Monday, January 21, 2013

Facing Our Fears

It's swim lesson season.


This is an activity that evokes quite dramatic responses in some.

Let's face it, parents.  Sometimes we just make our kids do some things they really, really hate.  

Vegetables, bedtime, hair brushing, and bed making are a few at the top of the list at our house, but for some mysterious reason I will neither question nor take for granted, swim lessons have never been one of the hated activities.  My girls kinda like them, in fact.  

This is not the case for many parents out there.  

Take my niece, Helen Kate, for instance.  She's the one on the right.  



She just finished private swim lessons with a fantastic, experienced teacher by her side.  This is a woman who's seen it all, dealt with every personality type out there, and has a great track record of helping kids succeed at conquering their fear of water and having fun in the pool.  She's great at it.  The patience of Job and all.

It was torture for everyone involved.  Poor Helen Kate was terrified and less than cooperative.  Of course the teacher started out being kind and gently coaxing, but I think within a few moments she realized that tactic wasn't gonna cut it with this child.  She began using a more firm tone and insisting that Helen Kate at least try some things with her.  

It did not go well.  

After the lesson was over, the teacher approached my sister and asked with a smile, "Is Helen Kate tired this morning?"  Which of course was a nice way of saying, "What the heck is up with your child today?"  

As I sat this week and watched my younger two practicing their kicking and floating and all that stuff, I began thinking about how I would feel if I were forced to do things that terrified me.  

Would I calmly cooperate like this?


Would I swallow my fear and take the hand of a stranger into the deep end of the pool?


This, of course, led me to consider the time I WAS asked to do something that absolutely terrified me.  

I am kinda embarrassed to tell you I was more like my niece or the several kids I saw at lessons this week who kept an iron grip on their mom's legs and screamed and cried the entire time.  

You see, my brother-in-law invited us to come stay a few days at his dad's gorgeous house on the ski slopes in Utah.  This was a few years back before darling #3 arrived.  

I had never been on a ski slope in my life (unless you count Mentone, AL, where they generate fake snow but even that was one time twenty years ago).  I was somewhat concerned given my general lack of poise and grace, but okay, I would give it a shot.  

My husband and I rented all the ski equipment (YIKES!  For that much cash I'd BETTER love it and use it all day!), pulled on all our gear, and climbed onto the lift for the bunny slope.  Starting easy and all that.  

We got off at the top and my sister even exclaimed at how smoothly and easily I'd gotten off and just slid to where I was supposed to be.  I was feeling pretty good.  I could do this.  I played every sport available in high school and was still active.  No problem.

But then....

It was time to actually try it.  I was given a few basic instructions on how to shift my weight and get started.

I will spare you all the horrifying details, but the next hour and a half was pretty much the most wretched time of my life thus far.  

EVERYONE tried to help me.  My brother-in-law's dad (which was super uncomfortable because we don't know each other at all and here I was at my most vulnerable), my sisters, their husbands, my husband, even a ski coach who took pity on me and stepped away from his client for a moment to help me up.  Before I reached the bottom of that God-forsaken bunny slope, I was crying, I was cursing, I was screaming at my husband to leave me alone and just let me scoot on my bottom the rest of the way down.  I hated everybody and everything and was quite distressed.

Hmm...much like a few of the kids I just observed at swim lessons.  I decided they probably felt like I did when someone pointed out how well others around them were doing.  

"Look!  It's easy!  She's doing it and having fun!"

Now I know what that child is inwardly saying: "If it's so fun YOU get your butt in here and do it!  You can have my spot!"  It's the same thing I was mentally saying to the little children who flew past me on that despicable hill.  

I finally made it down and was convinced (after a very long break and a snack) to do the ski school for beginners.  

Oh, sure.  That'll make it less painful to my ego.  

I looked over at the ski school in progress and quite grudgingly shuffled on my skis to where they were.  

I kid you not, three-year-olds were standing there with me.  

The ski instructors who helped us all onto what they called the "magic carpet" were dressed like Peter Pan and Captain Hook.

I couldn't make this stuff up.  All true.

Again, and again I gave it a try.  Surely if these little people who hadn't even learned to tie their shoes or use the potty could do it, I could certainly pull it together and conquer this fear of mine.

After about 30 minutes of agonizingly humiliating instruction (and the instructors using pirate voices), I agreed to try the stupid bunny slope ONE MORE TIME for my husband.  Peter and Captain Hook gave me a cheer and a high five as I left their magic Neverland area.

Neverland.  Ironic to anyone else that the word "NEVER" is in it?  I just smiled and tried to visualize the beach.

This was one of the few times I can say I was totally selfless in my marriage.  If it had been up to me, I would've found the closest incinerator and dumped all my ski gear in there quite happily, but it just seemed to mean so much to him.  

I am very, very proud to say I made it down the bunny slope in a mere 15 minutes this time, but much to my husband's disappointment, I declared right there at the bottom of the hill that I would NEVER, EVER do that again.  

I spent the remaining couple of hours riding the gondola up and down the big hills.  It was quite beautiful and peaceful up there...until it was time to get off and I did a face plant right into the icy snow.  

So, facing our fears.

Not as easy as it looks.  





I will be more compassionate for the terrified, shrieking child who does not want to blow bubbles in the stupid pool water next time.    


So what's your swim lesson story?  Or better yet, I want to hear stories about times YOU were asked to do something really scary!  Surely I can't be the only one who dug in my heels and refused.  

4 comments:

Suzy and Brian said...

You have an amazing memory! I forgot that she even asked me that question! Felt like it was a trick--if I say "yes she's tired" the woman will assume the child NEVER sleeps when future lessons remain this way. But if I say "no" then it's assumed my child fits her name "HELen." Neither is true...tricky

Allison said...

Sharon,
I love your blog! Reading this one made tears roll down my cheeks. So funny!

Aimee said...

Stopping over from Rocket City Mom. Hysterical!
And fear not...I actually tried to spear a three year old with one of my poles at the bottom of the bunny slope...he sprayed me with snow - the little show off!

Mommy Mayhem said...

Great to have you visit my blog, Aimee! So nice to have a fellow adult who felt totally and completely humiliated by 3-year-olds on skis.

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