On one hand, this activity was a treasure. When Stevie hated swim class, I could still bring him here. When I couldn’t take his rejection of “fun” activities I had planned for the day, we could still sneak off to the pool for a bit. When I was completely done with Hot Wheels, the playground, or walks around the block, we would dash to one of these parks for an hour or so. Stevie cooled off in the water while I waited in the shade. I kept a blanket and extra swim trunks in my car all summer long, just for the more spontaneous trips. I didn’t have to worry about his swimming skills much since the pool is about as deep as a bath, and he had the hang of that pretty quickly. They have lifeguards and most importantly (!!) I didn’t have to wear a bathing suit.
But on the other hand, Stevie never quite learned the art leaving me alone and enjoying himself, as he’d run in and out of the pool to check on me. Or yell “Mom! Look!” every minute or so.
I also changed more than my fair share of poopy swim diapers, which are in the top 3 grossest thing on the planet.
But the biggest hurdle to overcome was just leaving the pool without a tantrum. It took a LOT of work over the years; pep talks and timers and gentle reminders and not-so-gentle reminders, just to get to a place where we could go swim and then go home without a scene.
Well, today I felt the weight and frustration of going nowhere. Or worse – going backwards. I felt like no progress had been made in the last few years at all. It was the same old story (minus the swim diapers). I was the mom who had the 50-pound screaming 5 year old child fighting to leave the pool area because he wanted five more minutes. (After the first 2 five more minutes were up). I gently coaxed him at first, with no response. My voice got thicker and heavier. No reponse. I took him by the arm and led him out of the pool. And the meltdown ensued. I sighed. Told him sternly in his ear to stop, as I struggled to get his shoes on. I could feel the other moms’ eyes burning a hole in the back of my head. You know the feeling. We were the show again. Same as ever.
I put on my sunglasses and marched to the car with my ears full of steam. Stevie reluctantly followed behind screaming at me.
I felt so defeated.
I wondered for the millionth time why I even bother trying.
I waited until we were in the car and I barked at him to be quiet, asking him why he ruins everything fun I try to do.
I told him I didn’t want to talk to him the rest of the way home.
I played some music and as Stevie sat in his car seat pointing out cars on the road and asking me the same questions for the millionth time, I felt those familiar hot tears start to fall.
Stevie piped up “You crying mom?”
And I said “I’m really upset right now.”
And get this: he started crying too. He wailed “Sorry mom! Sorry! I want a huuuuug!!!”
First I tried to explain why we couldn’t hug in the car – but then it dawned on me that this was new. Maybe he wasn’t exactly the same after all. Sure, the scene and the tantrum and the angry mommy were the same. But for Stevie not only to notice and address my emotions, but to also have a feeling about them and empathize with me? It says a lot about how far he’s come.
As I wiped the tears off our faces and thought about how I would try to talk to him about this learning experience, he snapped right out of his emotional state when he saw a Fiat pull up next to us. He yelled “Mom! Fiat!” as if nothing ever happened. Because he loves seeing Fiats.
And maybe some things will never change.