Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Swimming, and sibling relationships

Yesterday was the kids' first pool day of the season and it was lovely. The pool is pretty much the hardest place to get photos because, you know, it's best to have your phone out of harm's way where nobody can drip all over it or drop it in the pool, and then there's also the small matter of supervising two active children near a body of water, and, well, the net sum is that photos at the pool are not a thing that happen for us, at least not very often.

So! I don't have visual documentation, but it was delightful. Last summer pool season started when Annika was about seven months old, and we had one of these for her, which was great for an infant but obviously wouldn't be at all useful for her now. We purchased a Puddle Jumper for Callum last year on the recommendation of pretty much the entire Internet, and that was wonderful--I know some people say they aren't helpful in teaching a kid how to swim because they create a false sense of safety and buoyancy, but we actually noticed that it really helped Callum, not to mention that it's pretty much necessary to have a flotation device on each child at the pool if they outnumber the adults. They had Puddle Jumpers at Costco for cheap a month or two back so I snapped one up for Annika and it was great.

Both kids were delighted with the water, and surprisingly fearless. Annika loved the freedom of the Puddle Jumper, and got annoyed when anyone tried to so much as hold her hand in the water. They both wanted the pool toys. And Callum made a friend and spent the whole morning playing with her. He was falling all over himself to tell us about it later, how he made a friend and they jumped into the water off the steps together and they played with diving sticks together and when she was afraid to go underwater to get the stick he went under and got it for her to help her, and oh, my big boy. I mean of course he's been in daycare or preschool for 2.5 years now, he has lots of friends, he gets along with other kids, he's not shy around them, he chats with strange kids at the park, but something about this particular scenario, I don't know, it just kills me. Last summer at the pool he was too young for that kind of instant friendship. He would interact with the other kids a little, but he was more interested in playing on his own or with us, or jumping in or going down the water slide. This year he's such a big, independent KID, making friends with other kids and spending hours playing with them, wholly on their own.

Also, Annika was NOT happy about Callum's new friend--she wanted to play with him herself. That's an interesting new element of their relationship that she's not had to experience before--of course he goes off to preschool without her and she spends time at home without him sometimes, but she hasn't really been in a situation where he was playing with a kid her own age and she couldn't really keep up. Even when he's had friends over for play dates, she's either run around with them or just happily done her own thing. This was the first time where they were participating in the same activity but she was essentially excluded. That is a feeling that I remember well from my own childhood as a younger sibling--my sister having friends over and me wanting to hang out with them but not being allowed, and feeling very wrong-footed about having our usual dynamic interrupted. Not that I blame my sister, or Callum, for that--it's totally normal and within bounds to want to hang out with your friends without your pesky little sister tagging along--but it's just sort of trippy to see a similar scenario playing out with your own kids.

Also, weirdly, it gives me some faith in the balance of the relationship between Annika and Callum. This is something that deserves its own post, and it's one that I am working on finding the right language to articulate, but  in sum: they have a great relationship, truly, to a surprising level, and they care for each other and they play well together and they clearly love each other, but sometimes Annika comes across as a little more dominant, somehow. Just a little feistier, a little less laid back, a little more willing to railroad than he is. And I think that's a good way for the dynamic to play out, that the younger one, the one who doesn't innately have the power of being the cool older bigger funner one, is willing to assert herself, and the older one is gentle and thoughtful--I think that will be good for their relationship in the long run but it was nice to see that sometimes Callum can assert his will too.

All this from a single trip to the pool! But I guess that's really where these moments happen, all the little pieces that make up their childhood and their relationship. There will be lots more pool days for these two this summer... I'm excited for them all.


  1. I was (and still am) the feisty little sister to my older brothers, the feisty twin, and the feisty big sister to my younger sibs. Nothing wrong with a little feist. ;)

    Also, I've always been this way. Always. I have learned to channel it and use it (mostly) to my advantage, but it's not something I learned in junior high, feisty is my life-long attribute. :)


  2. I was definitely the older sister who was more laid back and less feisty, and my little sister was the dominant force in all of our lives :)