I am so proud of my Little Bird. She has come a long, long way in swimming lessons.
As I wrote earlier this year, this was her fifth go at Preschool 3. We had changed community centres, in the hopes that a new teacher would inspire her to do something different. She even had a male teacher, and although she was unsure at the beginning, I think once she figured out that he wasn’t falling for her pouty ways, she started to turn things around.
She was volunteering for her turn, swimming across the steps, even showed an interest in jumping in on her own – although she never quite made it in without holding the instructor’s hands. But I’m okay with that. I thought she did so well. She looked like she was having fun. She didn’t get upset with herself over anything. There were many smiles, cheers and high-fives all around, every week.
Until last week.
Last week she wasn’t herself. She crossed her arms, refused to try and even cried when she couldn’t do a back glide. She gave up.
After class, I spoke to the teacher and asked him how she was doing. He basically shook his head at me and told me that report cards were going out next week. She wasn’t passing. While she does all the requirements, she still doesn’t do them on her own.
My heart sank.
And now we’re in a dilemma, as she is already 6 years old. She technically should be in Swimmer 1 already, but if she couldn’t do the required elements in Preschool 3, how was she going to be in Swimmer 1? He assured me that Swimmer 1 was very similar to Preschool 3 and that if she was already 6 that I should enroll her in the next level.
On the way home, D and I were a little hard on her, talking to her about trying harder and not giving up. But it wasn’t the time or the place. And she wasn’t in the frame of mind to hear any of it.
I want to protect her. I want to help her. But I can’t make her do the things she needs to do on her own. So as I mother, I feel like I’ve failed her.
I push my kids to do their best and after beating myself up about it, I realized that I am not that mom. I have taught her the importance of trying. And I have taught her that she has to work hard for things. But I’ve also taught her that she has to have fun and she has to do her best.
And I really think, for probably the first time, she had fun in Preschool 3. She did her best and she has come a long, long way.
You can’t win them all, right? There’s a lesson in that too. Sometimes you try hard and do your best and you don’t pass.
And that is okay.
So why do I feel like crying? Why do I want to skip the class tonight, so she doesn’t feel horrible when she hears again that she isn’t passing? How do I explain to her again that she isn’t going to the next level, without breaking her spirit?
The Little Mouse will be getting her report card too. And I think she’ll be passing Preschool 1. So how do I celebrate her without making the Little Bird feel bad? How do you teach this lesson to a six year old? How does she feel happy for her sister, when she feels sorry for herself?
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I have no idea. But we will go to the class. And I will let her be however she wants to be. I will explain the reason she isn’t passing is because she has to do all the elements by herself. I will let her tell me that mommy and daddy are proud of her, because we are. We saw her having fun, putting her hand up, and floating on her own. I will tell her that we are proud she tried hard. I will also tell her that she has to keep trying. Getting good at something takes practice and hard work.
I will hug her and kiss her and keep giving her a love and support. Because as a mother, what else can I do, right?
The other day, the Little Bird and I were home as D and the Little Mouse went out. I put on a rerun of So You Think You Can Dance, and instantly she was glued to watching these dancers vie for a place in Hollywood. She asked why this one boy was crying, and I told her that he tried his best, but he didn’t make it through. He didn’t get a “ticket”. And then the show followed that with about four or five people in a row who got tickets. So she asked me, “But everyone gets a ticket, right mommy?” And I told her “No, sometimes they don’t. Sometimes they try really hard, do their best, but they don’t get one.” She was quiet after that, just watching the show.
By the end of the show, they were in a new city and the boy from the beginning of the show was back for redemption. He made it through to the choreography round and then was given a ticket. I looked at her and she was smiling, “he got a ticket now!”
While the correlation between him getting a ticket after trying again – not giving up – and her swimming report card looming in a few days was screaming in my face, I let it go. Instead we talked about why everyone was crying, whether they got a ticket or not. I explained that each and every one of those dancers tries really hard to be good at what they do. They practice and never give up. Their goal was to get that ticket and they were willing to keep trying in order to get it. That they are so happy when they get it that they cry. And if they don’t, well, they are equally as sad.
I’m prepared for tears tonight, and may even shed a few myself. But I will wait to draw the similarity between the ticket to Hollywood and the swimming report card and remind myself that she is six years old. It is my job as a parent to build her up, set the stage, lay the groundwork and help her as much as I can. Then I have to step back and watch her dance on her own.
You’ll get your ticket one day, my Little Bird. I know you will!