Wednesday, July 29, 2015

where is my award?

Brody and Brecken completed four weeks of swimming lessons last night.

Technically, "completed" is a bit of an overstatement in Brecken's case. He was present for the classes. That's a more accurate statement.

They both got bright certificates to commemorate their accomplishments.

Considering the circumstances, I think I should have gotten an award, too. Maybe a cookie or something.

I mentioned tears during our first lesson in this post. Yes, there were tears. Brecken cried. I cried.

Let me explain. Brecken is a hilarious, silly, loud, normally-obedient kid, and we have seen these traits increase and flourish in the last six months. But that's just at home. In public spaces, where he can be seen by others, he is quiet, anxious, clingy, and tearful.

This is a constant battle in parenting. In his three years of existence, he has cried all but five times when I drop him off in his Sunday School class. That's not really an exaggeration.

We did gymnastics lessons earlier this year. He cried when he was asked to join the class in activities.

And these swimming lessons...they have taken a lot out of us.

Before the first lesson, his teacher very kindly asked him not to hit the water with a noodle. He turned away and cried, feelings hurt. He then refused to get within 10 feet of her. He didn't want any part of those lessons. I was patient and compassionate. It didn't work. I was hard and demanding. It didn't work. In all, we completed about 25% of the activities of that day, with him crying for either myself or "Daddy" the whole time. (Keep in mind that these lessons involved parents, so I was RIGHT THERE the whole time.)

When I couldn't fight it anymore, we went to the side of the pool and sat while Brody finished his lesson. I was defeated. I think Brecken was relieved to be away from his class. However, because he chose to be such a punk--as I saw it--I didn't allow him to play in the water afterward. (And he would have enjoyed it, because this kid LOVES to swim.)

The teacher came over to me after class, trying to console me and telling me to come back the next week and try again.

I tried to hold back, but I cried. (I guess this is where Brecken gets it, but the thought of the teacher internally rolling her eyes at me for being so weak and passing that along to my son made me feel like an absolute idiot.) As she continued talking and feeling bad for me, the poor mother who couldn't control her kid or her emotions, I cried more. I pretty much ugly cried right there in the middle of the whole community center. It was quite a sight to behold, I'm sure.

In all honesty, the swimming lesson fiasco was only a small part of my reason for crying. Could have been hormones. Could have been discouragement over parenting this child. (WHY can I not figure him out? And what if this Baby Girl is just as hard to figure out?) Probably, it was because of this stinking adoption. I had read more discouraging news about DRC adoptions earlier that day, and I had let it fester, marinating in every part of my body until--with the added frustration of Round One of swimming lessons--I couldn't carry the load anymore.

Round Two went a little bit better, with Brecken completing about 45% of the lesson (yet still staying 10 feet front his teacher). His teacher let him push the special button to turn off the running water before class, and that got him involved in the beginning of class while earning some points for the teacher. He never quite joined his class completely, but we were able to pick some things that he felt comfortable with and do those after his classmates finished them.

Round Three was a complete failure. He did a few activities in the beginning of class, then melted into a puddle of tears. This was probably my fault, because I had to wake him up from a nap to take him to lessons and couldn't mentally prepare him. The water was colder than normal, and as he shivered with his blue lips and anxiety, I couldn't help but feel bad for him. We sat out and waited for Brody's lessons to be over.

Then, magic. Brody wanted to swim around some more after lessons, so we stuck around a while. Brecken joined in, following and mimicking Brody every step of the way. They jumped around in the water and swam (really swam at short distances without floaties) for 45 minutes after the lessons ended.

So, Brecken had NO problem with being in the water. He had no problem with the temperature of the water. He had no problem socializing (with people he knows).

But he did have a problem in groups. He did have a problem performing. He did appear to be very anxious with others watching.

And last night, at Round Four of swimming lessons, I think my friend (whose son is in Brecken's class) nailed it: Perfectionistic tendencies.

OH NO! He IS just like me! The realization smacked me in the face.

That explains why he was so hurt when the teacher corrected him. It explains why he didn't want to do the activities with his classmates. It explains why newness threatens him, and why he doesn't like a class setting. (Good luck, Kindergarten Teacher of the future.)

With that nugget of info in mind, we took on Round Four with a new game plan. I let him do everything the class was doing in his own time, without anyone watching. I even showed him places in the pool where people wouldn't see him trying the new activities. SUCCESS!

I noticed his anxiety with new performance events, with new activities that might be hard for him. He had trouble balancing on the boogie board while kicking, and when I saw that he was frustrated--embarrassed even--we moved to more shallow waters where he could be successful. I poured encouragement on thick. I minimized perceived failures so he would know it's ok to mess up, particularly on the first few tries.

He was a new man. He even joined his class in several activities (but still refused to play Ring Around the Rosie, which would have meant he'd have to hold hands with strangers, so I really don't blame him much). He jumped into the pool, he held the ledge and scooted around the edge in deep water, he hopped on the noodle. He would not let his teacher touch him, which meant I had to help him with some swimming parts, BUT he did nearly everything his classmates did.

And armed with this new knowledge of my son, I feel like a new mom. In fact, I'm a new mom who is very knowledgeable about his condition: perfectionistic tendencies. I have lived with this condition my whole life, and it has ruined me--even paralyzed me--at times.

So although I don't know exactly what I'm doing or exactly what to do to help him, I do know how it feels and I can ask God for wisdom in dealing with it.

But in the meantime, where is my award for making it through four rounds of intense swim lesson battles? I'd take a cookie. Or something resembling chocolate. Anything will do, really. We made it through!