An unfiltered fire hose of flaming condemnation

Her mother’s daughter

Sunday afternoon we took Leta swimming for the first time this year at a public pool with a shallow end for kids. Her reaction to water so far has been positive if not a little too enthusiastic, like a Golden Retriever. She seeks it out, is drawn to it magnetically, and if she sees a puddle while we’re on a walk she will try to Incredible Hulk her way out of the buckle holding her into the stroller so that she can fling her body into the water face first.

When we entered the gates at the pool she responded exactly as we expected her to, with unmitigated joy and a hyper, machine gun string of, “WALLER! WALLER! WALLER!” We’ve tried unsuccessfully to get her to pronounce water with a T in the middle, and when she asks for a drink of waller one of us will usually say, “You mean WAH-TER. Water.” Once while going through this drill Jon deliberately lingered on the T sound, and afterward instead of repeating it Leta just said, “That’s right, Daddy. Good job.” She was glad to see he had been practicing.

After we lathered up in an obscene amount of sunscreen, I grabbed her hand to walk her over to the edge of the pool. She was literally skipping until she realized, whoa, that’s a big puddle, and then she froze. So I picked her up and inched slowly toward the shallow end. It took at least 20 minutes to convince her to dip her toes through the top of the water and another 20 to get her to sit on the top step with her butt in the water. She and I sat there for at least a half-hour, and Jon tried repeatedly to pull her out into the water to get her to swim. Each time she would freak out and holler, “SIT DOWN! SIIIIIIIT DOOOWWWWN!” What he was doing out there in the deeper water, paddling his arms and all that other work? That was not her idea of a good time. My kid came to lounge by the side of the pool with a bag of cheddar goldfish nearby for easy snacking. I had no idea she would catch on so quickly.

Both of us caught nasty chills while sitting with our feet in the pool, and yesterday Leta woke up with a miserable cold. Because she hasn’t been sick very often we haven’t yet learned how to prevent it from shutting down the rest of our lives. The whining and moping and ABJECT DISAPPOINTMENT THAT LIFE MUST CONTINUE TO BE LIVED, they are the reason I have an ongoing muscle spasm in my top lip. Every time she loudly complains that her clothes, they are touching her body, the left side of my upper lip starts quivering and then recedes disgustedly to show the whites of my incisors and canines, like the first time I was forced to look at a penis.

She doesn’t want to sleep but also doesn’t want to be awake, and could someone please explain to her why? Why are those her only two choices? When she does sleep, when she does collapse into a coughing, exhausted heap, she sleeps restlessly, and last night she had a nightmare and screamed out for Elmo. This morning as we were lying in bed eating a bowl of Trix Are For Kids and watching Sesame Street, a growling alien head tore its way out of Leta’s chest and bit off my hand when Andrea Bocelli started singing opera to Elmo. Totally natural reaction, although a tad dramatic. Even for me.

But she wouldn’t stop screaming for Elmo! EELLLLLLMMMMMOOOO! and I had to hold her back from crawling to the end of the bed and leaping at the television. Maybe she was afraid that Andrea was killing Elmo with his song, maybe something similar happened in her nightmare, and I had to assure her that Elmo was okay, he was still breathing and talking in third person, still pronouncing crayon incorrectly. After I calmed her down I wiped giant tears from her right cheek and a green mustache of snot from her lip. And then I held her close because the fact that she is this emotionally invested in the well-being of a character on television, that is proof more powerful than DNA that she was born from my egg.

  • Oh poor little petal … go swimming more often, immunity to icky germs will arrive one day! However I am a left lip curler!

  • My son Max screamed E-L-M-OOOOOO and shrieked repeatedly during the Andrea Bocelli segment in that same Sesame Street episode. I think he thought Elmo was in distress?! It was a wild response to behold.

  • rebecca

    Bwahaha! I love it! I love it! At least that’s what I tell myself every day while I’m walking around the yard with a paper bag and my heavy duty pooper scooper.

