Okay so maybe it’s normal, maybe every other parent there told me I have to stop myself from running out there to save her, maybe it WILL actually get better over time, but oh my God did I not care! When my baby girl is panicking and sobbing for 20 of the 30 minutes of her first swimming lesson I have to put my hand on my mouth to stop the tears threatening to fall. I’m anxiously waiting to hug her tight in a big, warm towel not caring that she’s dripping wet. I’m wondering why the hell did I sign her up for these lessons? I’m thinking, “I’m so sorry, baby I’ll never do this to you again!”
Only next week I will. I’ll take Zahara back to that swimming school with the big indoor pool and sea animals painted all over the walls. I’ll hand her over to Miss Kaitlyn (who looks like she’s in high school by the way. At least the instructors could look like gentle, old elementary school teachers to give us parents some peace of mind!)
I will take her there week after week until hopefully she DOES actually get over her initial fear. And I’ll feel guilty the whole time. I’ll continue to wonder if this counts as abandonment. And is Zahara getting some kind of emotional scars from being dropped in a pool with strangers for 30 minutes and not seeing her mommy anywhere when she gets scared? And if this is just separation anxiety because it’s the first time she’s ever been without me in the pool, then why is she hysterical by the end, struggling to catch her breath, looking at me like I’ve disappointed her BIG-TIME??
Oh, God how horrible I felt sitting on the other side of a one-way mirror, watching my daughter’s eyes search for me, terrified. It was like we were on a crime show and she was being interrogated and I was the sad family member, unable to help. What am I punishing her for? For loving the water?! My God, the girl is going to develop a phobia! She’s going to associate water with a disappearing mommy and then she’s going to hate me forever!!
I know that’s irrational and I’m just an emotional wreck right now because I can’t get the image of my baby crying for me out of my head. But seriously, that was horrible. I signed up for these lessons so Zahara would learn about pool safety and swimming enough to be careful and capable in and around water. There’s a pool in my parents’ backyard where we live and this is Long Island; beach outings are a given during the summer. But still. Watching this happen felt like the longest and worst 30 minutes of my life.
I’ve told you about other firsts that I’ve handled on my own since Zahara’s been born. I’ve been getting better at it and felt really strong and okay with being single this 2nd year. And when I was sitting there during this first lesson I really didn’t think of her father. But when the class was over and I ran in there with Zahara’s towel and she clung to me so tightly and couldn’t stop crying, for a second, only a second, I wished I wasn’t there alone. I didn’t want Zahara’s baba there, because I could imagine how he’d yell at me and make me feel even worse than I already did for putting her through this. He’d be so overbearing and rude to the swimming instructor and other staff and to me.
He’d never understand that this is what many kids apparently go through their first few lessons or that separation anxiety is a normal phase for toddlers to go through, because at that moment I barely remembered all that. But he’d be mean. And I didn’t need mean. I needed MY mommy or someone to hold me and say it would all be okay. I needed someone to reassure me that I was doing the right thing for my daughter. I needed a hug.
I hope it does get better, because I am going to be dripping with as much guilt as Zahara is dripping overly chlorinated water as long as this goes on. Please someone, tell me it’s worth it, because right now I feel like this was the biggest mommy fail of my whole 2 year and 2 month mommy career. And I’m thoroughly exhausted by it. :~(