So let me set the scene...
Swim lessons. Three kids. Two of them heading into the pool, one eating snacks, watching videos, and terrorizing the lobby. One mom trying to get said kids to pool on time and hoping that the other one doesn't pee or poop all over himself in public. Also, hoping she can contain the younger one for the thirty minute lesson.
Child A is very excited and can't wait to get back in the pool after a two month hiatus.
Child B is very nervous and shy and really loves swimming, but insists he doesn't want to do this, but only just this minute, not any time leading up to the activity.
Child C is, as usual, along for the ride.
If you know my children, you know exactly which one is which.
Last night was the first swim lesson for a couple of months. We took a break at the end of the summer since we weren't around much, and then I just didn't get them signed up again until recently. My kids love swim lessons. LOVE them. Both of them love swimming. And they have come so far in the 10 months that they've been going to swim lessons.
So Ainsley goes right in. Freddie holds back and starts crying. And in my head, I know this is one of "those" moments. You know. Those moments that you read articles about. Like "How to be a loving, caring, mother and raise confident children without ever raising your voice or disciplining at all because kids are SUPER rational if you just give them the chance and if you talk softly and let them lead they way they will do exactly what you need them to do at exactly the right moment."
Bullshit. Well maybe not. Not in a perfect world, where I have unlimited time for each child to work through his or her issues.
In my head, I think - okay, stay calm. Who cares if every one's staring at you as you drag this determined, 50lb, 5 year old onto the pool deck. And who cares if the 2 year old is by himself in the lobby. A lobby that he has escaped from before. A lobby that opens to a busy parking lot. And who cares if the 2 year old decides that this exact moment, while his brother is throwing a fit, is the perfect time to relieve himself in the middle of the lobby. And who cares if I drop a small fortune on swimming lessons, and he wastes half the classes crying over being shy.
So instead of sitting on the edge of the pool and saying things like "Okay, let's just sit for a minute and see if you want to participate. Ohh...doesn't that look like fun. Hey look, you know how to float, show the teacher." And other soothing, calming, encouraging things like that, I end up "yelling" through hushed, gritted, teeth "Get in the pool. You love swim lessons. Get in the pool right now!!!"
Eventually, I hand a screaming, squirming, powerful child over to an instructor and escape through the door to find Cohen. And I listen to the instructor talk to Freddie. Say all of the things that I want to say. Do all the things I want to do. I think about these things, and figure out how I should handle them either before or after the fact. But the problem is, I'm never just dealing with this scene. I'm dealing with multiple scenes all at once.
If I had walked in there with just Freddie, I could have been as patient and available as he needed me to be. The the fact is, I can never be 100% available to any of my children. I can't spend all evening putting Cohen on the potty, so he has accidents. I can't sit all night with Ainsley explaining multiplication and division, so sometimes her homework doesn't get finished. I can't sit on the edge of the pool with my sweet, shy Freddie and gently coax him into the water, so he screams.
And I feel so guilty. I see people with one child and sometimes I think, "imagine how much I could give to one child." Now, one child is NEVER something I wanted or ever considered. I honestly don't know what I'd do without my siblings. When Clif and I go crazy and someone needs to figure out which home to put us in, my kids will have each other to turn to and that's important to me. But I will say, I look at families with one child and sometimes I feel a twinge of jealousy for my kids. That they could have all that attention and patience and love just showered down on them. A million free hours to talk about fears and shyness. Days on end to work through math and reading challenges.
Freddie finally got in the water. And I watched him sit on the side and pout. I watched the teacher eventually move the class closer to him. I watched him finally participate and then have a blast. I greeted him at the door with his towel and said "Hey! How was it?"
"Good," he smiled.
"So are you glad I made you go?" I asked
"Yes," he responded, and that made me happy. Made me feel like I made the right decision, but it doesn't erase the guilt. All I did was drag him in there and shut the door. Someone else gently coaxed him into the pool. And someone else figured out how to get him to participate. And I watched from the one way mirror.