I paid my 5 year old one Kinder Egg and one packet of Match Attax to get her into her swimsuit and sit by the edge of the pool with her toes in the water.
What followed was a heartbreaking, sad, red face staring at me from the other side of the pool with big, huge, pleading eyes. Is it right or wrong to put a young child through such angst? Was it right to put myself through such angst?
As I sat through the swimming lesson I had a moment of doubt. Was I being a pushy parent? Was I ‘making’ her do something she clearly didn’t want to do? Or was I being a good parent by not giving in but being understanding of her anxieties and gently encouraging her, despite the fact she was vividly upset.
I write this drained but content that the nudging she needed meant she did stay for the session and she did get in the water. Unbelievably she is even looking forward to next week.
I have a feeling that we may go through the whole experience again next week, perhaps slightly diluted the following week but eventually she will rock up and jump in the pool having forgotten all the tears previously. Like her first day in school, her first day at crèche.
As parents we know our own kids. I can gauge my kids feelings and work out when they have a genuine fear or when they are feeling the fear of the unknown. What’s important is being strong in that knowledge and knowing that sometimes being a little tough (without being tough) is in their best interest.
Despite me wanting to jump over the barrier and hug her, I felt she would be ok. Allowing her to give up would be detrimental to her longterm attitude towards swimming and possibly other life lessons along the way. So I stayed put on the bench, my heart torn but silently rooting for her.
Today was a very hard day in the path of parenting and now I know how my parents must have felt when I sobbed down the phone with homesickness, wanting to come home. Their advice was stick it out for a few more days and then we will chat. They were always right. It was always just a little blip.