There’s a family member who likes to tell me my children don’t look like me. This might be true for Ryan, but there is no question with Owen. Owen has my eyes.
He’s also just like me. He’s cautious and sensitive. He can cry at the drop of a hat and he’s not one to jump into new situations easily.
Last week he started swim lessons. Knowing how to swim isn’t negotiable, especially living where we do. We talked it up the week before and told him how much he would learn; how fun it would be. We picked out his bathing suit and special towel and packed them all up ready to go. The night before his first lesson, as we lay in bed getting ready for the night, he turned to me and whispered, I’m a little nervous.
The first class started out exactly as I would have expected it to. Faced with the realization that he was expected to climb into the pool — the great unknown — and climb in without me, Owen burst into tears. He looked up at me with a mix of panic and sadness, waiting for me to rescue him from the instructor slowly guiding him to the platform. I knew this would happen, and I knew I had to let him go. Logically, I understood he had to get over the fear to start benefiting from the class, but my heart hurt.
By the middle of the lesson, he was doing great. Cautious and reserved, yes, but trying. And doing! I was so proud of him. The whole way home we talked about the class and how much fun it would be to go the rest of the week. And it was fun. He did great all week long and the growth both in skill and confidence was abundantly clear. We signed him up for the following week.
Yesterday was the start of week two, and the first day with an new instructor. This teacher is a whole different ball game, in a good way. Owen was immediately forced out of his new comfort and challenged to try more. This morning he hopped in the pool (alone!) and gave me a thumbs up and a big smile. Moments later the instructor dunked him under and he emerged in tears. Here we go again, I thought to myself. As the class move forward, I could tell he was feeling stressed, despite the teacher’s encouragement and wonderful soothing. The other three children in the class were clearly more comfortable — kicking around alone on their floaty dumbbells while Owen clung to his and the instructor’s hand at the same time. At one point, he scanned the room until he found me and when we locked eyes, I felt everything.
I know exactly what he was feeling right then because he is just like me. I can still remember the same fear and the same feeling of being unable to hold back tears, even when you desperately want to. Sometimes my emotions still get the best of me over little things, even when I don’t want my own tears to fall.
I did the only thing I could do, and gave him my own thumbs up and big smile. You’re doing it, buddy. You’re doing great.
The instructor lived up to her praise and at one point during a clear panicky moment, she made him laugh and kissed his forehead. Even from across the pool I could see him relax and, unsurprisingly, my eyes welled up. By the end of the lesson he was all smiles again, and as I dried him off I thanked her profusely. She modestly brushed it off, but I don’t think she understood how much I was thanking her for.
As I buckled him into the car seat, Owen looked up at me and said, “Mommy, I was scared at my swim lesson today, but I did a good job!”
I’ve never seen myself reflected quite as clearly as I did in that moment, looking into my child’s eyes. Eyes that look just like mine.
“You did an amazing job, Owen. I’m so very proud of you.”