Lessons I Learned at Toddler Swim Classes

Yang Mommy

This is my second tour of duty at toddler swim classes.  During my time, I’ve learned some invaluable nuggets of wisdom that I’d like to share with all you brave parents and care-givers, who are willing to get kicked, splashed and mauled in the water with a toddler.  (Please note that if I haven’t experienced the below scenarios, I’ve assuredly witnessed them!)

Ten Things I’ve Learned at Aquatots

  • Arrive early to class.  Putting a swimsuit on an excited 2 yr old is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands.  It takes patience!
  • Establish your pool rules.  Do it before leaving the comfort of your home, again in the ride over, again in the locker room and again on the pool deck.  repetition, repetition!  Else wise, you may end up with the dreaded “time-out.”
  • Don’t be afraid/hesitant/embarrassed to issue a “time-out” while in the pool.  You may need to sit them on steps or on the side of the pool, but discipline is discipline, no matter the locale.  Don’t worry, only the teenage lifeguards will give you strange looks if your child is howling in protest; the rest of the parents will be eyeing you with sympathy as they think, “Oh, glad it’s  not my child.”
  • Bring extra swim diapers.  Even if your tot is pretty good at using the toilet at home, there’s something about the pool that decreases inhibitions about peeing in it.  And, you never know what harried parent may  have forgotten their own supply of “swimmies!”  (And don’t forget the wipes, too!)
  • Bring two towels.  Yes, sounds like a “duh” but I’ve seen several parents shivering on the pool deck after class because they only brought one towel with them for their kid.
  • Bring a snack.  It’s simple enough to bring in a granola bar or piece of fruit and some juice for the after-swim time.  Kids get really hungry after all that water play.  So either tote it along in your bag or keep it in the car, but please, feed those hungry kiddies!
  • Wear water-proof mascara, ladies.  If you’re going to wear any at all, make sure it’s water-proof.  Nothing scarier than seeing a woman enthusiastically tell her child to “Jump in, honey!”  while tears of black run down her face like a crazed clown.
  • Wear appropriate swimsuits.  Toddler swim classes are not the place to flaunt your sexy new string bikini and flash your mammories (or Speedos, men).   Unless you want the lifeguard to ogle you as your top inevitably falls off because your child just saw a crazed clown and is clinging to you like a rabid monkey.
  • Follow your instincts in the water.  Most aquatot classes are designed for 1-3 year olds.  They’re not going to graduate the class knowing the butterfly stroke!  The intention with most of these classes is simply to get your child used to the water, having their ears and head under the water, and knowing to kick up if they are indeed,  under water.  So even if the instructor is bellowing out orders to “Float on your stomachs!” and your tot doesn’t want to, OK.  Don’t force them, just encourage them.  And if they really don’t want to, then at least you’re having fun with them in the water.
  • Leave the cameras at home.  I understand you want pics of your kids swimming and jumping, but if you are the only parent at the pool, there is absolutely no place for a camera.  All your attention must be focused on your child at all times.  Instead, leave the shutterbugging to a friend or spouse.
  • Have fun!  Most of all, enjoy your time in the water with your tot.  Even if the diaper’s leaking and they’re sitting on the steps screaming about not wanting to be in time-out because they pulled your swimsuit straps down for the third time.  Even then…

YIN:

My daughter started taking swim lessons around the age of 8 months because we live in Florida and there are numerous accidents and deaths every year in the state when kids fall in pools/lakes/canals and don’t know what to do. I was determined to get her in some sort of class early on so that a fear of water would not overcome her and she could have a healthy respect for it. 

My daughter took a very different swim class than the one Yang describes above.  And to that I say “thank goodness!”  I don’t think I could handle a swimming class with multitudes of children of different levels splashing around while I’m in the pool with them.   It’s just not my thing.  My daughter had individualized instruction and the term “swimming lessons” is really a misnomer.  It was more of a learning how to turn over and stay afloat if the baby falls in the water – the very basics for a tiny child. 

