Project Alicia : Water Phobia: Overcoming Fears

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Water Phobia: Overcoming Fears

Just a beautiful day at the pool...

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The calm water and blue skies look refreshing and so peaceful.

But looks can be deceiving!

What you don't see is the hundreds of people behind me that had to evacuate the pool that day because of the whistle...

The whistle that means that a child is either injured or drowned.

Every parent's worst nightmare...

Fear and anxiety that only a mother can know.

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It is near impossible to keep an eye on YOUR child every second with the hordes of other children.

When that long whistle sounded I had no idea where my children were. And I couldn't find them. I only knew that the child on a stretcher had a polka dot suit. I went to get a closer look at the unmoving child and panic set in for those 3 minutes of unknown as my mind thought the unimaginable. Within seconds of realizing that the child did not belong to me I located my children and felt instant relief.

But to better understand the magnitude of sheer terror that encompassed me that day we must rewind a bit.

When Little Man was born he had a fear of water. Baths were a nightmare. Screaming, kicking tantrums made baths become less and less frequent. Year after year the phobia seemed to get worse. In retrospect perhaps we should have faced it head on years ago rather than tiptoeing around it. I'm sure the near death experience that involved a canoe tipping over in the Boundary Waters during a storm did nothing to promote calm feelings around water.

And I know that most boys hate showers, but Little Man hates them for entirely different reasons at an entirely different level.

We did the dreaded swim lessons year after year. As Pokey watched Little Man struggle she was also overcome with fear.

Can you find a common theme in the photos below?
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Year after year it pained me to sit and watch the tears and the inner turmoil that tormented my children day after day.

We bought swim passes several years in a row with the hope that the constant exposure to the water would slowly strip down some of their fears. But 3 straight years now Little Man has been so afraid to put his face in the water that he has been stuck in the Guppy rut and unable to advance.

And having two water fearing children at the pool can do a serious number to one's mental and emotional state as well as their nerves.

I can't begin to tell you how excited I was to finally see Little Man do this on Tuesday this week.
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I was inwardly doing flips. This seemingly simple act that most every other child can do without much effort (much like walking or talking) has taken Little Man almost 11 years. I know this was no easy feat for him and that there have been years of pain and turmoil to get here to this point.

Pokey has really taken off recently and her comfort level is much improved in the water. She is now working on flips, bobs, and handstands and loves going down the yellow slide (see photo at top).
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They may never be competitive swimmers on a swim team, but they are slowly growing. With every new accomplishment they are that much closer to overcoming their fears.

37 comments:

  1. Hope that child was ok!!! I always freak out at public pools!!! I do have two little fish that have no common sense when it comes to water (they both have jumped in the deep end without floates) That's why they are usually in life jackets!!

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  2. That water park looks crazy awesome.

    We are just starting preschool swimming for my son in July. This will be his first lessons without me so I'm hoping he doesn't look like your kids did.

    It's so great that your kids are finally getting over their fears.

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  3. Oh, that's wonderful! My son who is 5 is very cautious around water too...hates getting his face wet but little by little he is getting there. You really tell beautiful stories with your pictures.

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  4. I'm so happy they're making progress. You know my thing with The Water...so I am thrilled for you. I'd never want your kids to end up like me :)

    BTW: moving to a hot climate can really help that swimming thing...just sayin' :)

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  5. I got goose bumps seeing your kids in the water at the end... I was always a fish as a kid- we had a pool when I was growing up. And my kids, even with their limited exposure, love the water also.

    I can only imagine how hard its been all these years for you. But your a good Mom letting them work through it and over come the fear at their own pace, but continuing to nudge them that way (with swimming lessons and such)

    yay for swimming kids!

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  6. Aww, that brought tears to my eyes. I can't imagine the overwhelming sense of pride you must've felt when Little Man put his head under water. That's absolutely amazing! :)

    Kristi, Live and Love...Out Loud
    @TweetingMama

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  7. Yes, but what the child okay? What happened?

