This one is a happy post, I promise. Thank you for sticking with me through the last few difficult posts. I am really struggling at the moment. I am hopeful things will get better but trying to work out alternative plans if they don’t.
When people ask me how I am these days, my answers are full of water metaphors. You see sinking or drowning are just about the best words I can think of to describe how things feel at the minute. But (I know: I promised this would be a happy post and it is!) Boo isn’t. I’m pleased to say that he is swimming away against the tide and keeping his head proudly above the water.
If you read this blog regularly, you’ll know I take Boo to weekly swimming lessons. There is no hydrotherapy here and swimming is so good for Boo’s movement. And he can do things in the water (like roll) that he can’t do on land. He has just completed level 6 of a series of private swimming lessons in a lovely, local, hydro pool. It’s a mainstream class. I wasn’t trying to make a statement in putting him in a mainstream class, I should say, but there are woefully few SEN swimming classes anywhere local for children under 5.
Of course, I know his days in a mainstream class are numbered. Already, we have to adapt a huge number of the skills being taught to the class for him. This level, for example, has seen the kids moving in their class warm up from sitting and rolling in from the side of the pool (which Boo could manage with me holding him under one arm pit) to standing (yep: can’t do that) and jumping (yep: can’t do that either) in from the side. But I take him to the shallow end, hold him as I would in supported standing at home. Try to get him not to stand on tiptoes and shout ready, steady, go and wait for any sign of pushing in his legs to jump him in myself.
His teacher is SO supportive and lovely. She always offers help when needed and never thinks twice about asking Boo, just like all the other kids in the class, to demonstrate new skills. She doesn’t want him to be left out. She treats him just like everyone else.
And the result of all this is that Boo LOVES swimming (especially underwater). All the other kids (as Sissyboo used to) spend at least some of every class in a sulk, complaining about water in the their eyes or running around the pool edge in protest because they don’t want to be told what to do. Boo, who has lived with a drillmaster of a Mummy for 2 years, thinks sulking is for wusses and screams and laughs and yells ‘more’ from the minute the class starts until it ends. Boo is one of the happiest children I have ever met and he is never happier than in the water.
We are about to move up to the next level after a short class break. In an ideal world, he would repeat level 6, but there’s no space in that class next term and the school can’t accommodate the request. I remember level 7 well when I did it with Sissyboo (who has now completed all 24 class levels and is a veritable 750m swimming fish). I remember it because it was the level where in play time at the end, the kids climbed up onto the raft they’d only sat on in previous levels, before being asked to run along it and jump off the edge to mummy or daddy. What I had forgotten was you first try out this new skill in the last class of level 6.
When his teacher explained what we’d be doing this last Saturday I just said. ‘OK: this’ll be interesting’. She said, ‘It’ll be fine. We’ll hold him.’ A million thoughts flashed through my mind. What if he slipped? What if the other kids stared at him? What if this was the moment they realised he was different? Would the parents pity him? Or me? We don’t want pity…
The thoughts stopped as Boo was put on the raft. His teacher held him up. I grabbed his one arm and a dad on the other side of the raft (without being asked) grabbed the other and Boo stepped in the scissory, tip-toey way he does in bare feet with the most massive smile on his face. Every one cheered him and called out his name and told him how clever he was.
The tears welled up in my yes. He was doing it. In his own way, of course. But he was only bloody doing it.
And people didn’t feel sorry for him or me. Rather the kids and their parents were supporting him (and me) both literally and figuratively. They wanted him to do this as much as I did, I realised. And when he did and they clapped and cheered, I could see through misty eyes that they were proud of him too.
It was an incredible moment and I’m not sure I can do it justice in the retelling. But in those few precious seconds I felt like we were all there holding Boo up and letting him show us his best. And it was such a joy to see. I want his whole life to be like this. He has so many amazing things to show us. I just know it.