Since our last swim, this daddy has been secretly (as opposed to openly, like Caitlin) looking forward to the next visit to the pool. For her, like all toddlers, it’s more the thrill of splashing & getting wet without getting into trouble. But for this daddy it was the pure eagerness of wanting to see when Caitlin would let go & float on her own. That she even dared to venture into the adult pool at all the last time was aleady a major achievemnt, much less let go of daddy’s hands.
And so the day came when this daddy didn’t have to go to work. We got to the pool. It was the first clear blue sky after weeks of rainy days- couldn’t ask for a better setting for potentially making history. The pool was empty, calm water welcoming our arrival; something we had been accustomed to- presumably most prefer to swim just before dusk rather than mid-morning. Fighter jets tore through the open sky. Seriously. They were flying overhead slightly to the East, only just breaking formation after passing us. Soon after more military hardware / helicopters followed. A loud reminder that this was a national holiday celebrating our 50th independance day. Caitlin didn’t seem too perplexed by the much-louder noise they made, compared to the occassional commercial planes higher in the sky. Perhaps she was as eager as her daddy & had a mission too.
She was cooperative as usual, remaining patient allowing her daddy to blow up the floaties & stuff them securely in the front & back of her costume & velcro-fastening them. Again like clockwork, she preferred to get into the baby pool first. Fair enough, let her warm up first, aclimatise to the cooler-than-it-looked water. Much to daddy’s surprise, Caitlin was quick to agree to next move on to the adult pool, as if all the previous anxieties of what she called “going under” was gone (I had once let her sink for half a second & she wasn’t impressed, while the whole time finding daddy going-under for much longer periods inexplicably giggly-amusing).
About 10 minutes of holding-daddy’s-fingers-soI-won’t-go-under, down came our block’s English neighbour: Mum, dad, & 2 girls (whom I later found out to be Jessica, aged 5, and Becky, 2). Becky had the same Floaties costume as Caitlin’s, only it was obviously sized for ages 0-2, & obviously a hand-me-down. Their “clockwork”, however, ran faster & was finely tuned. The girls knew what to do, & did them quickly: disrobed, sunscreen, goggles (for Jessica) & into the pool. Jessica came in first, followed very closely by the always-smiling Becky.
Becky edged toward the pool, beaming a “hello” smile at us. At this point you’d think that mummy followed very close behind Becky. Instead, with no hesitation Becky jumped into the pool feet first as 2 year-olds would jump, quite hard that she submerged for a while, allowing then for the Floaties to do its job. She emerged, & splashed about almost doing the front crawl towards her older sister, who was already swimming away from the edge.
I wasn’t so much amazed at how cavelier Becky was. After all, anyone who swam more often than once a week would naturally be quite comfortable in the pool. What amazed me was how she was actually already swimming- from one point to another.
Seizing the opportunity, I gestured to Caitlin that the younger Becky is wearing the same costume that she is wearing. It was really funny, you could just see it ticking over in her head, making the connection, contemplating the situation, evaluating the risks, deciding to take action.
She agreed & slowly let go of my hands.
The whole “eureka” look & joy in her face was very satisfying, to say the least. Her face brightened up, she would have yelled “Lookatmedaddee”; except that I already was, “I didn’t go under!”; except that she knew I already knew that!
Very soon after she was already on her own, splashing about like she did when she was using the Pooh Bear float, trying to catch up to her new found friends. Only that she now has a lot more freedom with her hands.
Chatting with the English lady, she had mentioned that babies of around 7 months & under still retain that instinct of knowing how to hold their breaths. To bring this instinct out, all you have to do is blow into the baby’s face & baby will tend to hold its breath. That was how she managed to get Becky to swim so well after some trial & error with Jessica. In fact she had started with Becky when she was only 3 months old- blowing at Becky’s face & “dunking” her for a few seconds. Becky therefore has never had the same anxiety Caitlin has of “going under”.
I had also acknowledged, & anticipated by the English lady, that peer pressure in this case was very helpful for Caitlin. Heh.