I’m sure I’m not alone in having had expectations of what I would get up to with my baby while I was on maternity leave – not only would I find the time to get outside in the garden while my baby happily bounced away in their vibrating bouncer, we would do all manner of activities. Baby sensory classes, baby yoga, baby massage, messy play sessions, baby swimming – we were going to do it all!
One of the activities I was most excited about was baby swimming. I’d loved to swim as a child, and as my husband isn’t a hugely confident swimmer, we felt it would be great to introduce Max to the water early on. I was entranced by the wonderful underwater photos of swimming babies and eagerly waited on the phone on hold on registration day to book our place.
But the reality was that Max didn’t take to the water like I’d hoped. The only session I’d been able to book him on was not at an ideal time for him as he’d normally be napping (not something that was an issue when I booked but his routine changed in between). And more than that, the huge emphasis that our class had on underwater swimming did not sit well with Max. He would come up spluttering every time, and it was clear that he wasn’t a fan of this part of the lesson at all. And if I’m honest, I’m not sure me or his Dad were great fans either!
But we persisted with the lessons for two terms, because we’d paid and they’re expensive, and, after much struggling, we did manage to get our lovely underwater photo.
Max has always been a sensitive baby, but it wasn’t until I read Tracy Hogg’s The Baby Whisperer that I felt I understood him more. He falls very neatly into Tracy’s ‘touchy baby’ category – being easily upset by changes in environment, different people, and changes to routine. The book really resonated with me (of course there were some parts that I disagreed with, but that’s a separate post) – her descriptions of ‘touchy baby’ behaviour really chimed with my experience of Max.
Max is a child of extremes – he’s either very happy and a real pleasure to be around, or he’s whiny, clingy and crying. And more often than not, it’s in unfamiliar situations that he tends towards the fussier end of the scale.
Once I accepted Max for who he was, I found that things became a lot easier. If we were going to be put in a new environment, then I would be more prepared for him to be a bit fussy and clingy at first and not resent it when this happened. It was clear that swimming was not working for Max – the lessons were held in a hotel pool, with a section roped off for the hotel guests, so they were noisy, and the water was often not as warm as it could have been, so it was clear that, despite his wetsuit, Max’s lips would be trembling from the cold. We stopped the swimming lessons, with the view that we might start up again when Max was a bit older, and decided that we would just take him ourselves in the meantime.
I tried to choose activities which were more closely aligned with what Max enjoys. As well as not being a swimming fan, he was also not a fan of any kind of messy play, which ruled out lots of other activities too. But he loves music, so we do a weekly music class, run by Monkey Music, and it’s been lovely to watch him come out of himself in those classes over the year and a half we’ve now been going. It’s taken a long time, but it’s clear now that he really enjoys it – he’s really excited when I say that’s where we’re going, he’s really engaged with all of the songs, and is fully involved in playing the various musical instruments.
And as time has gone on, we’ve returned to swimming – not with lessons, but by taking Max to our local pool and just bobbing around. He now loves the water and is becoming more confident with each visit. And no thrusting under the water from us!