I have written here a few times about some of Riley’s sensory-related quirks—things like being unable to tolerate balloons or loud noises or water or new foods or tense scenes in movies. God knows I haven’t always handled it very well, but I’d like to think I learned a thing or two about how to be encouraging without being overbearing. Or, fuck, maybe I didn’t, it’s hard to say.

What’s easy to see, however, is that Riley is a very different kid these days. I actually noticed a pretty big change when he started going to school, although maybe that just coincided with his age. The sensitivities are virtually gone, and his anxiety about New Experiences has dialed way, way back.

Tonight I watched him do something I literally could not even begin to imagine last summer: he spent an entire swimming lesson with his face in the water. Swimming (assisted by a board) entire laps at a time, diving underwater to retrieve a tossed ring, practicing a dive position into the water from the side of the pool.

Screen shot 2012-01-26 at 8.15.05 PM

At one point I realized I was watching him in a mild state of boredom: ho hum, there goes Riley, there’s Dylan with the pool noodle, is it 6 yet? Like, no big deal, my kid’s just out there swimming. Not crying, or protesting, or clinging. It didn’t even seem noteworthy, because this is just how things are these days.

It’s easy to mourn the loss of the younger years, especially when I look at old pictures or videos and wonder just where my babies went. But oh, it’s so amazing to see your kids grow and change and master new things. I used to be so worried about figuring out how to help him, and it turns out all he really needed was time to get there in his own way.


31 Responses to “Off to the deep end”

  1. Frannie on January 26th, 2012 9:55 pm

    The lessons we find in the minutiae of things. Same, same, then we look back and everything is different.

  2. Connie on January 26th, 2012 10:31 pm

    Amen. They get there in their own time, hopefully. Your child did, which means you are doing a good job.

  3. Mama Ritchie on January 26th, 2012 11:04 pm

    YES! I love it!

  4. NancyJ on January 27th, 2012 4:43 am

    Isn’t it amazing we don’t damage our kids by our freak outs when we recognize that we’ve freaked out erroneously?
    Riley and Dylan are growing in leaps and bounds and I love watching them to it!

  5. Eric's Mommy on January 27th, 2012 6:18 am

    Yeah Riley!

  6. Christine on January 27th, 2012 6:39 am

    Yes. You are so right. Well done, Riley, and give me patience to wait it out with my own model.

  7. Lori on January 27th, 2012 6:40 am

    Oh so wonderful! I’m very happy for Riley and for you.

  8. Life of a Doctor's Wife on January 27th, 2012 7:29 am

    Yay Riley!! Good for him!!

  9. Sunny on January 27th, 2012 7:35 am

    This is so awesome and encouraging! My oldest is just like Riley (was) in so many ways! This gives me hope for the future. In the meantime, I’ll try to stop having mini freak outs…maybe

  10. Sarah Lena on January 27th, 2012 7:41 am

    I saw that picture last night and it gave me such hope. We also have been in, I don’t know, a million years of swim lessons? And yet. He’s just not getting it. My friend (a swim coach) said to just keep trying, that one day it just clicks.


  11. Mary Clare on January 27th, 2012 8:07 am

    She just needs “time to get there in her own way” is going to be my new parenting mantra for my girls! It applies to so many situations!

  12. Angella on January 27th, 2012 8:41 am

    Yay, Riley!

    (I actually teared up when I saw this on Instagram.)

  13. Lisa on January 27th, 2012 9:24 am

    My now-18yo was/is a lot like your Riley (yay, Riley!) and I read your posts and smile because, yeah. “On his own time” was the mantra we muttered under our breath (sometimes WHILE we were screaming “Just DO IT, DAMN.”) for so many years.

    It gets better. It gets better. It gets better.

  14. MRW on January 27th, 2012 10:06 am

    Oh this was my son. He wouldn’t put his face in the water until he was 5+. After years of group lessons that did nothing, we coughed up the money and got him private lessons. In the first lesson he put his face in and his progress after that point was amazing. My son is nearly 9 and I take for granted his comfort in the water sometimes, but posts like this make me remember the frustration and then amazement when he finally did it. Milestones.