This was perfect for us.  I got to stay on the sidelines (and take the pictures) while my daughter and her instructor had their 20 minute lesson three times a week. At first the thought of going that often was daunting but the lessons were in the morning so she just went before going to daycare and I went to work a little late those days.  She didn’t like it getting in the pool at the start but eventually she warmed up to her teacher and the pool. 

Unfortunately due to some health issues my daughter hasn’t been able to continue her swimming lessons.  The group that certified her teacher, Infant Swimming Resource, is very strict and if the child has had certain illnesses in a restricted time period they can’t continue the lessons.  While this is a little challenging, I appreciate their concern and anticipate my daughter taking lessons again soon.  When she does start up again she’ll still be in individual classes as she progresses and I think I’ll keep it that way for a while so she can get personalized attention. 

My best tip to anyone, no matter where they live, to get your child swimming lessons as soon as possible.  Not only is swimming great exercise and a perfect way to cool down on a hot day, but according to the Center for Disease Control “fatal drowning remains the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death in children ages 1 to 14”.  If you’re not sure where to get swimming lessons from check out ISR or your local YMCA. Or ask a friend who has a child who takes lessons.  No matter the type of swimming class you choose for your child, it could be something that eventually saves their life.

A Few Ruminations on “The Girls from Ames”

Recently I was able to switch gears and put down the Dr Seuss library in favor of a book aimed at my demographic.  Yang Daddy was gracious enough to continue the rhyming with our tot while I dug into an “adult” book all about a special group of women and their friendships.

The Girls from Ames, by Jeffrey Zaslow, is a biography of sorts of 11 women who have been friends since childhood through to present day; they are now in their mid-forties.  Some of the women have been friends since toddlerhood, others since elementary or middle school.  Each woman appears to have one strong bond with another woman, a “best friend” in the group if you will, and then all these best friends are also close to each other.  As the author reflects, “they were (are) their own little clique.”

The story of their continuing friendship was amazing to read, mainly in part because it’s true and not a work of fiction.  Plus, it was interesting to read their story as written by a male journalist, and not by one of the Girls.  Through extensive research and many interviews, Zaslow has pulled together an intriguing and complex portrait of their friendship over the years.  In fact, it seems as if I, the reader, were sitting down at the reunion dinner table with them, listening to their stories and anecdotes.

As I read The Girls from Ames, I imagined what kind of friendships my own daughter would form.  Would the young children she plays with now be around in another year, 10 years, or even 20 years?   One can only wonder.  The book also caused me to reflect on my own friendships, which at times during my read, either brought me great joy for those bonds that have remained strong and good, or some sadness and regret for those friends that have parted ways.  And more so, the book struck home to me that it is indeed, a lot of work to keep a good friendship going.

People in America today are busier than ever and distractions abound, from texts and IMs to just keeping house and getting the family hither and yon.  It isn’t easy to always make time to catch up with a friend, whether that’s picking up the phone or dashing off a quick note (email).  Sometimes I wish I could just communicate with them telepathically while I juggle all my other tasks! I have friends I chat with on a daily basis and others with whom I only catch up with every few months, maybe even once a year.  And although I wish we’d all keep in touch more, and be larger parts of each other’s lives, those times that we do connect feel as if we’ve never stopped hanging out.  (And TG for social media sites too, but their impact on friendships is an entire other story!)

Over the years, I’ve come to the conclusion that making friends is easier than maintaining them.  I attribute it both to the stage of life myself and my friends now inhabit as well as it just being a by-product of the culture I live in. Today, having a to-do list a mile long is envious and to some, even seen as prosperous  (but if you look at some of these schedules, I’d say “preposterous” is more like it) as opposed to only desiring the Jones’ green lawn a few decades ago.  But these Iowa friends have pulled it off, maintaining and growing their relationships over the years, giving and taking through the good and the bad times.  It takes work; but anything that’s worth its salt takes work, right?

