Summer is in the air. Complaints about the heat from customers (who were complaining just last week about the rain and the cold) abound. What else to do but
Today's New Activity: Visiting the Local Swimmin' Hole
A qualification: I've actually been to Ryland Park Pool in downtown San Jose once before. I've even been there with Monkey. But that was a whole year ago, in the days before he could speak or even crawl, so he didn't appear to care much at all about what it was we did. He was just along for the ride.
In recent days my boy has begun to show exuberance about things he didn't much notice before (say the word "ball" and he goes nuts. I'm pretty sure he could play at hitting and throwing the dozen or so variously sized balls he owns for the better part of a full day), while he shows caution doing things he didn't used to think twice about (my Dad told me that when he and Bro took Monkey to the playground on Monday, he didn't want to go down the slide).
So while I wasn't sure how he would take to the water, I was eager to find out. My best gal Nicole found a summer to-do list she's eager to start crossing off with the kiddies, and we were so happy to join her and the girls, along with Kelsi and the boys, for the first of many sun and fun activities.
The only bummer about this pool is that the kids aren't allowed to have any inflatable floaty things. The lifeguard said they don't want the devices popping when the kids are unsupervised. My thought on that is that the kids shouldn't be unsupervised at all. This is a giant, circular pool that's about 2 feet deep all the way around and 3 feet at its deepest, in the middle. I'm pretty sure only the smallest of kids really go there, whose parents are hovering like all good parents should be. But anyway, that meant no arm floaties.
At first I put one of the life jackets they had at the pool on my boy, but he didn't seem to like the giant orange puff surrounding his face or the feeling of floating without support. So for the first half hour at least I held him while he clung on like a frightened kitty. Any time I held him up away from my body he would get nervous and want to be tucked in at my side again. I was starting to feel sad, thinking his love of the bath and all other type of water play was not translating to this actual body of water. Having wanted to spend a good amount of time at the pool near my own house this summer, this thought had me bummed for sure.
But then I reasoned that it's pretty natural to be freaked out by this new experience, and I decided to stick it out with him rather than giving up and going to play at the playground.
And with time, he got comfortable and started having fun. Once he was distracted by a ball (big surprise) that Nicole had brought, he started walking along in the shallow parts on his own, chasing after it. Soon he was playing a throw and fetch game with Maya, Nicole's 8-year-old daughter (he threw, she fetched) and splashing around like nobody's business.
I have to say I was nothing short of thrilled about this outcome. It was a reminder to me that it is sometimes a very good thing to be pushed outside of one's comfort zone. Of course if my son had been absolutely terrified and in tears I would have proceeded more cautiously, taking him out of the pool and trying to reintroduce him later. But there was a moment when I was thinking of doing this anyway, when I saw he was scared and not enjoying himself. And the thought of our big fun afternoon plans being dashed was a major bummer. So when I saw that I could keep him in the water, gradually giving him a little more freedom while staying nearby to make sure he was comfortable and safe--and that he would actually start to have fun....well that was a proud and happy moment for me.
I was talking with Kelsi about this, because it was the same feeling I experienced when we went to the movies a couple of weeks ago and he started squirming about an hour in. While we could have left at that moment, I--as a paying customer and having already a vested interest in the movie's conclusion--didn't want to. In fact, I felt like I was the child in these scenarios, saying, "no no no, I don't wanna go! Don't ruin my fun!" But I think that in the end it was good. Monkey ended up relaxing and having fun in both instances, and I didn't end up with the resentful feeling of having given in to a toddler's whims.
Now, I know there are times when, as parents, we have no choice but to act as the situation dictates; sometimes that absolutely means giving in to the whims of the child. And if my son were truly having a terrible time I would never want to torture him. Similarly when a child is due for a nap and cranky as a result, it's only right to get his or her needs met, even if it conflicts with original plans. But I also think there is something to be said (for the sanity it affords us alone--long-term if not immediately experienced) for letting the kids know through our actions that we are the ones with the plans and they are joining us for the time being. Maybe this is somewhat fear-based: I'm afraid that if I change plans every time he's mildly displeased I'll never feel confident in my role as the one calling the proverbial shots. But the other option would also be fear-based: I'd be afraid my child did not have the strength of spirit to weather discomfort and trust in my plans for us. In short, I'd be afraid he'd throw a tantrum and really kill our buzz. And I think I'll take the former any day. I think it'll serve us both better in the long run.
Monkey is still very young, our experience very limited, and this theory yet to be challenged by the legendarily terrible twos, but I'm keeping the faith.
And...I'm so happy to have spent the day with my gals and their munchkins. It's wonderful to see how they're all growing and developing together. Max, the youngest among them, was sitting up on his own today (!), the brave and spunky Sureya and the Monkey have started communicating with each other (see below), Mo is the talkingest, most observant little guy you've ever met, and Maya is the ever-patient honorary big sis to them all--they all love her. We are so lucky to have these chosen families to share the learning with :)
I had to post this sequence, as a sidenote:
Here Sureya is trying to help Monkey up (grunting sounds to prove it! Awww, and she was even saying "come on, Chupi" (his nickname)). She is such an adept little climber. He's a little bulkier and clumsier at this point, but she's always game to help him along. So sweet!