  15. Liz on January 27th, 2012 10:35 am

    Here’s a question: knowing what you know now, would you still have encouraged the water at an early age, or just waited until now? In other words, is it worth the early frustration because it helped form the payoff later, or are they just wholly ready at a certain age and you may as well not force it until then? (I have a 3.5 year-old who is pretty terrified of swimming, so I’m genuinely interested)

  16. Linda on January 27th, 2012 10:46 am

    Liz: for that particular situation I wish I would have tried harder to find a swimming environment that worked better for him — in hindsight I think one on one lessons with a good teacher would have been much better than a class.

  17. kristiina on January 27th, 2012 11:16 am

    This gives me hope–thanks for posting it. I have a similar situation with my almost 6 year old son and am hoping spring lessons won’t be filled with anxiety and non-participation. :)

  18. Clueless But Hopeful Mama on January 27th, 2012 12:35 pm

    We had such a similar experience with my now 5 1/2 year old. She has had some sensory issues as well and the feeling of water in her face, ears, eyes, ETC was torture.

    Until now.

    Because now, suddenly, she can swim. I think she’s gotten over some of her sensory issues and we finally found a GREAT class for her (very small and personalized). I, too, have to remind myself of how far she’s come. The girl who used to be upset if water got near her face now completely submerges herself, does a flip and comes up smiling. It’s nothing short of a miracle.

    Congrats to you and Riley!

  19. Liz on January 27th, 2012 12:55 pm

    Oh, the growing and changing. Last night my kindergartener brought home a paper where she had drawn a bunch of stuff that begins with “P” and then attempted to spell them. They were all misspelled, but I could easily figure out what she was trying to say. Including “pineapple”! So proud.

  20. H on January 27th, 2012 1:22 pm

    That is fantastic! I still experience this and my kids are 20 and 23. Every now and then, they tell me something they did or how they handled a particular situation, and I am so shocked that they thought and behaved like an adult! Then I remember…uh….they ARE adults!

  21. sooboo on January 27th, 2012 1:54 pm

    Go Riley!! I had group swimming lessons when I was a kid and I still don’t know how to swim!

  22. Susan on January 27th, 2012 4:45 pm

    Your last line. The perfect summary of parenthood. If you’ve figured that out already, you are soooo far ahead of the game!

  23. Lana on January 27th, 2012 6:29 pm

    Thank you for this. Sometimes i get sooo caught up and worried about little things that seems so hard right now (WTF, FOUR?) i need to let go sometimes and let my daughter just be and figure things out in her own time.

    Way to go Riley!

  24. Kami on January 27th, 2012 11:46 pm

    Yep! Time does kids wonders! Go Riley!

  25. sal on January 28th, 2012 10:14 am

    “I used to be so worried about figuring out how to help him, and it turns out all he really needed was time to get there in his own way.”

    I need to write that down and stick it on the wall in our house. What an excellent reminder…

  26. Cally on January 29th, 2012 11:44 am

    Go Riley!!

  27. Redbecca on January 30th, 2012 8:41 am

    Yay! So exciting to see him grow and change!

  28. alyn on January 31st, 2012 8:34 am

    That story is so damn sweet!

  29. Lucy on February 1st, 2012 4:44 am

    Well done Riley! :0)

    And your last paragraph – completely spot on, couldn’t agree more! Nothing gives me more pleasure than watching my eight year old boy grow!

  30. Kim on February 3rd, 2012 8:39 pm

    From a mom to a boy with very similar sensory issues, this post is like a breath of fresh HOPE. Thanks.

  31. Joanne on February 9th, 2012 1:48 pm

    I’m so happy to hear this about Riley. My son, as it seems like I always mention in comments about this, has autism and is profoundly affected by sensory issues. But I swear, since I have been so on the lookout about it, I can see sensory issues in all little kids, especially boys. Even my son has gotten so much better about things with age. I hope you and your husband go a little easy on yourselves, it is damned hard to figure out what needs some pushing and what doesn’t.

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