The Girls from Ames is a delightful read and one in which you can percolate on and ruminate about later.  While having that many close friends may be more extraordinary than ordinary, we can definitely learn from these Iowa girls that it pays off in the end.

So with that, I’m off to the store to get a box of notecards and pen a few personal notes to my own circle of friends.  Or at least, dash off a few email missives!

Have Toddler Will Travel

YIN:

Currently my family and I are zipping north on the Florida Turnpike headed to Disney World to celebrate my daughter’s 2nd birthday. What was I thinking?

It’s about 3-4 hours for us to get there and we don’t have a SUV. So the car is packed to the gills with a playpen (that I’m sure she’ll refuse to sleep in), luggage, a stroller and a small cooler of food. Oh and three people.

We don’t own a portable DVD player because I’m old school and think that children should entertain themselves in the car instead of being zoned into submission. There has already been the requisite meltdown but I blame myself because in all the packing and planning I forgot to make a sandwich for her. We stopped at what has to be the worst service plaza on the FL Turnpike (sorry Port St. Lucie) and got her some peanut butter crackers and now she’s sleeping.

Once we get to the hotel we’ll hit the pool and then Downtown Disney later. Tomorrow the Magic Kingdom awaits. Judging by how excited she was to see a Mickey Mouse shot glass (yes they make them) at the plaza I’m sure the day will be a hit. We’ll be breaking the day in half so we can all get a nap and still maybe be able to watch the night parade.

I love traveling and we often take our daughter on trips. Even though the effort of traveling with a toddler is tedious, and I always forget something, it will be worth it if my daughter ends up loving getting to see the world as much as I do.

We’re taking Amtrak to New York and Washington DC in August. I’ve got to see about getting that portable DVD player I’ve been avoiding.

YANG  MOMMY

I just think Yin Mama is so brave to travel via train with a toddler! And a little nuts, but bravery does involve a little bit of insanity, afterall.  We’ve taken several long road trips with our tot, about 4 1/2 hours each direction for vacation, but have not yet attempted other means of transport. In fact, since having our daughter, the radius of our vacation destinations seems to have shrunk compared to pre-tot days. It’s all our own doing, of course.

See, I’m rather intimidated to go on a plane with my toddler.  Instead of envisioning a fun vacation ahead of me, I conjure up the enormous list of what I’d have to pack just for her, including toys/books for the plane ride, let alone clothes,wipes, etc. It seems like a monumental task, yet moms just like Yin do it all the time. I have a mommy friend who took her pre-schooler around the world to the Philipines! And another who just returned from vacation at the Magic Kingdom with 2 kids under the age of 3. Both moms survived intact and had tremendous vacations.

Despite my trepidations of tot travel, I too have the travel bug like Yin Mama, which was instilled into me at a very young age.  When I was 18mths old, my parents flew from NY to London with me, so that I could meet family members and be baptized in the family church. I don’t remember a thing, of course, but it’s a great story to tell. I want my daughter to see the world too, to experience new cultures and meet all sorts of people. But at the age of 2, I don’t think she’d remember anything. But I would, right…?

So as I type this, I’m mentally chewing on the idea of all of us going to Tuscany next spring to visit family. Under the Tuscan sun, tot in tow. Hmmm….maybe the reward of going there will be enough for me to pack us all up and attempt the travel challenge!

Dancing Lolitas; It’s Not Their Fault

Yang Mommy
I’d like to know why we, as a culture, continue to sexualize young children? Then we have the nerve to turn around and complain that they’re “growing up too fast.”

Case in point, the recent dance contest video that went viral, featuring an amazing team dancing to Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” number one pop chart hit. If you haven’t seen it by now, or at least heard of it, then stop reading now and check it out, first. Be warned, adult discretion should be advised.

