Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The A's, part 1: swimming and more

Simi: On a completely unrelated note- what strategies did JP use to get your kids to be so confident in the water? It's not like we can enroll our kids in his school (though we'd love to) since we live 2000 miles away, but I would love to hear how to foster water confidence and safety in my kids (ages 5, 2, and 2). Did they use floaties? How did he teach them to trust the water will keep them afloat?

First of all, he is not a fan of floaties (his first words in response were "no floaties"). He finds they ultimately decrease confidence, making kids think they can't support themselves in the water without them. Teaching water confidence is a lot of little steps: holding them and asking them to put their mouths in the water, then blowing bubbles, then putting mouth + nose in water, then putting whole face in water, and then very gradually letting go of them as they become comfortable with their whole head in the water looking down. But along the way there's also using their arms to "monkey arm" around the pool, kicking on the side, being pulled through the water on their tummies, learning to climb out of water by themselves, etc. For gaining comfort, contact with water is so important ("the biggest thing is exposure")- if you have access to a pool, get them in it as much as possible as young as possible. Sign up for lessons. Have them put their faces in the water in the bath, have them turn their face up to look at the shower as it rains down. If you're teaching them yourself (something he doesn't recommend, even after teaching ours that way), you have to push them. Claire cried during Every. Single. Lesson. he gave her for two years. But we always made sure to have non-lesson swim play time and she is a strong swimmer who LOVES the pool and asks to swim every day. But when JP got in the pool with her last weekend to work on her stroke a little, she immediately burst into tears. I don't know why, but I promise it didn't scar her for life and she never would have learned otherwise.

Life in Vet School: Oh, I second Simi's swim question! We've started H (who's 3) in a swim class at the Y, and they're teaching a little bit of floating, blowing bubbles, kicking, basic skills like that. But what I really wanted was self-saving type instruction that would help him protect his airway if he ever fell into a body of water. I know general familiarity in the water is probably helpful regardless of what's being taught, but I'd like to work with him myself on practical skills that he could use in an emergency, except I have no idea what to teach him or how to do it. I can't find any ISR type classes near me. Thank you!

ISR is a whole other kettle of fish. JP doesn't teach it and unless you have a small child in real and regular risk of falling in a pool (like if you have an unbarricaded pool in your backyard), he doesn't recommend it. It's an amazing technique and can be very effective, but he has also slowly and painfully counseled many emotionally scarred children who did ISR as toddlers and are now water-safe, but are absolutely TERRIFIED of it. Also, if you do go the ISR route, be sure to find someone who is actually certified in the method. It is expensive and takes a long time to get certified, but it is a dangerous technique and you have to have someone who knows what they are doing. A friend of mine nearly lost her little boy due to an "aggressive" swim instructor using the ISR method without proper training. Her little one swallowed so much water from all the dunking during the class that he ended up seizing on the pool deck afterward and went into a coma. He is okay now, but he could have had permanent brain damage. I know that wasn't really what you were asking about, but as long as we're talking about swim lessons, I had to get that PSA out!

Okay, on to your question- how to incorporate some practical skills. You're right that familiarity in the water is something, and it's a very big something, but there is more you could do when you're in the pool with him. One of the first things is to start talking about putting your hands up if you're underwater. Crazy enough, that is not an intuitive thing for small children! So, teach: "What do we do if we're underwater?" "Raise our hands and kick our feet!" Repeat. Start working on crawling out of the pool in the deep end: elbow, elbow, tummy, knee, knee. Work on cruising around the whole edge of the pool using just his hands. And then the biggest thing is teaching him to turn on his back and float- so anytime he's in the pool, he knows he can always float up and turn onto his back to get air and relax. That is always available to him. Then he can kick until he hits a wall, grab the edge, and climb out (elbow, elbow, tummy, knee, knee!). You can also do "humpty dumpties" where you drop him in the pool right by the edge so he can kick up and grab it and climb out (skipping the float). It's a multi-faceted process, so work on different things at different times and find stuff he enjoys and finds empowering (Claire has always loved monkey arms and seemed surprised and delighted she could get herself out of the pool). The back floating is the hardest thing to teach- there's so much nuance that JP has gathered through his lessons, but toddlers are usually pretty buoyant so H might take to it right away anyway :). JP always lets the kids pick a song they sing together while he lets them float, slowly letting go of them until they float on their own. Here's some pictures of Claire when she had just turned 2:

Anon: 1. I know you've said before that you will probably move at some point in the future. How much longer do you think you’ll stay in Ft. Worth? If you have plans to leave in a few years, how will that affect JP’s swim school?