    My son has always been very brave when it comes to the water. My daughter is a little more timid but she's getting there. :)

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  8. That's great that your kids are getting comfortable in the water. Sorry to hear about that pool incident, but that pool looks amazing!

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  9. Wow, that must have been SO scary.....
    The pictures of your little ones so sad and scared at their swim lessons really tugged at my mommy heart! But to see those last two pics...what a victory!

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  10. I'm having anxiety just thinking about that horrible whistle! So painful to see their little sad faces! OMG...poor things! I'm so happy they are making some progress, swimming lessons could save their lives someday!

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  11. Now that I'm a mom, I SO understand your terror! How scary! But yay for little man overcoming his fear!

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  12. Wonderful! minus the scary story at the beginning, and the sad crying shots, though. LOL

    my little honey is not a fan of water in the face, but she isn't fearful....but I fear she'll be a guppy forever, too. you give me hope.

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  13. Oh god, I could feel the terror just reading your post....breathe...I am glad everything turned out ok (hope the other child is OK, too) And YEAH for little man, you must be such a proud mama :)

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  14. I know what you mean, I don't want to pass my fears onto my children.

    Wish someone had me not give up on swim lessons.

    Excellent post, and story.

    Thank you!

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  15. It's great that they're making good progress, you must be so proud! I really want Piglet to learn to swim as soon as possible, I think it's really important and can be a lifesaver. Luckily at the minute she loves water so I'm hoping swimming will be the same.

    It must have been so scary at the pool! Was the other child ok?

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  16. What happened to that kid? I've been a lifeguard for over 7 years now and the worst days to work are days like that one, when the pool is overcrowded and a kid can easily slip under water and not come back up and you can't see it.. It's really terrifying for everyone involved.

    I'm glad you are getting your kids over their fears, I think it's super important that kids try to learn to be strong swimmers. And who knows, maybe one day they will love swimming and join swim team.. I did!

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  17. I feel sorry for that child's parents on the stretcher. Every parent don't want to see their child like that and like you say, it is impossible to keep an eye on every child in such surroundings.

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  18. My girls were really afraid of the water. Someone they wanted to please looked at them and said, "You are too big for this. Get over it and go pass the swim test." They did. Seemed to have to want something more than they wanted to hang on to the fear. In this case, respect and to go off the diving board.

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  19. That is so awesome that your children stuck with it and look at what they can do now!! I think taking swimming lessons is very important and really a lifesaving activity. Good for you for taking them to their lessons time after time even though you saw how hard it was for them. They needed you to be strong like that and help them through it. Great job!!!

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  20. Yeah!!! How wonderful. Our Emily has a fear of water....well had. The first time she jumped into the water on her own I cried. It's fun to watch them grow and take on their fears, it really makes a mommy proud.

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  21. OH- This was a great "story"! It is so great when we see our kids accomplish such a small, but HUGE thing!
    It was fun to see you at the pool after being out of town for so long. Hope we get together soon!

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  22. I couldn't imagine that feeling at the pool! How scary! I hope everything turned out ok. I'm so happy to hear they are doing better. What a great victory!

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  23. Oh goodness, that would be really scary. I'm glad it wasn't one of your kids, and hope the child was okay.

    I have three little fish and have to be very careful anytime we are around water because they'll make a beeline straight for it!

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  24. Drowning is my worst fear. I, myself, do not know how to swim and to make it worst we live in FL and are surrounded by beaches. Not to mention, since it's so humid/hot here, every home has a pool. I put Sophie in swim lessons when she was 6 months and she swims like a fish. Aubrey (who just turned 1 last week) started her swim lessons at 8 months. I put them in swim lessons really early because I read that babies are fearless of the water early on but once they hit 18 months, that's when they start to fear it. I found that this is true because both Sophie and Aubrey had no fear the first time we dunk them in the water. Somehow, their instincts just took over and they start to kick their legs and move their arms. Little Man and Pokey are doing so well. Yes, they will kick, scream, and fight you all the way but in the end they will end up loving the water. You will be begging them to get out of the pool soon! Just from looking at your pictures, you can already see how they are starting to love the water. This was a great post, Lish! Now we just have to be careful about dry drowning....sigh.....