The dancers in this video are 6 & 7 years of age.  To be sure, these particular girls are excellent dancers and some of them probably have a career ahead of them in dancing if they keep up with their training. But why oh why do we continue to see young children, especially girls, in dance competitions, perform raunchy and risqué adult-centric moves and wearing miniature couture outfits a la Victoria’s Secret? Don’t even get me started on some of the so-called beauty pageant contests. How about a brainy contest instead? Or a philanthropist contest for kids?

Back to this video. Let’s get real–the parents, the choreographers, the judges and the dancing community should not be pushing young children to dress like that nor mimic what adult performers do in their videos. I  mean, the parents paid good money to some dance teachers and this is what they came up with? And that’s OK??

And I don’t care if the Chippettes in the latest Alvin movie (whom these girls’ moms apparently got the dance routine from, not the actual video, according to some sources) wore even less than these young girls. I’m not condoning by any means what Hollywood puts forth, but at least the Chippettes are animated characters, not real people.

We as parents make daily–hourly–choices for our children. Encouraging them to dance like that, and allowing them to wear those outfits, is just too grown up. Leave the adult threads and routines to the adults and let the kids be kids. These girls are terrific enough dancers not to need to bare so much skin or perform Lolita hip grinds.

YIN

I first saw the video Yang Mommy is referring to on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.  When they showed the clip I stared at the screen in shock.  Then I started thinking “Shop showing this! Stop showing this!” as I continued to be unable to take my eyes off the spectacle unfolding on the screen.  I couldn’t believe that 5 or more adults had taught these girls moves they shouldn’t have a clue about and had dressed them in outfits I would be ashamed to wear and put makeup on their 7 year old faces.  Then I was even more mortified to realize that not only had someone videotaped it and put it on You Tube for the world to see, but that the audience was excitedly clapping for these girls. 

Yes, the girls are extremely talented and put a lot of hard work into their routine. But why were they dressed like strippers?  Couldn’t they have worn leotards to perform?  Why were those sexual movies, including hip thrusting and booty shaking, included in the routine?  By the audience applauding wildly for the sexual moves and dress, they were teaching these children that being sexual is what gets you attention and is the only way to get people to appreciate their talents. 

In addition, by posting the video on You Tube, not only were they exploiting the girls in the routine but they were also posting an open invitation for any sexual pervert or deviant in the world to view these 7 year olds in the privacy of their own homes.  How convenient for them. 

I’m sure some reading this will think ‘you shouldn’t judge other parents’ – I sorry, I have to disagree.  Yes there are instances we need to judge other parents.  Would you say don’t judge if a parent were abusing their child?  Would you say don’t judge if a parent were neglecting their child?  Adults have a responsibility to stand up for all children and say ‘I’m sorry but that’s just not right’. 

I am truly scared for our daughters if the video of those girls is considered socially acceptable.

Playground Etiquette?

Yang Mommy

I’m actually laughing at myself as I write this; I mean really, is there such a thing as “playground etiquette?” Sure there are rules, like don’t run in front of the swings, but etiquette? I’m not sure.

See, here’s the thing. The other day we were at the playground. It was a gloriously sunny day and the place was busy, but not packed. I was helping my little girl navigate the stairs up to the slide and there were several older kids around us. I’d say they were about 7 yrs old or so.  Anyway, we were next in queue when one of these other kids moved in front of us. Her mom, who was down below and in full sight of what was going on, said, “Wait your turn.” But the child ignored her mom and proceeded to move past us and went down the slide along with her 2 friends/siblings.

For once, I was at a lost for words. I was amazed, actually. I think the mom did the right thing by saying something, but still, her child didn’t listen and cut in front of us. I suppose it’s one thing for a kid to cut in front of a younger child, but an adult too? And once the kids got down, their mom didn’t say  boo about what they’d done (and yes readers, she saw).

