Marlin: But... but... but... dude... how do you know they're ready?
Crush: You never know! But you know... when they know, you'll know... y'know? Ahhh...
- Finding Nemo
There's a scene in Finding Nemo where Marlin the clownfish daddy is asking Crush the sea turtle how turtles know their young are ready to face the ocean on their own. The sea turtle's reply reminds me of our experience with teaching Connor how to swim.
For months, I tried to figure out how to teach him to hold his breath while he's underwater. Short of dunking him underwater forcibly, I simply couldn't figure out how to teach that. It turned out I didn't need to. One day, he went underwater himself and came up with a big grin. No spluttering whatsoever. I knew then that he'd figured out he's not a fish and can't breathe underwater.
For months we tried to coax him to jump into the big pool, reassuring him that we would be there to catch him. For months, he flat out refused. Then one day, he did. And he never looked back. Now you can't stop him jumping. Same thing with his floats. It seemed like he would never be independent of his floats. Suddenly one evening after a swim session, Dear Hubby told me, "He swam the width of the pool today WITHOUT his floats." I was gobsmacked. From then on, he could swim. (I still can't and I'm closing in on 40 years of existence now)
Neighbours in our apartment complex have been following his progress because when I meet them, they all say admiringly, "Oh I see he can swim now! I saw him the other day in the pool!" Then they'll turn to him and tell him, "Well done! You can swim!" and Connor would beam with pride.
I guess he knew when he was ready. And when he knew he was ready, I sorta knew too... or more accurately, he let me know he knew.
You think that as a parent, you're going to be the one doing all the teaching all the time. But sometimes, your children are the ones doing it and Connor taught me a valuable lesson. He taught me that one day when he's ready, I'll have to let go. And it's okay to let go because he knows he's going to be okay.