The Idaho Falls Aquatic Center has out-parented me. And don’t get me wrong; I’m not complaining. In fact, I’ll be implementing some of their techniques shortly. But first, a little back-story.
All three of my children are taking swimming lessons. Last year, my youngest Zack, was old enough to take a Mommy/Tot class at the local swimming pool where we lived in Utah. He hated it. While all the other toddlers complaisantly bobbed in the water with doting parents, my child would have none of it. For the length of his lesson I would stand in the shallow end while he would climb the stairs, jump into the water, climb, jump, climb, jump, until someone blew the whistle to cue the blessed end of swimming lessons (because surprisingly, standing idly in my swimming suit before watchful parents and teenage lifeguards is not my idea of a good time).
Now you’ve already heard a handful of Zack stories and can imagine my trepidation at registering him for a parentless class this summer. Not only that, but the Aquatic Center strongly discourages parents from watching lessons poolside. They ask you to observe from a balcony above the pool, complete with plate-glass windows--far from being able to swoop in and carry a belligerent child to a private time-out.
Swimming Lessons, Day One: Zack follows his sister to their class and sits, complaisantly, on the steps. He listens intently, looking at his teacher with complete adoration as only a toddler with a mini-crush can. He follows instructions and is bursting with swimming enthusiasm. And each time he enters the water his roadrunner feet pedal like crazy and he circles the shallow end like a little propeller. I’m completely enthralled; for me this is better than cable television.
Swimming Lessons, Day Four: Zack has his first blip. Tired of waiting for his turn to tour the shallow end on a floatation device pulled by his teacher, he stands at the top of the steps and jumps all the way into the water. His teacher directs him to sit in timeout at the base of the lifeguard chair. And Zack sits there sweetly until she calls him back to class: the model of obedience.
So what’s the Aquatic Center doing that I’m not? I’ve considered installing a balcony with plate glass windows in my home where I can parent (and nap) from a distance, because apparently my children are capable of making good choices in my absence. They fair nicely without me sitting on the edge of my seat, coaching their every move.
So these past few weeks I’ve learned a lot about taking a more hands-off approach in mothering my children, thanks in part to Jenny’s post called “Deep Reflections on a Wading Pool” and Sheri’s called “Playgroup Posturing.” As a result I’ve decided that from now on I’ll be doing more Balcony-Parenting, sans balcony. And don’t worry, I won’t be leaving my children home alone while I attend pottery classes and eat lunch at the Olive Garden. But I am going to back off a little and allow my children to make their choices and then either enjoy the blissful consequences of their good ones or recover from their bad ones. With the caveat that I can always swoop in when I choose.
Because in parenting there should always be a swooping clause. A swooping clause and a flotation device.