They are as different as night and day. And with that, brings many parenting challenges.
Yet again today, the boys' true characters came out in full force. And our recent experience at the local swimming pool has me wondering, pondering, struggling and questioning.
The boys are taking Preschool B swimming. They both passed the first session and they both fell in love with Dillon, their teacher. I have blogged about their individual Water Colour Portraits before. Their behaviour today, and how I handled it should be no surprise to anyone who knows us...but I am still struggling on how we deal with this in the grander scope of things - any insight, advise or help you, my wonderful blog friends can offer is greatly appreciated.
Last week was the first session of the Level B. The boys are registered in the same level. They got the same teacher - both were ecstatic. Unfortunately, I was not too happy as the class was HUGE and the skill levels really varied between the many children.
Happily, this week we discover that the class has been split into two. Both my boys are in the higher level section...with instructor Shawn. Their beloved Dillon is teacher the lower level class.
Can you say pool-side melt down?
I attempted to avert any huge scenes by quickly reassuring each boy.
To Anderson I simply told him that Shawn was a excellent teacher and that Shawn would teach Anderson how to jump higher than before and maybe even how to jump off the diving board into the deep deep water. Anderson unfolded his crossed arms. Anderson sucked up his pouting lip. Anderson gave me an over-sized affirmative nod. Anderson wondered off with Shawn yelling over his shoulder, "I will miss you Dillon". Off he went.
DJ, on the other hand, hid behind me and placed my right leg into a death grip. I had to pry him from behind me. He definitely did not want to go with the new instructor. I could feel his anxiety grow. DJ was not happy. He loudly claimed that he just wanted to stay with me. I calmly told him that Mommy was going swimming with Madigan in her class. His grip around my leg tightened. I turned around. Got down at his level and quietly explained, "DJ, you are a big boy. Dillon is teaching the little boys and girls. You have to go with Shawn. He is super cool and he is a friend of Dillon's. He will help you learn and swim and you will have lots of fun with Shawn. Look at Anderson, all by himself. You go be a good big brother and help him and Shawn. DJ, you are my big strong, brave boy and Shawn will keep you safe. You go show him what a great swimmer you are." Then I offered a couple of big hugs and a quick kiss on his forehead. Reluctantly, DJ headed off to his class.
Both boys did great. I love my new arrangement, I am actually in the pool with Madigan in a Parent and Tot swim while the boys are in the other side of the pool. I get to keep tabs on them and see their improvement. The new instructor came up to me after the class and indicated they are both very strong for their level. He commented that Anderson would be considered a strong "C level" and possibly an average "D level" swimmer and that DJ is a strong B, but needs to work on confidence and putting his face in the water.
I am super proud of the boys. But, I must admit, the level of anxiety and fear DJ brings to the table when things are changed, different or unfamiliar can be very disheartening. I only want to say and do the right things to help him push his comfort level. I fear doing or saying the wrong thing. I am concerned that I will allow him to continue to be a little perfectionist, who only likes things a certain way - his way or the high way. I want him to explore, take risks, and yes, to fail, then learn and grow from his mistakes and failures.
DJ has always been an all-or-nothing sort of boy. After his surgery at 10 days old we were told to expect developmental delays. Well, he rolled over weeks before his peers - was crawling and sitting on his own by 4 months, and walking before 10 months.
One day I was carrying DJ in to the rocking chair for a bottle. The phone rang, I picked up the phone and put down the bottle. Walked over to the rocking chair, gabbing away on the phone. DJ squirmed out of the chair, steadied himself - then took his first steps - well, actually his first 21 steps - over to the table and grabbed his bottle. Turned around and walked back. Yep. He just did it. He was never unsteady on his feet - always balanced - never crashed - never fell onto his bottom - NEVER.
We have noticed that DJ has done this many milestones. Even with school. We kept encouraging DJ to write his name. He never would. Then one day - there on his paper a D and a J...they looked well practiced...but they were not. He just waited until he knew (in his head) how to do it - and did it.
This past Friday, my hubby took DJ skiing at a local hill. Before this trip, DJ has had 5 lessons at another hill. He did great. On the last day of lessons Daddy and son tackled an intermediate hill (YEEK, says Mommy!) off the chair lift. DJ did super - he did amazing - he was comfortable - capable and enjoying himself. Fast forward to last Friday...well, a totally different story. DJ was afraid of the new hill. Not sure of himself. He complained, cried and whined the whole time.
Now, my husband is a skier. He was so looking forward to hitting the slopes with DJ. He had a very long and frustrating day. When detailing the day to me David said that what frustrates him the most is that DJ can do it - he just needs confidence and faith...and to accept that he may not get it all right the first time around.
How as parents can we help our 4 year old realize that there is a world of possibilities out there - hills to ski, oceans to swim and a whole world to enjoy and challenge - and that mistakes, apprehension and fear can all be conquered? I want him to know that it is ok to fail...we learn by our failures and mistakes. No one is perfect. Have fun. Live life to the fullest. I want to instill a high sense of self esteem and confidence in my son. I want him to reach for the stars, while having his feet firmly on the ground.
I never want my son to be hurt or humiliated, but I want him to explore and learn what his limitations are first hand - not by merely fearing failure and never trying.
My heart goes out to my little man. He is smart, athletic, sensitive and caring. I just want him to be all that he can be.
OK - this post is getting a bit long and a bit of a ramble.
If you have made it this far into the post - what do you suggest I do? How would you handle this? Have you faced this type of situation with your kids? Am I crazy? (maybe!!!) What are your biggest parenting challenges when it comes to behaviour? Am I alone in wondering what I am doing to encourage certain traits? Am I alone in wondering what I can do to encourage comfort levels to be pushed? Should they be pushed?
FISH, this parenting gig is not easy!