However, this year he has been sloooooowly acclimating to the water more, with less screaming and freaking out about water going in his mouth or nose. The pool we went to on Saturday, at the big local rec center, is one of our favorites because it's only a 10-15min drive from our house, it has long hours, it's cheap, and it has a really huge "activity pool" with wateralls and buckets that dump water on the kids and a gently sloping walk-in and a "deep" end of only about 3.5 feet. It also has a really big waterslide. As in, you have to be 42" tall in order to get on it, and there are usually mostly teenagers and adults in line.
(Please forgive the crappy picture, it was taken on my not-an-iPhone. Hopefully you can see the big corkscrew slide in the back with 2 stories of stairs leading to the top.)
As we were paying to get into the pool, J saw a bunch of kids standing up against the little measuring line they have to determine if you're tall enough for the slide, and he went and stood against it like they had. "Good for you, you're big enough for the slide!" said the ticket lady, "come get a frog stamp for your hand so you can get on it." J, who had no idea what slide she was talking about, was more than happy to get a frog stamp, and we went in to the pool.
"Soooo," I said nonchalantly pointing at the slide. "Do you want to go on that?"
His immediate response? "Definitely NOT. It's too scary."
Which was fine by me. We splashed around the kids activity area for awhile, playing some involved game that J made up about rescuing dolphins and sharks from evil penguins (?). After an hour or so he started complaining of being hungry and thirsty so we stopped at the snack stand for an ice cream sandwich. Right next to the snack stand is the fenced-off lap pool and high diving boards, where people were taking turns diving -- some basically belly-flopping, and some doing really impressive somersaults and flips. For whatever reason, J was fascinated by this, so we ate our ice cream watching the diving pool, which also put us right in front of the splash down area for the slide. Out of nowhere, before he was even done with his ice cream, J stood up and said, "I wanna get on that slide." And he said it very seriously, the way one might say, "I think we need to talk," or, "There's something I have to tell you."
Sensing that if we didn't go immediately he would lose his nerve, I quickly threw away the ice cream, took J's hand, and we almost ran over to the stairs leading to the top. "You're really going to do this?" I asked. "Yep," he said. "You understand that we can't go together?" "Yep," he said. As were climbing, I thought for sure that once he realized how high we were going he would chicken out, but instead he seemed to get more and more excited, so I hammed it up, saying things like "This is going to be so much fun!" and "You're definitely a big kid now!" As we neared the entrance to the slide, I told him that I would go first so I could wait for him at the bottom, and I tried to give him a little instruction on how to handle the splash-down area, which we were told was 3.5 feet (remember--HE CAN'T SWIM). "When you go into the water at the bottom, try to POP! up to the top really fast and look for me." Right before I went down I told the lifeguard at the top that J had never done this before and couldn't swim, so if he chickened out and didn't want to do it I would look up there and the lifeguard would just wave at me to let me know to come back up for him.
So, down the slide I went. And about one second into it, I thought we'd made a mistake. You guys, this is a real waterslide. Fast, with 3 big corkscrews, with lots of sliding up onto the walls and a pretty decent splashdown at the bottom. I remember thinking, "There is no way J is going to do this." At the bottom, I waited. And waited. And looked up at the lifeguard to see if he was frantically waving -- nothing. Just as I was about to get out and go rescue J, I heard him coming around the last turn, his voice echoing on the walls of the slide: "MOMMMEEEEEEEEE!!!" and then he came into view, half on his back, sideways, a look of sheer terror on his face. He shot out of the end of the slide, went under, and took so long coming back up that the lifeguard in the splash area got nervous and reached in, pulling him out by his arm. After sputtering for a few seconds J literally jumped into my arms and said, "I kept trying and trying and trying to POP! up but I got stuck under the water!!" (I have to admit, when he said that I kind of questioned my own judgement in letting my non-swimming kid do this, but then again I kind of believe in the old school thinking that the best way to learn to swim is to be thrown into the water and just have to do it. With close supervision, of course.)
"Did you have fun though?" I asked.
"YES!!" he said.
"Do you want to do it again?"
"NO!!" he said, firmly. Then he added, "Maybe next week we can do it again."
I'm not usually one to give bribes and rewards, but I was so proud at that moment, I felt it was definitely worth a new Hot Wheels car. So after a little more swimming--yes, he got back in the pool and swam around some more after that!--we packed up and made a little trip to Target.
Big boy, indeed.