The Hatch-Palucks, Week 27: Brave New Girl

Filed under: Healthy Families Challenge

Emmie Floats

Who knew Emmie could float? Credit: Channing Paluck

This past weekend, I saw something I never thought I would have the chance to see -- my daughter, Emmeline, put her whole face in the water at the swimming pool.

While this doesn't seem like a very big deal for some kids, for Emmie, it is a huge accomplishment.

For the past year, Channing has been taking her to the Urbana Indoor Aquatic Center once a week or so. It started as a way for her and her father to spend some quality time alone together after Henry was born. Thanks to the Healthy Families Challenge, it morphed into a weekly family outing, with me and Henry in tow. We try to go every weekend to burn off some energy -- and calories -- and we've slowly been encouraging Emmie to do more actual swimming.

Our goals are twofold for Emmie when it comes to the water. One, we want her to stay active, and swimming is a really great, fun way for kids to exercise; and, two, we want to help her overcome her anxiety about trying new things.

Emmie's fear of food is related to her overall sense of anxiety. She genuinely fears taking risks, and her myriad phobias prevent her from taking part in so many of the pleasures of being a kid -- including swimming.

The UIAC pool is completely non-threatening. It's designed specifically for kids and has a zero-depth entry -- meaning that it has a sloped area at the front that gradually increases in depth from a half-inch up to the "deep end," which is a little over four-feet deep.

Part of the deep end has a roped-off area that is the exit for a big yellow water slide. The slide is one of those twisty jobs that shoots kids out like cannon balls.

Adults aren't allowed to go down the slide with their kids, and thus, Emmie won't even consider trying it.

Three weeks ago, I witnessed her cry from fear and frustration as Channing tried to convince her that it would be great fun for her take a ride down that yellow slide. It frustrates us, too, that she talks herself out of so many great experiences because she's scared.

Her fear is genuine, just as it is when she wants to try a new food, but panics when she has to eat it.

Recently, Channing and Emmie were at the pool during another child's private swimming lesson. A teacher himself, he knew a talented instructor when he saw one at work. He got the young woman's phone number and arranged for lessons for Emmie.

To say I was skeptical is an understatement.

But, what I got was a brand-new kid.

Her first lesson was a smashing success, and of course, I was pleased. But when we went to the pool as a family on Saturday afternoon, I was astonished.

Emmie asked me to come with her to the deep end so she could show me what she'd learned.

Emmie stood about a foot away from me, and put her entire face in the water. She popped up and, without even wiping her eyes, asked me to count to seven while she did it again -- this time while holding onto the pool wall and kicking.

I felt tears pricking at the back of my eyes as she beamed at me. This is the same child who, for months, cried every time I got water in her face while I washed her hair.

This is a huge breakthrough for her. She thrilled me further when she donned her father's swim goggles and trolled the bottom of the pool for left-behind treasures.

While I can't say that the Healthy Families Challenge is entirely responsible for Emmie's advance, it has played a huge part in getting us to think of creative ways to be active as a family.

Emmie's own efforts to overcome her fears cannot be discounted. She's a brave girl who met her challenge head-on. She inspires her father and I to do the same as we continue our quest to be the healthiest parents we can be -- physically and mentally.

Who's the rest of the competition? Check out all the challengers' latest updates here.

Check out how the other families are doing!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.