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  25. did you find out how that child is doing?! how scary is that!

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  26. I can't swim. Well, I shouldn't say that I can't I should say that I don't know how. Putting my face in the water is a huge fear of mine and I'm 31 years old! Mad props to Little Man for taking the plunge!

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  27. That's so great that your children are overcoming!!

    I can't imagine how hard it would be to hear that whistle blow & not know if it's your child...my heart was aching reading that.

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  28. I had a nightmare this spring about my oldest drowning in our pool. It haunts me to the point I can't take my kids to the neighborhood pool anymore alone (they are 5, 3 and 3 months, and none of them swim. I NEED an extra set of eyes.) I completely understand the fear and the panic.

    We need swim lessons.

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  29. I live in Florida and drowning unfortunately, is in the news just about every week here. I can understand your concern and panic. And the fear on your little one's faces in those pictures are so tough. I can't imagine how you got through it. What a breakthrough your children have made! Putting your face in the water is the biggest hurdle. The rest will come so easily for him.

    I hope that child was ok.

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  30. That is terrifying! I got chills over and over as I read that. We were just at a splash pad, and some older child picked up Maddie and started walking the other way with her.

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  31. So scary!! I hope the little one was ok.
    Yea for your little ones learning to swim!! I would be doing flips too.
    I can relate to this post. Our daughter is 4 and scared of the water. My hubby took her to the pool this weekend and it didn't go so good. Lessons start in a couple weeks, I think we need to stick with it.

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  32. Oh how I feel for your kids! I was in their spot 20 years ago. I still hate putting my face in water. I am scared of drowning. I LOVE the water (boating, the beach, the SHALLOW end of the pool), but no life jacket swimming in the Big Lake? No. I so hope my little guy is more like his dad in that respect!

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  33. I'm so glad the kiddos are getting over their fear of water. I'm glad your kids were okay but I hope the child who was hurt was okay as well. How scary! Gorgeous pictures BTW!

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  34. That is great to see your kids swimming! I can relate because my son cries, whines, complains or comes up with mysterious ailments right before it's time for swim class. But I know it will pay off in the long run.

    Love the splash playground!

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  35. It's so hard to see those pictures of them afraid and upset about swimming-- I'm so glad they stuck with it though. They are learning a lot more than swimming to push through their fears and achieve success. That swimming pool looks amazing in the first picture. Can we go there with you guys when we're in town if the weather is good? xoxo

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  36. First I want to know what happened to the child that was still. Is the child ok? I used to take my daughter to a mommy and me group. One time the Dad was with us instead of the mom because she had a job interview. I was helping keep an eye on the kids that were in the pool. What made me mad was that my friends sat in clothes and I was the only one wearing a suit. I just happened to stand at one spot by the pool and looked down and saw the child (who lived at this house) fall in the water and his hat was floating on top. I yelled out and jumped in the water to save him. I finally got him to the surface and his dad was in the water at this time. He had been changing the boy and didn't see the kid walk outside (well I never got the whole story). What's upsetting to me is that my friends were too busy talking to even notice the boy and I was at the right place at the right time. I think God put me there. I was actually away from my daughter but I could see her and she was with an older child.

    The mom never thanked me for saving her son. Like I said she wasnt' there. She either didn't know or she was too embarrased to talk to me. She had nothing to be embarrased about. All I know is that the whole situation shook me up. I was just glad I was there to save the boy.

    Please let us know what happened to the child.

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  37. I can't imagine the panic you must have felt. The poor mom who's panic was founded. It scares me to death with my girls are at the pool. Luckily, one of them won't leave the stairs so I always know where to find her.

    it's great that you have really forced the issue of dealing with water. even if they are never comfortable nor ever racers. It is so important to just be aware.

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