Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Best "Finale" Yet

After a few days in a row where we got to trick ourselves into thinking it was actually SUMMER instead of SPRING (Sunscreen!  Water toys!  Eating outside!), we woke up to cold rain this morning.  By 3:30 this afternoon, we were all in a funk, already tired of being holed up inside, bored by all our games and activities.  (How did we make it through the winter, I ask!  One day!  One rainy day, and we're climbing the walls!)

So we went to the pool, somewhere we haven't been all together for I-don't-know-how-long.  I bring the girls there approximately once a week, and Annie's going to start swimming lessons there in May, but it's been a while since we all went together.

When Annie and I got out to the pool from our locker room, Jason and Jemma were already in the pool, and Jemma was jumping in to Jason repeatedly, going under every time and loving it.  She's always been brave in the water, but never this brave.  Annie strapped on her life jacket and started jumping in, too, not minding going under and popping right back up every time.  We swam for half an hour or so, trading kids back and forth, encouraging Jemma in her enthusiastic kicking, watching Annie paddle around.  Then, on a whim, I unstrapped Annie's life jacket and started towing her around the pool, just hanging on to her hands.  She was OK with this.  So I put my hand under her tummy and made her kick and paddle, which she did only while making me promise every three seconds that I WOULD NOT LET HER GO.  I promised, but I was tempted, because I knew - I knew! - that she could stay afloat by herself.  

We'd been doing this for five or ten minutes when I took her a few yards away from the edge and said, "I bet you can swim to that edge all by yourself."  In response, she wrapped herself around the front of me like some sort of frog.  "Noooooooo!" she wailed, as I tried to tell her that I'd never make her do it but that I knew she could.  

"What if you try, and then you can have a prize just for trying?" I asked when she stopped wailing.  She froze.  

"How about . . . " she hardly dared breathe the word, "GUM."  And I had hardly had time to agree when she promptly let go of my neck, flopped down in the water on her stomach, and swam straight to the side of the pool, not going under at all.  She reached the edge, stood up, and turned around with a look on her face that was both ecstatic and scared.

"You did it!" I yelled.  "Annie!  I knew you could do it!"  She smiled then, a huge grin, and she realized that she had been swimming all by herself.  We called Jason and Jemma over so she could show them.  She swam to Jason.  She swam to me.  She swam four or five more times, each time becoming more jubilant and confident.  When she was finally tired, we did one more "for a finale" before bundling up into our towels and heading to the sauna.  She was practically skipping down the hallway to the locker room, so jubilant she was at the thought of her accomplishment (and, of course, her reward, which she had already specified had to be "the blue-green kind that doesn't lose its flavor, like the kind Grandma gave me in Florida, the long flat rectangle in a shiny silver wrapper").  I followed behind, so glad we had decided to break out of our house on a dreary Sunday afternoon, so proud of my brave girl in her striped swimming suit, so sure that these moments are exactly what make the hard work of parenting so worthwhile.

We went home and ate dinner, then curled up on the couch to watch Planet Earth while I painted toenails (red for Annie, purple for Jemma) and Annie chomped away on her much-loved, hard-earned gum.  Rainy day = not so bad, after all.

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