Never Say Never

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When my child was five, I took him to the beach and he was so terrified that he stood at the edge of the grass and refused to walk on the sand, crying and crying.  I was beside myself, as I had hopes that swimming would be soothing for him, and enjoyable.  I made a tough decision at that time.  I decided that my child would swim no matter what, because the planet was 3/4 water and I felt it was an important skill.  Because of this commitment, I took him the next day, and the next.  He continued to stand there crying and soon it turned into rage.  I would sit about ten feet away on my towel and he would scream insults at me.  One that sticks in my head to this day was “I’m not swimming, you old handbag!!!!”  (He got that one mixed up, and I still laugh about it.)  The whole beach was staring at us.  Finally, through perseverance, I got him to the towel, and then the water.  The whole process took daily trips for weeks.  I could see the compassion in the faces of other beach-goers turn from compassion to utter dread at the sight of the mom with the screamer.

Swimming lessons was a disaster, as he stood there crying for most of it, due to the noise and commotion of having so many children around him.  The lifeguard came to speak with me.  She said that she wanted to congratulate me because she had seen parents who threw in the towel after one or two days, but never in her life had she seen a mother spend a full month acclimating her child to the beach.  She offered private lessons…and we were off and running on our journey to swim.

What was a regular class for most kids was something that was about 70% harder to navigate for my son with sensory processing disorder, or SPD.  When he was a few years old, a specialist told us something I would never forget.  She said that unfortunately, if we were to throw our child into deep water with a bunch of other kids, our child would be the one that drowned.  I stopped going to that specialist, and determined to spend my lifetime making her wrong if that was what it would take. Our first year of swimming lessons was the year that he accomplished getting wet and walking on sand and attempting to follow the instructor. Small headway, but I would take it.

The next year I tried something new.  My friend was offering for kids to come to her pool and take lessons with a teacher we paid by pooling funds.  It was a tiny bit better because the group was small and less chaotic for him, but still not optimal, and I felt sad that he just couldn’t keep up with the other kids.  Still I insisted on my swim mission.

The following year (to the best of my memory) I learned that I could get private lessons with that same teacher before the regular class, and so we signed him up for that and for the first time, he began to learn how to do some strokes.  One on one lessons, I found, was what worked best for him.  He could only stay afloat with a device, but he began to learn something.  I was elated.

Every year I did my best, and some years we couldn’t find lessons for him that he could deal with, and so my husband and I worked with him in the water ourselves, playing and encouraging him.  A few years ago, he could actually stay afloat for about six feet, swim underwater, and began to at least attempt the back float.  Other kids his age were already swimming away, but I continued to focus on whatever I could to help him only compete with himself.  He was small for his age, and so he blended in with younger children, which helped him not feel as self conscious.

Two years ago I found out about a man that I call the “Swim Whisperer”.  Jim offers classes at the local Y for homeschool kids.  I was very hopeful.  Within the first few weeks, my son was swimming better than he ever had, but still struggling for stamina and coordination.  I made another hard decision then and there to continue his lessons year round to ensure that he could maintain his stride and and improve through the winter.  Trudging through ice and storms to get to swimming was no picnic, and classes dramatically diminished that time of year.  This worked to our advantage, though,  and my son enjoyed lots of individual attention from the teacher.

Jim, the Swim Whisperer teaches like noone I have ever seen.  His patience, natural way with kids, and non-competitive classes are one of a kind.  He makes every single child the focus of a good example, and helps each of them shine.  He is magic.  I might also mention that every day swim day rolled around, my son still dreaded it.  He fought with me, didn’t want to go, and told me he hated it.  It was so hard for me to continue to drag him there when he really fought about it.  Many times I almost gave up, thinking perhaps I was fighting a losing battle, or that I was wrong to force him to learn something he didn’t care about.

My stubborn Taurus nature won out, and I held strong to my mission.  Always, I would come back to the thought that there had to be one thing this child could conquer, and that he would thank me someday because he would be able to enjoy the water, boating, summer fun…this kept me going.  Suddenly this season, my son’s swimming improved dramatically in the last year, and at almost 13 years of age, the payoff began!  My child, who was destined to drown, could now freestyle a full hundred yards, dive into the deep end and take off down the lane, and continues to improve with speed and skill.  

This whole process has taught me so much as a mother. It taught me that sometimes I have to stand for what is good for my child no matter how much he hates it.  Patience and love can get him there.  Relentless vision and commitment are as important as air when it comes to supporting a child.  It taught me that people can assume lots of things, but if I stay true to what my heart tells me is right on, miracles can happen.  I have learned subtle things about my son and how he operates, what works with him and what does not.  I learned that he says no to almost anything I suggest at first because this is the nature of SPD, that defensiveness is a first off self protection mechanism in a world that is too much for a subtle, sensitive soul.  I have learned that if I hold him with patience and love through his “no”, and allow him plenty of time to adjust without rushing, he often will melt into a “yes” after a while. 

I have learned to slow down, to completely give up comparing anyone to anyone else, but rather celebrate personal wins.  I’ve learned that well meaning people can say hurtful things without a clue as to the suffering they’ve caused.  I’ve learned to continue to plod on determinedly in the direction of my desire no matter how slow or long the journey is.  I’ve learned that when one makes up their mind with sharp focus, the universe does indeed conspire and sends us exactly what we need.  I’ve learned that if one teacher isn’t working, keep asking until you find the right one.  I’ve learned that just because something works for the majority, flexibility with individuals is best.  Most of all, I have learned to never give up and never, ever say never.

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8 Responses to “Never Say Never”

  1. Deborah Miles Says:

    Oceana, this is a wonderful story. You are everything I expected and your son has an awesome mom and I am sure he will have an awesome life. Oh, he looks just like you.

    Like

  2. Oceana Says:

    Thank you, Deborah. 🙂 Actually, this isn’t a picture of him, as I like to keep his privacy in some ways…but I so appreciate your acknowledgement…

    Like

  3. embraceofbeing Says:

    What a beautiful story, Oceana. And the photo of him is beautiful. He looks confident, strong and happy!

    Like

  4. Oceana Says:

    Thank you, dear! It’s not him in the picture, but he’s about that size…

    Like

  5. Elaine Says:

    Thank you for sharing this inspiring story, you are such an amazing Mom. What I like about this is that it can be applied to many situations in life wether its our kids or ourselves:)

    Like

  6. Oceana Says:

    It was my pleasure. Yes, parenting seems to teach us so much, not only about parenting, but about the places where we needs to grow and expand as human beings. 🙂

    Like

  7. Sue Says:

    Oceana~ you are a true inspiration to parenting. I always say that being a parent is the hardest job in the world, but none more rewarding! I have learned alot from you. Thank you for sharing your story. God Bless you and your family!

    Like

  8. Oceana Says:

    It really is the hardest job, isn’t it?! Whew. And yes, so incredibly rewarding, too. Thank you for your acknowledgment and kind words. Blessings from one mama to another!

    Like

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