I have this fancy task management application that I sometimes use but mostly ignore, and it’s had a to-do item in there for, I don’t know, maybe a year or more, filed away in the “Kids” project under a folder titled “Teach Riley to swim”. The first action item in this carefully-organized project was “Call swimming center re: lessons”.

And there it’s sat for all these months, which is my main problem with fancy task management software applications: they lack the one mission-critical feature I need, which is for a tiny boot to emerge from my computer and give me a swift kick in the ass.

Meanwhile, Riley not only didn’t learn how to swim, but he got pretty scared of water in general. I don’t mean the bathtub, but the fearless baby who happily splashed around the Umpqua River on his dad’s shoulders is gone, replaced by a suspicious preschooler who wants nothing to do with that shit, and by the way are there sharks in rivers?

We finally got the damn lessons booked (which, as a sidenote, has officially tipped our family Busy-O-Meter into the red zone; not that the kids are over-scheduled but I sure as hell feel like I am) and his first swim day was Monday.

Riley is a bit of a tentative kid, maybe a little extra sensitive about certain things. He’s not a fan of loud noises or startling images or pent-up anticipation (remind me to tell you about the time a well-meaning doctor blew a latex glove into a balloon for him during a checkup! Actually that’s pretty much the whole story, except for the part where he shouted NOOOOOOOOOOO and she was all HOLY FUCK KID I WILL PUT THE HANDBALLOON AWAY NOW), and I assumed this first lesson would be . . . difficult.

And it was, a little. He wailed when he first got in the water, he cried when the instructor held him and moved away from the safety of the pool edge. He cried off and on for the entire half hour.

But get this. Not once did he call to JB or I. He didn’t try and scramble out of the pool and away from the water. He just endured, clearly frightened but sticking it out.

The teacher did all kinds of clever things with Riley and the two other little boys in the class: she had them throw floating toys into the deeper section of the pool, then she’d carry them to go pick them up. She sprinkled water on their heads with a little watering can. She put all three of them on a floating piece of foam and swirled them around.

By the time he was done, he was shivering and still sniffly but smiling. We told him over and over how proud we were of him, and he said “I cried a lot but I did good,” and we said yes, you sure did.

Later, I talked to him about bravery and what it means when you do something even though you’re scared, and his eyes were like big dark pools as he listened to me.

Yesterday was his second class and he didn’t cry once. He squealed with joy when he got swirled through into the deeper end, he floated by himself on a big foam noodle, he squinted but didn’t complain as water was poured on his head.

At the end of the lesson, the instructor coaxed him to jump from the edge of the pool into the water where she caught him, but not before letting him completely submerge. The first time he was shaky and stretched a beseeching hand to her and I could barely watch, and then he did it—jumped, a tangle of skinny boy-elbows and bruised knees—and I sat there on the bleachers and cried like a giant wuss while he climbed back out and did it again.

I took him by the grocery store afterwards and as we were walking the aisles I told him again how incredibly proud I was.

“I’m proud of me too,” he said, then something caught his eye. “Hey Mom? Can I get these Transformers bandaids?”

You know I bought the damn things, right? And a box of mini chocolate donuts to share with his brother, even though it was almost bedtime.

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Gigi
12 years ago

Isn’t it awesome to watch them overcome their fears? That’s why sometimes we have to push them. And yay mom for buying the bandaids and the donuts – that will be something he always equates with his accomplishment. And yeah – I would have cried too.

Nichole
12 years ago

I’m almost crying just reading about it. I didn’t count on my kids busting my emotions wide open quite so frequently. But good golly, they take their sweet little chisels to your heart so effortlessly, don’t they?

Jae
Jae
12 years ago

How wonderful. Reading your stories truly make me so happy to be a parent and look forward to watching my boy grow.

.303 Bookworm
.303 Bookworm
12 years ago

Can I say, without meaning to be creepy, but I’m proud of you. So hard to sit there, knowing he’s scared, so brilliant to explain bravery in a term when he can put it into context.

The hardest thing I find with my stepson is his refusal to try things that scare him or that he thinks he’ll fail. He spent the first 6 years of his life being told “it’s ok, you don’t need to do it if you’re scared”. And that is an attitude that, two years later, we are constantly working hard to overcome. Good for you – you guys are giving your kids the environment and attitude they’ll need to make the most of their lives.

Anneli
Anneli
12 years ago

Fear-conquering is an amazing thing to behold! Both in children and adults. Congrats to Riley, and kudos to you and JB for encouraging him to try something new. It’s a skill he’ll have forever. Especially when he wants to try an open-water swim, like for a triathlon or something crazy like that, and is worried that there are sharks or *things* in the water. ;)

susan
susan
12 years ago

You must be so proud! As a former lifeguard/swim instructor, I always loved kids like Riley who transformed in front of my eyes from nervous and scared to happy, confident swimmers. A truly rewarding experience to play a part in teaching an important skill. Go Riley! and Go You!

