us set off for the pool. We brought her floaty pirate ship, and a couple of plastic toys with us for good measure. And you know what? She did great. I mean, I didn’t expect much, I thought we’d be there for ten minutes and she’d be ready to leave, but she started playing with some other kids there who were close to her age, and she had fun. She wouldn’t go all the way in the water, but she made it to the second step where the water came up to her knees, and she sat on the top step and got her tush wet, so it’s something, right? It was certainly more than I thought she’d do. We were there for over an hour – long enough for me to realize too late that I had forgotten to put sunscreen on my shoulders. Oops. (Catie’s fine. Apparently I’m better at remembering to put sunscreen on her than I am with myself.) And she wouldn’t ride in her pirate boat, but she thought it was funny to put her toys in it and then push it “out to sea” – where either Dave or I would rescue it and push it back to her.

And as promised, after we got home and changed clothes, we went to the store to pick out a toy. She chose a Barbie doll, which has already been completely discarded because all Catie really wanted were the 3 plastic puppies that came with her. And no, she does not know that you can give the puppies real water and that it’ll make them “pee.” I’m not telling her that part. That is some additional mess that I do not need in my life.

Oh, and this entry is getting way too long as it is, but tomorrow? I have to tell y’all about my run-in with possibly the most obnoxious kid I’ve ever encountered IN MY LIFE. Stay tuned for that.