That is an excellent question. Now that we're redoing our kitchen, I'm hoping to stay here for quite a bit longer! 5 years at least, more would be better. I would always be open to moving if it made sense for our family, but it's really JP who insists that we'll definitely be moving in a few years. I'm not sure how or why- it's not like either of us are going to be transferred by our jobs, but he seems certain. If we do move, his hope is to sell his business to someone else and then start a new business, swimming or otherwise, in the new place. Those kinds of plans are why I feel we are now highly unlikely to move.

2. Is there another type of law you’d like to practice?

When I first went to law school I wanted to do trusts and estates, and I still think I would enjoy the practicality of it and the close and usually positive client relationships. But I did really like being a litigator, and that is almost certainly what I'll go back to, if I go back at all.

3. Other than returning to a firm, are there any other law careers you are interested in (i.e. professor, in-house counsel, non-law career)?

All of the above! I spent most of my childhood teaching school to all the kids in my neighborhood. I created worksheets by hand, took attendance, gave quizzes and tests- I took it all very seriously! So I could definitely see trying to be an adjunct or doing some other teaching-type role somewhere down the line. In-house is also a possibility, one that currently seems more likely as a next step over going back to a firm whenever I leave the SEC. I like the one client/being a part of a team aspect and I think the lifestyle, while more intense than the government, would still likely be easier to adjust to than private practice. And lately I've let myself think of non-law careers too. I like being a lawyer and think my "main" job will always involve using my JD, but I would love to explore photography more and do a (very) small amateur business involving family portraits. I would also love to get certified in barre teaching and teach an early morning class at my yoga studio for us working folks (6 a.m., a class I would create just so I could go, showing EXACTLY how obsessed I am with those classes). So who knows, but it's interesting to me that I'm so much more open minded about my career path(s) at 31 than I ever was at 18 or 22 or 25.

4. What was the hardest transition for you and JP as parents. Going from married couple to 1 kid, 1 kid to 2 kids or 2 kids to 3 kids?

Oh my god the couple to 1 kid transition nearly KILLED us. Like on the rare occasion we talk about Landon's babyhood it is only to note how surprising it is that we survived. Adding Claire was easy and adding Cora has been so seamless and simple that I don't understand why JP won't let me have a fourth. Day-to-day I found having two kids to be way easier than one (they entertain each other! it's like the best of all the baby gear in one cute little 3-year-old package), and while I wouldn't say three is easier than two, it hasn't been any harder. The older kids keep getting easier, so it kind of evens out when you throw in a more physically demanding brand new one. But oh man, that first transition was so hard. Landon was hard (preemie! NICU! colic! allergies! 27 ear infections!), our lives were hard (law school! investment banking!), we were so isolated, we had no family help, and we then went through actual legal, medical, and emotional hell for a few months... but even without all that- the switch from young couple in the city to young couple + a baby, especially when no one else we knew had babies, was a rough one. By the time we had Claire and certainly Cora, we had embraced our roll as family with young child, so adding another one into our routine was no big deal- family dinners after work, early wake-ups on the weekends, not going anywhere without many accessories, never getting to travel alone with JP ever again... check! We can roll with pretty much anything these days.

5. As busy as you are, I’m curious what is the biggest source of stress in your life right now?

Hmm, I'd say I'm really not a worrier- stress has to be really forced on me to feel much of it. If I had to pick something, I do sometimes worry about making sure we're shaping the kids into the best people they can be. It's a big job, there's no owner's manual, and you can't see the future to know what effects your current actions are going to have.

6. What are some of your favorite traditions with the kids?

Ooh, so many! I'm a tradition lover- we had so many growing up in my own little family, things that I'm sure were no big deal at some point but our now completely sacred and beloved, and one of my favorite thing about being a parent of increasingly older children is the creation of our own. So far, the following are ones the kids already talk about:

- getting donuts with dad alone on your birthday before anyone else wakes up (this one is new, but it is a big hit and I LOVE the idea of a high school Claire getting up early to go eat donuts with her daddy on her birthday)
- picking any dinner you want for your birthday night
- the little candle on your place mat on your birthday morning: purchased for $2.99 each our dino and piglet candle holders are something the kids really look forwarding to having by their plate on their birthdays and it's nothing that requires me to prep anything the night before!
- decorating Christmas sugar cookies
- Christmas at the lake house. This is a funny tradition for me because I always loved my family Christmases in my own house without any extra family growing up- it was cozy and ours and completely stress and drama-free, but my kids now associate Christmas with Papa and Gigi's house and that's nice too. Though I do think at some point we'll start doing Christmas Eve in our own home and then drive to the lake on Christmas Day morning. It's getting harder for Santa to travel.
- Valentine's Day heart pizza for dinner. We have to shape them by hand now, but they're still happening.

