I took my three year old daughter swimming at the weekend. She hasn’t been for a little while and was really looking forward to it. She’s always seemed to love all the waterfalls and slides and tippy buckets.
However, this time she had developed some fears about bits of the pool. I’m not sure if there was a specific reason for it. We went to go on the flume (which she LOVED last time we were there, so much so I had to stop her going on again as she was shivering madly) and she was terrified, screaming not to go on. Now, it would be a very normal parental response to accept this, take her back to the pool where she was happy and carry on. However, logically, there was no reason for her fear. She had been on many times before and she had enjoyed it. Nothing significantly scary had happened in the meantime that involved big slides. Perhaps she had seen a scary video, or got scared of a different slide, or perhaps that’s just something that happens when you turn 3, I don’t know. Anyway, I decided to take her on. A bit of bribery with sweets and she let me carry her up the steps. She was fine whilst we were waiting in line, got a bit distracted with seeing a train out of the window. She was pretty scared when we went to sit down on the green slide entrance, gripping on tightly to me, but she wasn’t in any danger. I made lots of fun “wheeeee!” noises on the way down. I’m not sure she actually smiled but she didn’t cry on the way down. When we got to the bottom she had a little cry, maybe because of the adrenaline of doing something scary. I asked her if she wanted to go on again and she said no, so we went back to the little splashy pool.
Now, perhaps other parents looking on would have thought me a bit cruel and heartless, forcing my child to do something she didn’t want to do when she was supposed to be having fun. However, I never want her to not do things in her life because of fear. Fear can stop you harming yourself, yes, but it can also stop you living life entirely. It’s a totally natural, normal human emotion, but not one that should be listened to all the time, as I’ve discussed previously. I want her to grow up knowing that things in life, maybe the best things, are scary, and that sometimes you just have to feel the fear and do it anyway.
(There’s a book named that by the way, written by Susan Jeffers. It has been recommended to me by more than one friend, just in case you’re interested).
I asked her later that evening what her favourite part of swimming was. You know what she said? “The big green slide”.