So what should I have done? Should I have reinforced their mom’s call and said “Yes, please wait your turn?” Should I have stepped up and pushed them aside so my tot could go? Should I have said, “You may go ahead of us this one time but next time, wait your turn?” Should I have said anything to the mother, or have thrown her “the look?”

Because this was the first time this has happened to us, I did nothing. Again, I was rather amazed. Perhaps it’s because this is my first child and I’m learning the playground ropes myself. But I’m curious, dear readers, what have you encountered on the playground and how have you handled it?

My Mother’s Day Wish

Yang Mommy

For centuries,various civilizations have celebrated mothers.  The  Greeks honored Rhea, mother of the gods, and  Christians began to honor Mary, mother of Christ, on the fourth Sunday of Lent. But it wasn’t until 1872 when Julia Ward Howe organized a specific day for all mothers, dedicated to peace. Then in 1907, Anna M. Jarvis, a schoolteacher in Philadelphia, began a movement for a national Mother’s Day. She petitioned local and state legislatures and by 1914, President Woodrow Wilson declared the second Sunday in May to be (America’s) Mother’s  Day.

Hooray!

Today, Mother’s  Day has come a long way from a day of praise and peace. It’s now one of the most popular holidays in America, with sales of flowers skyrocketing and phone lines jammed with calls to Mom. And this being my third Mother’s Day being a mom, I’d like to take full advantage of all the commercialization!

For starters, I’d love a pair of diamond earrings. The carats need to be larger than a mere fleck of carbon. Then I’d like a luxury cruise in the Mediterranean. And before I go, I’d like a day of pampering with the girls at a spa. 

Wait, who am I kidding! Yes, I’d love all of that, who wouldn’t. But let’s be realistic, shall we?

I’d like a morning to sleep in,  followed by breakfast in bed and being able to watch my favorite shows whilst roaming the web.  Take a long hot bath, eat foods rich in fat and calories, and sip a nice chard as I reflect on my own motherhood and all the moms in my family. No cooking for me, no cleaning for me, no PBS Sprouts or Dr Seuss for me.  No laundry, no yard work, no picking up after menfolk. (That includes no answering of questions if “someone” doesn’t know  how to do all the above, too!)

Am I still dreaming? Maybe, but at least this dream is somewhat more achievable.  Besides, what I really want to do is to spend the day with my crazy family, especially with my little girl. Because she’s the best gift of all.

Just let someone else feed her, change her and hold her hand in the potty on Mother’s Day 🙂

YIN

I am not a big fan of Mother’s Day.  I really never have been.  Only because I wondered, even as a child, why only one day should be set aside for mom.  Not that I treated my mom extra special on the other days, but I didn’t really get it. 

Now I’m a mom and I still am not a big fan of Mother’s Day. But I now get it.  Mother’s Day is a necessity because a majority of moms don’t really get a moment to themselves on a regular basis.  Sure there are times when I can break into a book or enjoy a television show uninterrupted.  But it’s not very often.  Clothes need to be washed, dinner cooked, work done, diapers changed, sippy cups for the next day filled – it’s all on my list.  My husband is a wonderful help but still I think it’s more in the mom’s nature to think of the little things that, if there’s a spare moment, need to be completed. 

The Boston Globe had an article this week about obtaining a work-life balance.  Well it was actually about not obtaining a work-life balance and how although we often strive for it, very few of us actually get there.  My favorite quote in the article was “Who has time for inner peace?”  That made me laugh.  In a demented, maniacal way.  Because in my life that’s true.  How in the world would I have time to actually relax?  And by relax I mean really, really relax where I feel like I don’t have a care in the world and I’ve just won the lottery and am getting a live in maid. 

Maybe that day will come tomorrow which will be my second official Mother’s Day.  I will be giving my daughter and husband a big kiss, making myself a goat cheese-zucchini frittata (yes I’ll make it myself because my husband doesn’t know how to make breakfast and I want one really badly), going into my room and reading the entire New York Times that my husband is picking up for me in the morning and closing the door.  Alone.  In my room.  Sigh.  I feel the relaxation coming on already.

