Don’t Give Up

When I was a kid, I signed up for a lot of activities. Basketball, ballet, flute, softball, piano and swimming lessons. Sounds like I was a pretty well-rounded kid, right? Not quite. You see, I quit all of those things before I could even tell if I was going to be good at them or even like them. My parents never put up a fight. If I didn’t like something, I could quit. No arguments. Sometimes, I just didn’t like the activity. But most of the time, I quit because it was too hard. I had high expectations of being good at whatever it was right away. And when I wasn’t, well, I was done.

Of course as an adult, I totally regret not sticking with some of those activities. I would love to be able to play piano now and hey, it wouldn’t hurt my big butt if I knew how to play tennis (Yeah, I quit that too!). I actually wish I was not allowed to give up so easily. It’s one of those lessons that translate into so many facets of life as you grow up: Don’t give up. Don’t Quit. Try your best. So when my girl starts something, I try to do everything I can to keep her involved until the end. She often will tell me that she doesn’t want to go to dance class anymore because it’s too hard. I don’t want to force her to do something she doesn’t like, but “too hard” just doesn’t fly with me. “Keep trying! It will get easier if you practice!” I tell her. Usually, by the time the music starts, she’s fine and wiggling with the rest of the class. We’ve managed to keep it together for the season and her recital is on the horizon. When it comes time to start again in the fall, she can decide if she wants to take lessons again.

The activity she was looking forward to the most, though, is the one she now fears the most: Swimming lessons. It started off as a fun thing for us to do after daycare. I’d pick her up on my way home from work, we’d head to the Y and she’d have a blast learning to swim. Not so much. On the first lesson, I handed her over to her teacher with the disclaimer that she takes a little while to warm up but once she does, she’s fine. Oh, and she’s a little bit of a scaredy cat. And I sat down to watch. Class progressed fine. We finished class and moved on with our lives. I was so proud of my girl. 

Before the screaming... Photo: K Stevenson
Before the screaming…
Photo: K Stevenson

The next week was a different story. The last activity was jumping into the water while the teacher held on to Buttercup’s hands. Let the freak out begin. My girl was screaming that she didn’t want to, that she was scared and wanted to go home RIGHT NOW! Um ok, what the hell happened? She was fine last week. Now all of a sudden she’s scared and crying, real tears. The teacher handled it okay. I don’t get a warm and fuzzy feeling from her but she’s doing her job. She firmly told Buttercup that she could do it, that she wasn’t going to let go of her but that she had to do the jump if she wanted to go home. I fought the urge to swoop in and say “OK. That’s enough. Let’s go.” I sat there and let her cry and reach out to me. Did I mention the real tears??  She did the jump, crying the whole time and for her next two turns it was the same thing. I was getting looks from the other parents but I’m not sure if they were sympathetic looks or “Go save your kid from that monstrous teacher!” looks. I chose to just sit there and let the scene play out. When it was over, I wrapped her in her towel, gave her a huge hug, and told her she did great and that I was proud of her.

That wasn’t the last time this same scene happened. She’s fine until the jumps. Then she dissolves. It takes every ounce of strength not to whisk her away. It’s painful for both of us. Last night was our fifth class. I worried about how she was going to react the whole way to the Y. She was in a good mood which was a good sign. We got to class and I held my breath. But you know what? When it came time for the jumps, she didn’t cry this time. She did it, and when she resurfaced, she looked at me and said, “That was awesome, Mommy!” I am so glad I didn’t let her quit.

18 thoughts on “Don’t Give Up

  1. I think you did the right thing, Kriste, but I know it was hard. I’m pretty good so far at not swooping but I really haven’t been tested too much on that yet. I agree that if kids really want to do something, we should make them finish it at least until some point. No, they don’t have to do it forever, but they have to finish out the season or whatever timeframe/goal seems appropriate. When I was in elementary school I wanted to play the flute. My parents bought me my own instead of renting one (big investment at the time) but then it took FOREVER for me to figure out how to even get the notes out correctly. I wanted to quit so many times because it was hard. I don’t remember my parents specifically forbidding me from quitting, but they must have made it clear. I kept going and eventually, I got the hang of it. I ended up being first chair flute for all of high school and learning to read music allowed me to play other instruments, too, so I’m glad I didn’t quit!

    1. That is a great story Jen! I have a feeling I’ll be getting a lot of practice not swooping, as my girl can be quite dramatic! Thanks for the encouragement!

  2. She is ABSOLUTELY beautiful!!! You handled this the right way and did a wonderful job. Many congratulations to you and your girlie for taking that jump!

  3. You did everything right and handled it just the way I hoped you would as I read with bated breath. 🙂 Lesson learned by both mom and daughter!

  4. I feel this way in so many situations- sibling fights, school, practices, the checkout line in Target. It is hard to gauge when you need to jump in and defend your kid and when you need to just let them hurt a bit to figure it out. You have to weight the pros and cons of each situation, sometimes in split seconds, and sometimes you will make the wrong choice, but most often you will be making the right one (becasue it feels right). In your swimming situation, a few fearful tears (and screams) about jumping into a pool with a trained professional (I’m assuming) right there to help her if she flounders is waaaay better than the trauma falling into a pool not knowing what to do could cause. Gah, parenting is soooo hard sometimes, but you are doing a fabulous job at it 🙂

    1. Dena this parenting thing IS really hard, right? I definitely agree that feeling comfortable around the water is so much more important in the long run than the burst of tears! And hopefully I can get her to take more lessons and get even better. We’ll see! Thanks!

  5. Wow, this is going to be a hard one for me when Nora reaches this point. Fighting that urge to swoop in and rescue…and I would be SO aware of how the other parents were reacting to my response, too, and doubting I was making the right choice. I’m so glad you followed your instinct and that your daughter came out on the other end of things, enjoying the lessons. What an important thing to learn, for the both of you!

    1. Christa, I was so aware of the other parents! But in the end, my kid, my choice. I have to give the teacher credit too. She kept going with the class so not only did Zo get the most out of it, so did the other kids.

  6. We’re going through swim class drama too! We’re taking classes at the School of Swimming every day for two weeks (I figure it’s like ripping off a band-aid!). Yesterday was the first day and my 5 year old cried the WHOLE hour. We talked when we got home and I told him he could either learn to swim with me watching or with me not there but he WAS learning how to swim. He did SO MUCH BETTER today! A few tears at first but then was smiling and proud of himself the rest of the time. Now he’s looking forward to tomorrow and I’m so GLAD I DIDN’T LET HIM QUIT! 😉 Great post, Kriste!

    1. Kate that must have been so hard to watch him cry. Glad he’s doing better and PROUD! Glad to hear I’m not the only one! Thanks.

  7. You are doing a WONDERFUL job! I think NOT swooping in is the HARDEST thing we can do as a mom, but in reality, letting them go on thinking “I had to quit swim because I couldn’t do it” is much worse in the long run. And I’m also 100% with you on not quitting. I let Nate choose his own activities and certainly don’t push them- he asked to do t-ball, and he loved it for the first month, but recently told me he wishes he could just stay home and play in the yard. I get that- and I agree, that’s important when you’re 4- but the lesson of finishing is also important. He’s sticking out the season (about a month more) and if he decides to sign up next spring? Great! If not? Totally fine also. Wonderful!

    1. Thanks Sarah- it was so hard not to grab her and hug her, but I try so hard not to be “that” mom! I’d rather have her tell me years from now that I pushed her out of the nest rather than smothered her. (It’s so hard though!)

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