Our Children’s Preferences as Different as the Seasons

As our family excitedly anticipates summer holidays, I wonder if the time of year we first entered the world helps to determine our future preferences. Although both my kids absolutely love summer, my oldest (who was born during a snowstorm and prefers winter) took a little longer to develop his fondness for one common activity of our warmest season.

What my kids love most about this time of year are the non-stop opportunities to be outside and especially, swimming. Both of their first summers included dipping their tiny toes into a clear, natural lake … with polar opposite reactions. The “win-fint” who loves the winter, was distressed, while the “spr-aby” who made her entrance on the first day of spring, was delighted.

At 14, Nick swims like a fish. He loves to dip, flip, dive, spin, toss and be tossed into whatever body of water happens to be in front of him. Whether it’s a pool or lake, the temperature — though it does determine how quickly he gets in — doesn’t deter him, as he flaps around like Aquaman, completely at home in whatever wet wonderland he is plunging into at the time.
However, his first exposure to summer swimming did not at all suggest that he would appreciate it like he does now.

It was a beautiful summer day as I stood knee deep in the water, holding my six-month-old baby, playfully lowering him toward the surface. Alarmed, he frantically tucked his little legs up as far up as was physically possible, and the look on his face was one of great fear and indignation as first his toes, then feet, then knees became submerged. This wide-eyed child was clearly shocked and dismayed that his parents, whom he had grown to love and trust, would subject him to such aquatic anguish.

His reaction shouldn’t have been a surprise, given the intensity with which he hated the bath as a new baby. He would scream, thrash, and turn an angry shade of purple, even though we took great care to ensure that the water condition was suitably baby-friendly, so as not to overheat our child, or plunge him into the frigid waters of the Fisher-Price tub of torture.

Early in our March baby’s life, we discovered that when inconsolable, Elena could be immediately soothed by the bath. Each clenched, flailing limb would relax as the water surrounded her, and she’d breathe a visible and audible sigh of relief. For Elena, a bath was all it took to make everything well with the world. During her fussiest times, it was not uncommon for one of us parents to throw our arms in the air, and yell above the crying, “OK, OK, I’ll get the tub!” (I remember reading about weaning a baby off of a pacifier, but worried that I could find no information about tub dependence!)

Now at age 11, she still loves the water. She’ll swim anywhere, any time, even in cottage country in (shiver) May. Her introduction to lake water was entirely different from Nick’s. She giggled, splashed and struggled to be released from my grasp. We dipped, dunked and dallied … and eventually, much to her dismay, departed. Her screams pierced the air as she lunged for the lake with outstretched arms while being carried away.

Like most kids, mine find many wonderful things about every Canadian season. I do find it fishy though, that the kid who was born in a snowstorm, speaks fondly and longingly about the winter during what is, without question, the most wonderful season of all … so says the July baby.

originally printed in the Waterloo Region Record