Eric's Mommy
12 years ago

Linda, that is so awesome! I’m proud of Riley too!

Eric was 4 when he started taking swim lessons and he was petrified of the water. Now he is 8 and in the highest level of lessons they have and swimming with 12 year olds. I just signed him up for a swim team too. He is that awesome, and Riley will be that awesome too.

kalisa
12 years ago

It just makes your heart want to explode, doesn’t it?

telegirl
telegirl
12 years ago

Sharks?! Just don’t show me that awful millfoil… LOL!

Beautiful story & picture.

Victoria
12 years ago

Now I’m crying too!
I may not have kids, but I’m loving listening along as yours grow up :)

Kristin
Kristin
12 years ago

AWESOME story. And a tear-jerker, too!

Sonia
Sonia
12 years ago

*snarffle* Love it!

warcrygirl
12 years ago

I forsee Riley swimming on his local swim team in a few years. Go Riley!

Leah
12 years ago

I just pressed the NOOOOOOO button on a computer whose 12-inch professional-grade speakers had been turned up to 11, and I think I woke up a napping baby in the next county. Also, I am deaf.

Charlise
12 years ago

It’s wonderful to see them grow, isn’t it?

Donna
Donna
12 years ago

You’re killin me, you and your Aunt. Different ways, but my heart hurts the same.
I’ve given up trying not to cry when I read you guys.
Riley will use the skill that you have just given him for the rest of his life. The swimming too. What about Dylan? Is he taking lessons yet?
So proud of him, and you too for not interfering, it had to be hard……but it’s soooooo worth it.

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

Nichole summed it up for me. But I just wanted to add, these are the moments that make it such an amazing ride. These are the moments on the tip of your tongue that you can’t grasp when trying to explain to a childless person, what it is about parenting that is so rewarding. I am all choked up just reading about it because of COURSE you bought the bandaids, of course. Way to go Riley:)

jonniker
12 years ago

Oh crap. These kids! They kill us slowly with their awesome.

“I’m proud of me, too!”

Yes, kid. You can have the bandaids. And a pony. And a car. Riley, would you like a car? Let Auntie Jonna buy you a car.

Lesley
Lesley
12 years ago

I can picture him listening intently as you explained how you can ‘feel the fear and do it anyway’. That is just so awesome.

I love it that boys are now allowed to cry, and have that acknowledged as normal. So often I remember my brother being called a sissy and a wuss by my father if ever he was afraid. And even an ex-boyfriend of mine teased his son for being fearful; a repeat of how his dad raised him.

Feeling scared is part of life. Your boys are so lucky to have you and JB explain that it’s OK.

Redbecca
Redbecca
12 years ago

Now I’m all verclempt!
What a sweet story! He will treasure you penning this one (among many, I know) when he gets older.

samantha jo Campen
12 years ago

I’m proud of you too, Riley. And yes, I’m choked up over here.

Anonymous
Anonymous
12 years ago

I almost cried reading this.

yaya
12 years ago

Fantastic post, you rock mom! I really needed this post today, my kiddo is signed up for lessons in a few weeks. We tried a group lesson last week & I air-balled and got in the water with him after he cried & begged (instead of sitting on the sidelines or farther away) and kiddo was so surly to the amazing instructor, all but giving her the finger (he’s three), he was just scared & unsure and I made it no better by being there with him and saying “ok, you don’t need to do that.” Thanks for the inspiration, next time I know there might be some tears & maybe even a finger but I think kiddo will do just fine without mom to cling to.

Kate
Kate
12 years ago

Change the story to a little girl, same age, and I am right there with you sister!

Sarah
Sarah
12 years ago

I just cried. That’s it.

L
L
12 years ago

Aw, I’ve got tears in my eyes here! Well done Riley, you’re getting so grown up!

Amanda Blair
12 years ago

Ah this made me tear up. What a cute little man you have. I love the “I’m proud of myself too, MOm can I have these Band-Aids?” Haha kids bounce back like nothing else.

Rachel
12 years ago

Oh brother, I’m sitting here crying and I don’t even KNOW the kid! Thanks for the good story, it inspired me to be more brave in my own life :)

pickles & dimes
12 years ago

Oh, this was such a great entry. Great job, Riley! And I loved the bravery speech.

Riley reminds me of my 5-year-old nephew, who wanted his SpongeBob sprinker turned on but shrieked if he got wet; who loved to play with toys by the edge of the pool but would cry if asked to dip his toes in the water. He cried during his first month of swimming lessons, but now he’s a different boy. Much less tentative.

His 3-year-old brother, on the other hand, will jump headfirst into the pool if you’re not watching him.

joaaanna
joaaanna
12 years ago

Well that just made me smile and smile.

SeriousMom
12 years ago

Days like that make all the crappy stuff worth it.

Motherklunkers.com is a new website that looks at the lighter side of parenting. We all make mistakes, right? Mothers aren’t perfect (fathers either) and here is the proof. No jokes, no cute kid stories, just a real look at moms and dads and the mistakes we make. funny stuff.

motherklunkers.com

Andrea (@shutterbitch)
12 years ago

Yay Riley! Yay for swimming!

