Sophie clambered on my lap while I was on the computer, so I clicked on the first kid-friendly video I noticed on facebook: Sophie’s friend R in the swimming pool. R is a talented swimmer, pushing off from the edge and actually propelling herself fifteen feet into her swim-teacher’s arms. Sophie was mesmerized. “I want to do that!” she said. She wanted to watch the video again & again. So we took her to family-swim at our local Y. Ben had taken Sophie to swim classes when she was 7 months old, but that was a little overwhelming. Back then, we decided we didn’t need a structured class, just to play around in the water. And then we forgot about it, so we hadn’t been back for a few years.
I don’t think Sophie remembered that class, but Sophie was prepared for the pool by R’s video. She put her head in the water and blew bubbles. She asked us to let go of her. She worked hard at splashing around, supported only by a foam noodle. She laughed a lot. She urged us to stay longer than an hour, insisting, “I’m not cold,” even though her teeth were chattering. We were so proud of her.
When she came home, she asked to see the video again and again, studying R’s moves, then practicing them with her stuffed animals. Our living-room rug is now an imaginary swimming pool. Sophie keeps fluttering her legs, treading water on dry ground. It’s fabulous to watch her rehearsing new skills.
Later that evening, in the bathtub, I told Sophie we needed to shampoo her hair. She doesn’t like shampoo, so we don’t use it every day, and she didn’t want it that day. “Let me tell you a story,” I said. “When I was in school, my school had a swimming pool, and there was a boy who went swimming every day. He didn’t like shampoo. And then, after a while, his hair turned green! So I learned: whenever you go in a swimming pool, you need to use shampoo.”
Sophie thought about it, then said: “Tell me another story about when you were in school.”
This may be my favorite milestone of all. In one day, Sophie not only learned to swim, she also started to listen to my stories. She asks for another “school-story” every day now. She wants to hear about my blueberry-book, and about the strong girl who defied the mean gym teacher, and about that boy with green hair. I may need to think of some new stories to tell her. She knits her brow up, looking close to tears, whenever I tell her that I was once sad. She is a fabulous listener, all of a sudden.
As if that weren’t enough, we just encountered another milestone: Sophie is now asking to borrow my clothes. Actually, not borrow, but take, permanently, “when me gets big.”