Our daughter Ping has Spina Bifida. Normally her Special Need doesn’t impact her day to day activities. There have been the odd emergency trip to the Spina Bifida Clinic… and the numerous check ups, and test, and MRIs, and neurology type things… but other than that… her Spina Bifida has not been on the forefront of our minds.
Her Spina Bifida affects some of our decisions of course… we learned the hard way that slapping her on a thin sheet of plastic and sending her shooting down a steep 40 foot hill covered in a thin layer of snow and ice with no protection for her massive head and back was, for lack of a better description, a “poor parenting choice”. Huh, who knew. Go figure.
Getting ready for our 1st Swim
Anyway, one of the physical activities which she enjoys (and is good for her Special Need) is Swimming. It is a great way for children with Spina Bifida to get physical activity with low risk of injury, and it is something which can help their mobility and strengthen their core muscles… and it can help attachment issues.
Lets travel back to Nov 2009 – courtesy of the Yeti Way Back Time Machine(tm)
Me: Why is she still glaring at me?
Wife: She just doesn’t trust you yet.
Me: Really? Why not? She’s been with us for like, 36 hours. You think she would be OK with me by now.
Wife: Ya, you’d think that. I think you still scare her. She doesn’t seem to like your hair.
Me: No, thats not it. Its cuz you gave her the sucker when we 1st met her. I only had Cheerios for her.
Wife: Right. 4 years of “life” and “memories” are replaced instantly by 1 sucker. It couldn’t be that she is scared, terrified, and being chased by some huge lumbering hairy white man.
Me: I’m pretty sure it’s the sucker.
Wife: You are such a moron…
Me: Wait! She’s looking at me! She’s gonna say something!
Wife: Do you think that was a happy thing she said?
Me: Ummmm, no.
Wife: Look, she will love you – she just needs to trust you. Oh! Take her swimming!
Me: Really? You think thats a good idea?
Wife: Oh yea! It will be brilliant! She will be forced t
o hold onto you! If she lets go, she will drown. It will force her to bond with you.
Me: Uh, I’m not sure that putting our newly adopted child into a life or death situation where she will be torn between the complete and abject fear of me and the troubling sensation of drowning is really the best way to create a wonderful loving bonding moment. I’m not sure that will foster the spirit of trust and love of which we are seeking. I’m pretty sure you can’t force bonding…
Wife: Oh what do you know about adopted children! You didn’t even read the books about attachment disorders!
Me: Okay, we’ll try it your way. I’m sure it will be great.
So me, our 10 year old son K and Ping all go to the swimming pool. After the very confusing “swimming cap” experience, we find ourselves in the pool… which (un)fortunately did not have a shallow end. It looks like my wifes cunning plan is going to work.
Me: Ping Ping, come here! Come to Ba ba! I’ll hold you in the water!
Me: Look, water! Swim?
Me: Alright, Ba ba is going to pick you up, and put you in the water now.
So, with her in my arms, facing out from me, we slipped into the water – and for 42 seconds, she clung to my arm while we started wading though the water. Her little face lit up with a wide smile as she splashed her little delicate hands and feet in the water and giggled with joy!
It was around the 43rd second mark where she glanced over her shoulder and was reminded that I was holding her…
Me: I can’t let you go baby. You will sink.
Me: I can’t put you down! You can’t touch the bottom.
Ping: 让我走! 让我走!
Me: Okay… I’ll put you down.
It is around this time, as her little face slipped slowly below the surface of the water that I realized a couple of things…
- she wasn’t reaching up for help, she made her decision – drowning was better than reaching out and taking my hand for help
- she has a bit of a stubborn streak to her
- maybe this attachment thing is going to take more than 36 hours
- those stupid swim caps are really uncomfortable
I reached into the water, took her gently under the arms and lifted her out of the water. Thinking “surely now she realizes that she can not touch the bottom, that she needs me, that she will happily stay in my arms now and hold onto me and let me help her”. Boy… was I wrong…
Me: Really?! You still want down? Didn’t you notice you just about drowned?
Me: Okay, here we go again…
And once more, my daughters beautiful face slipped silently below the surface… I did get to hold her, eventually. She stopped fighting me and let me lead her around the pool and had fun splashing her big brother.
Me: Oh great. It went really well.
Wife: See, I told you it would work! And what are you wearing on your head?
Me: Swimming cap. Apparently, you need them if you want to swim in China.
Me: Yea. Hey, quick question. If you had to choose between drowning and being stuck with me… what would you choose?
Wife: She will love you. Eventually.
Me: She would love me quicker if I gave her the sucker.
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