It is no secret that swimming is not my favorite thing. As an adult I’ve never been fond of the idea of open water and avoid any sort of boating or open water swimming invitation when I can. I’ve been okay in swimming pools where I can see the bottom and know I can make it to the edge with minimal effort, because it’s not that I can’t swim…I’ve just never been great at it. I can swim underwater from one end of a small pool to the other end, but only because I can SEE and I know if I can’t make it, the edge isn’t far away.
Last year I learned a bit about “freestyle” swimming. Enough to survive a 400+m open-water swim for a sprint triathlon. But, like I tell many people, my normal fears and anxieties took a backseat on raceday for several reasons. 1) There are SO MANY kayaks and bouys and rescue boats around that you feel very safe and 2) The excitement/adrenaline helps a lot. But when I would go to open-water training sessions with minimal (if any) support? I’d be a wreck. It was terrifying. One time I burst into tears and let me tell you: It is really hard to swim while you’re crying.
SO! There’s my backstory. I’m better than before last summer, but no where near the kind of person who enjoys the water.
Well…we are right near the river here AND there are a few good-sized lakes within a short drive. So, a lot of people entertain themselves on the weekend with water sports or recreation. And this weekend Donnie’s cycling friends invited us to a party at a lake house. I was TERRIFIED.
Now, the kids are better swimmers at their age than I was. But they’re not strong swimmers yet. And, they’d never been in open water, so they were a bit nervous. I assured them I’d get in the water with them – even though I was terrified – mainly because I was more terrified of them drowning than of me drowning. We don’t have any life jackets but we brought two inflatable rings for them to play in. And when we got there? I felt like I was going to have a full-blown meltdown. The ONLY thing keeping me relatively calm was the fact that we were standing in front of all of Donnie’s triathlon/cycling buddies. I had to keep my shit together just to keep from humiliating him.
Sidenote: Another entry for another day? My body image issues and how they also DID NOT HELP MATTERS. I hate that I let my hatred of my own body ruin my fun around water.
SO! I “bravely” told the kids I’d get in the water with them to get them used to it. And luckily, there was one life jacket there that fit Wes perfectly. Nikki had to wear one a little big. So, we decided they could use the life jackets and the rings for a bit, until they got used to it. I jumped in the water first (ALMOST DIED, SO SCARED) and then let Donnie hand me the kids one at a time. Luckily, someone noticed I was struggling and pointed out that I could sit in a life jacket like a diaper and it would help me help the kids. I was so grateful for the tip and the help, I didn’t even feel embarrassed about not knowing that tidbit.
The kids got in and Wesley IMMEDIATELY realized he could float without the ring and he just wanted to play around without it. This was easier for me because the two rings were a struggle, but as I was keeping up with Nikki I kept fearing Wes would float out into the lake and get run over by a boat before we could get to him.
I WAS A MESS.
Basically I spent the 15 minutes in the water whispering/yelling to the kids: STAY NEAR ME! DON’T FLOAT AWAY! I was just worried we’d lose them forever. Because I am a big ole wuss.
There was some action with people pulling kids on tubes behind a Jet Ski. NOPE. I told the kids: NOPE. They didn’t really want to do that anyway, not quite comfortable in a lake for that, but still, I knew my anxieties could only take SO MUCH.
Wes decided he wanted a break (THANK GOD) and he and I went to play basketball while Donnie stayed with Nikki.
Now, here’s the thing if you’re a high-anxiety parent, having a super-relaxed one around is a perfect balance. Donnie stayed in the water with Nikki just long enough to make her feel comfortable, and then just got out. Just hung out with his friends on the dock and kept and eye on her. I HAVE NO IDEA HOW HE COULD DO THAT. He was so relaxed and just confident in the life jacket and the ring and her ability to swim a little bit. He didn’t worry about her drifting away or getting run over by a boat. He didn’t worry about her drowning. HE EVEN LET HER RIDE ON A JET SKI. Now, she was in front of a grownup who was holding her on AND she was obviously wearing a life jacket, but still, NEVER would I have done that. AND SHE HAD A BLAST.
So, when Wes decided it was time to get back in the water, after hearing Nikki’s adventures, I had to CHILL THE HELL OUT. And I did, a little, but I was miserable. I was basically easing in to giving the kids more freedoms. First? I didn’t get in with them. Which was a little easy since I did not want to be in there anyway. Second? It took me awhile to feel comfortable with them jumping off the docks with their rings, and even more without. And it was about an hour of me taking several giant chill pills before I could finally relax enough to even socialize the tiniest bit with Donnie’s friends.
It was a very hard day.
I don’t want my kids growing up with my anxieties, but it’s really hard NOT to inflict mine on them in those situations where my fears relate to their safety. But, we all took baby steps and they were patient with me, allowing me to get settled in after each baby step, before pushing for more freedom. Because they were scared too, so they weren’t wanting ALL of the freedoms in the world.
I’m glad we did it, even though it probably gave me 14 ulcers. I’m glad the kids had SO MUCH FUN. I wish I wasn’t such a ball of anxieties all the time. But, the fact that I brave this stuff periodically, even taking small steps, is a good thing. I don’t let it control my life 100%. There are certain things I have no desire to do, and that’s okay as long as I let myself do these small things periodically.