    Heather, you are too funny. Oddly enough, today I too had been faintly reminiscing – not altogether unpleasantly – about my first penis viewing. Am I channeling?

    And like Valerie, my lip only curls from the right – but I can flare my nostrils at the same time.

  • tlc_jaba

    “Like the first time I was forced to look at a penis”… Hilarious! Poor thing, I hope she feels better, soon.

  • Shiz

    Poor Leta! I *hate* it when my clothes are touching me.

    Is it too early to teach her about the soothing effects of vodka?

  • I can still remember the stories and accompanying pictures of my first poolside experience. My grandma was holding a bonnet-adorned me, and I was giving her the “you are crazy, woman” look as she proceeded to blow bubbles in front of me. Apparently in our family it was blow bubbles first, swim later.

  • OutOfTune

    You had me until “green mustache of snot from her lip”.
    That’s not very nice to do to somebody with a hangover.
    I think I must excuse myself now…

  • I hope you both feel better soon…

    Your pictures of Leta are amazing. “Wispy” makes my heart stick in my throat.

  • I can’t wait to see how my kids are like me. I just hope they have better singing voices.

  • ksdavies

    My sister-in-law told my husband and I about this book. It was a fabulous help to her with not only her 3 children, but the children she teaches, as well.

    The Highly Sensitive Child : Helping Our Children Thrive When the World Overwhelms Them by Elaine Aron

    She’s not talking about sensitive emotionally, at least not just that. You mentioned things like Leta saying her clothes are touching her…it’s exactly the kind of comments these kids make. You might check it out. I hope it’s helpful.

  • mellly

    I hope you feel better soon so you can enjoy some more swimming.

  • Jezzie

    Whoa there, you are treading on my territory with the penis repulsion….and now,after 15 hetero years and 2 kids, my girlfriend and I are happily …oh, I digress.
    I agree about medication, children’s sleepy tylenol and such are wonderful, it makes them feel so much better, just pour, apply, repeat until child is back to normal.
    Trust me, its easier on EVERYONE. Being sick is scary for kids.
    My 6 year old son came home from the pool the other day with his first ever headache, and after 45 minutes of lying down with a cool cloth and tylenol he finally sighed resignedly, “I’m gonna die”.
    Too real, man, too real.

  • I thought big bird was a girl?

    He’s pretty gay then…

  • If Andrea Bocelli were singing to my beloved television friend, I’d be deeply concerned as well. God, how I hate him. Hate him, hate him, hate him.

  • I had those swimming lessons at the YMCA as well- I wouldn’t get into any water at all (not even the bathtub) for years after that. I was okay until they got to the part where they held my head under water. Then hell, it broke loose.

  • That’s actually one of my favorite skits on Sesame Street. Does that make me weird?

  • as a swim teacher, who’s had many years of enticing freaked out kidlets into the water, can I recommend holding Leta on your hip (so her toes are abouve the waterline), singing a favourite song, and swaying. As you sway, dip your knees every so often, so her toes get closer to the water. Don’t stop singing or moving as she gets wet, just keep going, and dipping lower and lower. You can sometimes get all the way down before the kid realises. Then, some kids are totally cool about it; others, though, freak out again!

    Don’t have any advice for the snot machine, though – I only have them for half an hour once a week. Good luck!!

  • niqaeli

    //But pseudoephedrine is scary scary stuff. I just heard that Crack is a derivative of that stuff.//

    Crack is a form of cocaine, which is derived from the coca plant. You’re thinking of methamphetemine which can be derived from pseudephedrine. However, that process requires a great deal of pseudoephedrine as well as a number of other chemicals as well–it’s certainly not something you could whip up in your bathroom from a package of Sudafed.