I expect there to be lots more.

More answers to come! The next tranche involves a lot of junior associate, OCI, and marriage advice. Ole!

In other news, also on our crazy Monday, Cora started in a new classroom at school! She was too big, too fast, and too dominant in the baby class, so the director created a new mini-class for Cora and her posse of other bigger babies to bridge the gap between the fierce-crawling now and the toddling future.

Don't let her sweet visage fool you; the girl is crazy. She's sweet too, but she thrives in chaos, crawls like a demon, and wants to do, touch, chew, hit, eat, and be a part of ALL of the things ALL the time.

She played so hard in her new padded baby gymnasium that she slept for 14 straight hours Monday night. Luckily I had my work laptop at home so I just logged in and worked from the kitchen table until she woke up.

Now I'm sick with a bad cold and am going to try to drug myself enough to sleep through the burning throat, runny nose, and sinus pressure that makes me wish my head would just split open and be done with it. But hey, I finally got some Q&A posted and Top Chef's latest iteration is playing on my TV- happy Wednesday!


  1. It seems like everyone is raving about barre... so much so that I recently did a little poking around to see what it would take to buy a franchise. Glad you love it!

    1. Come start one in Fort Worth- I'll teach all your early morning classes!

  2. I was just about to send you a message on FB about swimming lessons (since it's only been recently pH was able to put her face in the water)--so your post was perfect timing! :) Thank you!

  3. Anon1 here .... Just wanted to say thanks for taking the time to answer all my questions! Love reading your blog - I was especially interested in your answer to the transition from 1, 2, 3 kids. I'm a lawyer/mom and just had my 2nd baby and was surprised that there was still quite a bit of a transition for us from 1 to 2 kids, even with my new reduced hourly work schedule (yay!!!). So reading about how easy Cora has been and how helpful L & C continue to be, gives me hope if we decide to add a 3rd! Thanks for sharing!!!

    1. Yay for newly reduced hourly work schedules! I think for us the combination of hardest baby ever + our jobs at the time + all the extra hell we went through with Landon certainly contributed to making the couple to kid transition by FAR the hardest. It was honestly so hard that nothing could ever be that hard again, so even if it was a little difficult to add Claire, that difficulty was so small by comparison that I don't even remember it. Same thing with Cora. I do still think that the realigning of our lives to "family with kids" was the hardest step and once we did it with Landon, throwing in extra kids was never much of a shock, but I can understand how other people might find the switch from 1 to 2 to be harder than we did. :).

  4. FYI - Giordano's ships heart-shaped deep-dish pizzas nationwide for Valentine's day. :) It's our new tradition as of this year.

  5. Thank you for the swimming advice! That gives me several good (and new) things to work on. Do you happen to have any tips for teaching back-floating to kids who resist it? H's swim teacher hasn't been enormously helpful with HOW to get him to do it, and I understand why he doesn't like it, but it's an important skill that I'd love to help him be better at and more comfortable doing.

    Also, I love reading about your life with 3 kids. The maybe-a-3rd-baby bug has bitten me quite a bit earlier than the maybe-a-2nd bug did, and I love reading about the challenges (few, it seems!) and rewards of having 3. If I could guarantee that my 3rd would be as easy as Cora, I'd be pregnant again tomorrow! :)

    1. Ha, if I could guarantee another Cora, I would be too!

      As to your question- I asked JP and he said basically, you just have to do it. Put them on their backs, stand behind them (directly behind their head), so they have to tilt their chin up and look back to see you (helps them float) and then sing a song they pick over and over until they relax or at least stop yelling. As soon as they do, let them stop by gently pulling them to the wall and let them flip over to hold on to the wall and/or climb out. Then, once they've done it at least once, talk about how great it was that they floated! And they sang to you while they were in the water! And now they can almost swim! And how fun is that! Etc. Claire would get all excited about the fact she could float and still freak out when having to do it, but the freak outs got exponentially shorter once she really did know she could do it. With a kid who doesn't like that position naturally, the comfort is really only going to come with competence and confidence (which pretty much only come together). Good luck, it's really hard doing it when you're the parent, but JP did with L&C and they did so well!