Watching Elli jump into the pool today brought back memories of one of those ‘do what’s best for your child even if she hates you for it’ moments.
She was about 3 years old and we had just moved into a new built house with a pool.
Everything was a crisis around the pool.
Elli hated the pool.
And everything around it.
The wind would blow the umbrellas in the yard and Elli would have s full blown terror meltdown.
It was like monsters were attacking every time something moved due to this mysterious force that Elli associated with dust in her eyes or things moving for no logical reason.
Lisa being the smart woman she is made pool duty a dad gig.
After they had their pool side lunch delivered by a local deli I had the pleasure of wrecking Elli’s happy state with in-the-pool time.
She would clamp on to me like that thing in the alien movies laying an egg in the hapless host while it was suctioned on to them.
At first I would try to ease her away from me but her little arms just clutched tighter.
So I pushed her away more forcefully letting her know I wouldn’t let go and it would just be a second
Then the screaming began.
No daddy. No daddy. Don’t let go daddy.
You’d think I was clinging to her by her little pinky as she hung over the edge of some cliff.
It tore my heart out.
But I knew the longer I babied her the harder it would be for her to get through this fear.
So I pushed her away from me.
I never let go and she was never more than one foot away but I knew it was like an eternity for her.
That was one of those moments you don’t dream about when you’re trying so hard to get a child into this world.
I never want Elliana to feel fear.
But I also don’t want her to be paralyzed by fears that I know she is strong enough to get through.
That means I had to suck it up when she screamed words that I am sure had our nosy next door neighbor trying to find the number for child protective services.
“You’re not a nice man!”
She kept screaming that over and over staring straight into my eyes for signs that it was working.
I couldn’t let her see the way those words were getting to me.
Eventually the screaming subsided with the distraction of me saying ‘honey you’re so brave’ and ‘look at my baby swimming” over and over.
The more amazed I was with her the less accusing she was about my unkindness.
Those little 15 minute sessions always warranted an after dinner drink.
As I watch Elli swim around the pool now fearlessly jumping in and doing handstands I can’t believe how much she loves the water.
I know that summer of being ‘not a nice man’ made my baby stronger.
Even if it took all my strength on those days to not just rescue her and put it off a few more days.