    Heather–this entry caused me to flash back to my first swimming lessons. I couldn’t have been more than four. My Poppop had a pool, and he took me out and gave me a pair of those silly-looking inflatable arm bands. I remember holding on to the edge of the shallow end, learning to breathe properly to swim. I was terrible about breathing slowly. I’d let all my air out at once and then gasp for more and I only ever really improved when I started playing flute many years later. After that he took me out to deeper waters, and taught me to tread water, which is just about the most inefficient and unpleasant way of keep one’s head above water but everyone should know, just in case.

    Thank you, Heather, for bringing back those memories of my Poppop–I haven’t nearly enough of them. 🙂

  • poor thing. i hope she feels better soon.

  • Liv

    reading about Leta’s first experience with a pool brought back all my memroies of teaching swimming for 5 summers straight. good luck, hopefully Leta learns to love it! it just takes persistence and practice.

  • Re: Getting kids in the pool
    Water toys are definitely the KEY. My son is 8 and didn’t like the whole group pool experience until the last couple of years. But the 2 ft deep pools where he discovered he could walk around and throw a ball was his favorite. We didn’t force him in and spent the first day sitting on the edge. Then I discovered throwing the ball with him WHILE standing in the water.

    Re: cold medicine for kids
    Be careful with that stuff it can make them pass out and then wake up 4 hrs later in a coma-like state. The cough suppressant ONLY (dextromethorphan) meds are good if the cough is keeping them awake. But pseudoephedrine is scary scary stuff. I just heard that Crack is a derivative of that stuff.

    Maybe a shot of tequila would help with the cold, the fear of Bocelli, and the pool. Just sayin’……….

  • aww. sick kids suck. Being sick with a sick kid sucks more. Hope everyone is better soon. My son doesnt get sick often either and it shuts our lives down as well…we had to try out a few different kid’s meds until we found one that actually suppressed his cough and cleared his nose enough so that he could sleep. Good luck.

  • lady, you are one hell of a writer.

  • the badge thing is gone! where did it go? my life has no meaning. I need to go to that style badge thing! *screams* *SCREAMS LIKE LETA*

  • Connor doesn’t seem to get into Elmo as much as I would like to think. But he does go into a trance and dance when Fresh Prince of Bel-Air comes on. WOO!

    Sick kids are just heart breaking. Connor is less dramatic. He just goes from running on high gear to moping and sitting quietly with me. It’s so tragic without his giggles and hijinks.

  • HighlandAmy

    Aww! Poor Leta. I wish her a speedy recovery.
    Sorry to hear about your hand.

  • Brooke

    Ahh…Bocelli….killing Elmo softly with his song…

    The only thing worse is Bocelli AND Celine Dion. What a divine combination THAT was.

  • tygermama

    Alright! Hello from Vangroovy!
    I just HAD to come out of “Lurkersville” for this one! You are fricking hilarious!
    …Can’t catch my breath from laughing at the vision of this all.
    Hope you are all well soon.

  • Scarlett

    Poor baby, intimidated by the water… I was one of those children whose moms took them to the YMCA infants swimming class: Throw your 6-month-old in and she’ll make it.

    Which, I guess, I did – and I’ve always been a swimmer and haven’t feared water. I have some friends pushing 30 who still cringe at the idea of anything bigger than a hot tub, though.

    But, as spunky as Leta seems, I doubt she’ll let anything like a “big puddle” scare her for too long.

  • kathrynaz

    Sad to say, I too watched that poignant moment of Bocelli singing Elmo to sleep. It WAS emotional (a tear or two was shed); I can definitely understand Leta’s gut-wrenching reaction.

    That was some fine t.v.

  • kathrynaz

    oh, and the “waller” thing….?

    Pretty much par for a child of one who pronounces Crayola products as “crowns.”

    Jon and Elmo are STILL right. (sorry)…

  • Clairegren

    Wait until she gets her first Barbie.

  • skyhouseblue

    hey heather, have you checked out the “pygmalion’s wife” blog advertising on your site? it is a very well crafted scam. she claims to be living under an abusive husband with three kids (one disabled)and solicits donations so she can “leave her husband”. she deletes comments that question the truth to her claims. i hope most people are smarter than to actually make a donation or place an ad out of sympathy.