Jonna, I’ll chip in on that car. Right about now, I’d give Riley just about anything he wanted.

Incidentally, this is a beautifully written post, and I got a little verklempt. Bookbookbook Linda (not that you don’t already have a full plate, hello red zone).

Sadie
Sadie
12 years ago

Just joining the chorus of NOW I’M CRYING. Haha, WTF, now I’m crying! Awesome story, awesome writing, awesome kid.

Stephie
12 years ago

OMG, I am with the rest…sitting here crying too…how did you see through the tears to write this…Great story. I am not a parent yet, but hope to be soon. I will be adopting an older child, but hope to have these memoriable moments also. THanks for sharing.

Becky Mochaface
12 years ago

Go Riley! So brave!

sarah
sarah
12 years ago

People who can hold onto both negative & positive emotions at the same time are the people capable of the most happiness & joy. Sounds like Riley is on his way!

Rhonda
Rhonda
12 years ago

Very much enjoy your stories and writing. I was tearing up at “I cried a lot but I did good” – because your wise son summed up my entire experience in trying to live my life and raise my kids in just eight words.

Molly
Molly
12 years ago

Watching your kids do things they were scared to do or couldn’t do before is so amazing. You capture these moments EXACTLY. Thank you.

LilyLivard
LilyLivard
12 years ago

Awww, thanks for helping my eyes clear out this pollen. You are an excellent momma.

Kerstin
Kerstin
12 years ago

Oh my goodness, I’m sitting here cyring like an idiot because I’m hormonal and silly that way. What a lovely post, you must be so, so proud of your boys.

You write really well, I always enjoy your blog, thanks for this.

victoria
victoria
12 years ago

This is an amazing entry, thank you for writing about it.

I would be really, really interested to know how you manage to fit everything you do into a day and still get adequate sleep and time with your husband.

I ask, because your writing about your body transformation has inspired me to abandon my “weight control by starvation” technique.

What inspires me is not any direct reprimand (everyone has told me how dumb this is, including my doctor).

What inspires me is how healthy and happy you seem. You love being strong, and you sound like you’re really happy in your body.

Reading about your experience makes me want to emulate you.

So I recently started exercising much, much more, and I realized that I can’t do it. I don’t have kids or a bad commute, but scheduling exercise in every day casued me enormous stress.

I wasn’t getting enough sleep, I was snotty to my husband, I was irritable (more than usual) because it was too much. I felt as though I had no down time. I found myself walking the dog at midnight, facing a 5:30 am wakeup for personal training or rowing the next day. I just crashed.

The whole time I was struggling with this, I kept thinking about you and wondering, “How the hell does Linda do it? She has kids and a horror show of a commute and yet she is super fit.”

I mean, what does your schedule look like? Literally, like, when do you wake up, how long does it take you to get to work, when do you leave work, get home, exercise, etc.

Do you just not need much sleep? Do you find yourself having to say “no” to people who want to make demands on your time? Is that uncomfortable? Etc.

I would really like to be strong, not just thin, but I can’t seem to find the time.

Sundry
12 years ago

Victoria, I could detail every boring minute of my day, but really I think the answer you’re looking for is when do I exercise, right? Lately it’s not actually very often. I run maybe 3 times a week, usually two shorter runs in the evenings after the kids go to bed and one long one on the weekend. I might do some yoga or strength exercises in the evening in front of the TV. I hope to get more variety into my exercise routine after the marathon, but in the last couple months I’ve learned that I don’t NEED to work out every day to maintain a level of fitness I’m happy with.

cindy
cindy
12 years ago

this story brought tears to my eyes. I can totally relate to the awe of watching your children hang in there beyond the point that you thought that they could/would!

april
12 years ago

congratulations! It is my intention to teach my son to swim this summer, but I’m not sure how to accomplish this since I really don’t swim that well and will be largely pregnant (well, will be very pregnant and therefore very large) all summer. I do plan on doing a lot of floating, so hopefully he can learn from one of us how to swim!

Donna
Donna
12 years ago

Don’t have to be Riley’s mom to find a tear in my eye at “I cried a lot but I did good.”

HollyLynne
12 years ago

Go Riley!!!

Amanda
12 years ago

I woke my daughter up as I yelped when I read about the outstretched arm. Damn. Good job, little man.

caradawn
12 years ago

This is kind of random, but I thought I remembered reading that you were loving some CW-X running tights a while back, but I can’t find any mention of it anywhere. I don’t know if I’m imagining this, or if it was on Bodies In Motion or something? I’m curious what tights you have/like, and what you’ll run in when the weather is warmer? Any capri running tight recommendations?
Like I said, kinda random…

caradawn
12 years ago

Finally found your mention of the CW-X tights on Bodies in Motion, yay!

g.
g.
12 years ago

oh hell, that made me cry. so proud of riley!