Being Hairy Doesn’t Have To Be So Scary

Yin Mama

Woman, whether we like it or not, are often put to a higher standard than the men around us.  If we get divorced and leave our kids, people wonder why.  If we decide to concentrate on our careers and don’t want to get married or have children, people wonder why.  Even if we decide not to shave our legs or armpits, people wonder why.

Now the first two examples women will sometime be given leeway or just have a family member make an excuse for them.  But I’m not sure I’ve ever heard anyone make an excuse for a woman who chose not to shave.  You’d think it was some sort of crime in America not to do so.

This topic comes up periodically in social conversation.  The Golden Girls had a scene about them shaving their legs and if they shaved their thighs or not.  It came up 10 years ago when Julia Roberts stopped shaving for a while.  And it came up again recently when Academy Award winner Mo’Nique “admitted” that she didn’t shave her legs (I use the quotations because admitted is a term usually used in sentences like “he admitted that he killed the girl” or “she admitted to her boyfriend she had cheated on him).  Catherine Saint Louis wrote an article for The New York Times a few weeks ago about Mo’Nique’s decision and had a great line in it that said “On the red carpet, if a woman has hairy legs or armpits, it is assumed to be an accidental misstep — a failure of time management, if you will.”

I totally agree.  People will often assume that women who haven’t shaved just forgot or didn’t have time to do it.  No one thinks that maybe they just didn’t want to shave.  For years most African American women didn’t shave their armpits or their legs.  That’s changed a lot since I was a teenager in the 1980’s but there are still some who don’t.  And even though I always have (I was allowed by my mom to shave my armpits at 11 but not my legs.  I did it anyway when I started high school) I’ve never thought it was disgusting if a woman didn’t save her legs.  It must be kind of freeing not to conform to what American society thinks is beautiful.  Maybe she’s European, where they don’t shave as much as we do.  Or maybe her husband/boyfriend/girlfriend finds it attractive for her to go au natural.

While I personally don’t have a problem with non shaving of the legs I have to admit that not shaving the armpits is a different matter for me, but not just for women.  I’m kind of grossed out when men wear tank tops and lift their arms.  And don’t get me started on men’s hairy backs!

It’s all about choices and the differences that make our society what it is.  So when you see a woman who hasn’t shaved recently don’t think “eww”; think how quick her shower must have been that morning and how much she saves on razors every year.  I will try to do the same with the unshaved armpit thing.

Yang Mommy

Oh to be a man and not have the expectation of having to shave thine legs! Especially in the height of summer when shorts and skirts are de rigueur. Let’s be realistic–shaving is such a pain in the ass.  It’s time-consuming, it can hurt and make you bleed, it can get expensive and it’s damn awkward to do if your legs if you’re pregnant!

But I do it. I’m not blessed w/ ultra fine, near-invisible leg hair. My mom kept those genes to herself. I’ve shaved, I’ve waxed, I’ve used those stinky bottles of hair remover, I even had the Epi-lady at one time.

To be honest, I don’t really care if a woman shaves her legs or not. It’s her choice. But I’ve been brought up in a culture where shaving one’s legs is expected. So to see a woman with long leg hair is kinda…well…really weird on first impression. My mind registers the fact, I think, “huh?” but then I move on with whatever. Besides, it’s not like leg hair smells, unlike the other hairy parts we should be shaving…..

Like armpits. I’m not into the au naturel look on men or women. Or the au naturel odor that too often frequents that area of the body. Perhaps if those who don’t shave their pits would bathe a bit more, it wouldn’t be so frowned on in our culture. But I honestly think it looks better to be clean-shaven there.

So while I’m not really a fan of the Yeti look, I do advocate good personal grooming, whether you be a man or a woman. And like Yin Mama, I wish hairy-backed men would do a little shearing themselves!