  • mom2jacieanna

    We spent all of last summer sitting in about 2 inches of water everytime we visited the pool (my girls are 4 and 2 now). This year they just jumped right in – they play in water all the way up to their chins! It just amazes me how they went from barely getting their toes wet to wanting to go swimming every day. Hope Leta feels better soon!

  • Good job getting your butt in the water Leta. At that age my now four year old wouldn’t even approach the water. Sorry it led to a nasty cold though.

  • immi’s mum

    As an Australian, the key to getting kids into water is 1) toys – lots of water toys and 2) jumping.

    I got my daughter to swim in scary big waves (we have them over here) by getting her to focus on jumping.

  • CRAY-ON!

  • Awww, when there sick at that age your torn between wanting to baby them up and wanting to go on vacation to GET AWAY from all the madness the sickness brings on…lol. Good luck, colds are never ever fun

  • kalkiwendy

    hope she feels better. down here in memphis, where, sorry to say, we (most of us that i know anyway) say cray-on (like day-on), we’re all hacking and sneezing. don’t you miss the allergy capital of the world????

  • StephJ0428

    Coupla things:

    1) My 5-year-old daughter, Maya, talks like a character straight out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. When she was 2 and we were at the pumpkin patch, she said (and I quote), “I’m not about that pumpkin. That’s not what I’m about.” Current phrases she uses include “Peace out, yo” and “Dude! Bummer.” Guess where she gets her fabulous linguistics training?

    2) Paula Poundstone said it best: “I have the perfect attention span for movies. I’m the only person I know who can watch Hoosiers over and over again and still have anxiety that they might lose the big game.” I get way too invested in television and movies, man. Next year, they’ll have a disorder named specifically for this. (Explosive Character Attachment Disorder? ECAD doesn’t make a good acronym, though.)

    Peace out, yo! 🙂

  • JennJenn

    Pictures! We need pictures of non-swimming!

  • advancedsalad

    brandy’s remark about dreaming Big Bird’s death reminds me of a story told by an English actor about the time he appeared on “Sooty”, a kid’s show over there. His kids were sitting at home all excited that he was going to appear, but then in the course of his sketch Sooty and friends started punching him up (as puppets will do in Britain), and, apparently, his children were quite shaken by the whole thing.

  • You may want to read more about “night terrors”. This is pretty common at your daughter’s age. Unfortunately, I know way too much about this area – my daughter had apnea (and had to have her tonsils and adenoids removed at age 2 1/2) and now has constant night terrors.

    Good luck….
    someday, she will sleep 🙂

  • Dude…Elmo TOTALLY pronounces crayons right 😉

  • hype12

    Elmo totally rule(d) our household when ours were little. Love the SIIIITTT DOOOWWNNN part, how true!

  • cate

    1. Triaminic Nighttime, grape and only grape flavored right before bedtime.

    2. Every single freakin time my kids go near a public pool, they get bacteria laden illnesses. Cesspools. bleh.

    3. My lip has been doing that thing like yours on and off for a month now…isn’t it freaky? I find my self grabbing it and dragging it back down or pressing really hard on it, which are both way better looks than the twitching. Right. Thank you for the penis connection, and the visual, now at least I can chortle to myself as I spasm.

    You are da bomb!

  • Perhaps Elmo came to Leta in her dreams and told her to save him from The Great Bocelli. Leta was The Chosen One!!!

  • PixieMegh

    Poor Leta. Opera sucks.

    It’s CRAY-on. How we can prove it? How do you say Crayola? Cray-oh-la. CRAYola makes CRAYons. 😉

  • Aaaah that is soo sweet and made me cry! Okay, I’m on my period but that’s totally unrelated!

  • Sorry to hear Leta is sick. Also sorry to hear about your first penile sighting. I agree that they don’t look anything like those naked statues.

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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