My son is taking swim classes with our local recreation department. He loves the water and this is great bonding experience for us. It's just the two of us, while my daughter spends a little one-on-one time with my parents, and my husband is still at work.
One of the things that we've been working is floating on his back. We've been trying to do this for years (every summer) but my son will float if I'm holding him, but if I start to slowly pull away my hands he pikes and grabs my hands. He won't do it! Two weeks ago we tried and he allowed me to slowly pull away my hands and he floated by himself for several seconds. I am so proud of him! It was a long road, but we did it!
As we did this exercise several times during the class, and he continued to float by himself, I thought about how much he must trust me. He trusts me to be there when he feels himself floundering. He trusts that I will pull him up and hold onto him. He trusts me to be by his side.
I thought about what made him decide to float on his own and I came up with follow-through. Yes, follow-through. My son knows that I will follow-through with what I tell him I'm going to do...good, bad, indifferent, I will follow-through. The last few times we tried floating, I told him that I will always catch him. When I would pull my hands away, he would grab them to make sure I was still there, and I was. I always caught him, I always held him, I was always right next to him. I made him a promise and I followed through with it. The last time he floated, he knew that I would be right there and I would catch him. He trusted me and I was there. Yay, us!
So many times in parenting I don't want to follow through...especially with the consequences. Taking away something, giving a time out, saying no. Because sometimes the tears come and so do the tantrums. Sometimes I just want to say "Fine!", but having been a teacher for 8 years I learned very quickly that your students will overrun you if you don't follow-through. They have long memories and they'll remember if you did something that you said that you were going to do. I took this skill with me into my parenting world. A friend of mine once said, "It's so much easier to be a bad parent. Giving into your kids all the time, not setting boundaries or structure, no discipline. It's easy. The hard part is being a good parent, finding the balance between structure and flexibility. Saying yes when it counts, and saying no when it really counts." She's right. They don't hand you a manual when you have a baby. They send you home with a 3-day old and you hope that you don't screw it up.
My son has learned over the last 4 years that I will provide structure and balance. I will be there for him when he flounders and when he celebrates. I will rejoice in his successes and support him when he needs a little more guidance. We have developed trust and I pray that it will carry him through as he continues to grow.