Friday, October 30, 2009

Rub a dub dub, Ryan's in the tub!

Ryan loves being in the water. When he was a newborn, baths relaxed and soothed him and he would contentedly fall asleep shortly after.

I'd seen photos of babies swimming underwater a la Aquaman and had fantasised about my baby being able to do that. The earliest swimming lessons we managed to find in Singapore, however, were for 6 month olds. I was told however, that it is at 6 months that babies start to get nervous around water and that I should introduce Ryan to water play while he was still fearless and clueless. So, when he was still an infant, we took him to Hwa Xia to splash around in their tubs so that he would not develop a fear of the water.

We always thought that these sessions were supposed to be spa-like, relaxing and soothing. It seemed strange to us that putting a baby in the tub could qualify as swimming. Our friends who were swimming instructors scoffed at the idea that one could call this swimming. Yet, some parents do use these tub sessions as swimming sessions and, in fact, Hwa Xia encourages this. When we first put Ryan in the tub, we were content to let him just relax and enjoy the water but the shop staff encouraged him to kick about energetically. Ryan understood and he kicked, flapped, spun around and he earned lots of praise from the shop staff. We never needed to give him any reassurance or encouragement or wave any toys at him.

It was a little disconcerting to us at first as what we thought would be a soothing and calm experience turned out to be very chaotic and noisy - all the parents would be flapping and waving their arms enthusiastically at their babies in the tub, shaking all sorts of noisemakers, some would even hit the sides of the tub with the toys, everyone would be calling, "swim, swim, swim!" or "kick, kick, kick!"

Still, Ryan seemed to enjoy his sessions so we signed up for a package. We tried to go at odd times when the shop was relatively empty and quiet to reduce the chaos. However, after a few sessions, and having grown physically bigger and stronger, Ryan was no longer content to be stuck in the tiny tub. He wanted to go places and he kicked harder and flapped faster to try to break free of the tub. We had to take out all the floating toys because they took up precious space. He'd kick the tub and bang his float against the sides until the tub shook and the water splashed out onto the floor. It was heartbreaking to watch and I wanted to stop his sessions completely to save him all that frustration. I didn't think that he was having fun anymore.

Then, we went to KL and let him play in our big swimming pool there. He must have realised the difference because since then, he treats his tub like a relaxing spa. Instead of expending his energy with no reward, he now glides about gracefully in the tub, floating like a butterfly and dancing like a mermaid. The staff still try to get him to kick and flap energetically but he will simply smile, ever so sweetly, at them and continue his waltz. He takes more interest in his fans now (his audience of passerbys), posing and flirting with the ladies. Where the toys were obstructive tub-mates before, he now leisurely examines and grabs each one. When we think he’s had enough and move to lift him out, he will start flapping and kicking enthusiastically so that we leave him in the tub. As soon as we do, he goes back to his dancing and jiving. Obviously this cheeky monkey is smarter than all of us.

His sessions now go on for a leisurely one hour and when he gets out, he is refreshed and raring to go, as if he'd just stepped out of the spa. Previously, he would fall exhaustedly into deep slumber after each tub session.

The staff at the shop has always been asking us to sign up for their in-house competitions and we have always declined. Recently we'd been thinking that Ryan’s tubbing days are nearly over as he's getting too big so we signed him up for the competition as a nice ending. Perhaps we should have joined the competition when Ryan was still thrashing about hopefully, trying to freestyle his way to Sentosa. We wondered how he would do with his new graceful and playful routine.

The preliminaries were held on 22 September, at 11.00am. We overslept and were just in the nick of time after a bit of a rush. When Ryan’s turn came, we tried to do what the other parents did and started chanting swim! swim! swim! but we soon stopped because it seemed silly to us. We've never flapped our hands at him or told him that he should swim! swim! swim! He has always known what to do. Anyway, the moment he chuckled at us, we forgot about doing any chanting or flapping and we just chuckled back and we just let him do whatever he felt like doing. We didn’t bring any supporters but he soon had a good audience. For the 10 minutes allotted to him, he moved comfortably around in the water, relaxed as usual, oblivious to the fact that he was supposed to at least look like he was putting in lots of strenuous effort. When the judge came around, she asked me with some surprise why I wasn’t using any toys. I told her, Ryan didn’t need them, but inside I was thinking, oh no, we failed some judging criteria somewhere. Then the judge said, “Such a cutie” (in Chinese) and I was hopeful again.

Anyway, the following Wednesday, while we were in Sydney, we got the surprising good news - Ryan had charmed his way through to the finals! Yippee!

The finals were held the day after we got home from Sydney. We reached home from the airport after midnight, went to bed at 2am, woke up late and it was a mad rush to the shop once again.

The finals were quite a different picture from the preliminaries. We caught a look at the round of babies before us and their parents were definitely very serious! Many of them even brought their own toys and props! There were balloons, funny headbands and there was a lot of vigorous hand action and chanting going on. All we had was a towel. Since a portion of the points was given for baby-parent interaction, we thought, well, that’s the end of us. We felt a little guilty at being the lousy unprepared parents and we were just happy to hear that every baby who got to the finals would get something.

Anyway, we put Ryan in the tub and got started. The two of us, the parents, were completely useless - the best we could do was to stroke his head. Ryan leaned back against the tub and stretched out his legs and braced himself against the other end as if to tell us - I'm too big for this, if I do this for you will you get me out of here? You've got a deal, son.

When the judge came round to test Ryan, he was perfect! He smiled at her, he splashed about, he kicked, he flapped his arms and he spun around. Then he started doing his own thing – he gave his boyish grin, he flirted outrageously, he babbled adorably, he strutted his cheeky poses. He danced so gracefully that the judge commented he was doing the ballet.

And then, Ryan unsheathed his secret weapon. He started to sing. Yes, he started to sing.

Offkey, no doubt, but make no mistake, that bird was singing. At the top of his voice. The judge was completely charmed. When she asked me, “How do you pronounce his name?”, I knew he was in the top 3. Not number 1 surely (blame his lousy parents for dropping points) but definitely a hot favourite. When we left the shop, the judge told us, “Make sure you come back later for the results” and we grinned yes at her.

And yes, Ryan emerged number 2! When the judge announced his name, she also announced, “This one can sing!".

We were definitely surprised - Ryan didn't do any "training" for the finals, he just enjoyed himself and did whatever he liked, displaying his personality and his playfulness. Well done, Ryan! We are so proud of you!

Anyway, since then, we haven't gone back to Hwa Xia, except to pick up his certificate last weekend. A deal's a deal. Still, as part of his prize, Ryan won some extra sessions and he has also got some sessions left on his package so I guess we will be back, but only if I can get him to change his mind.

PS: 1st place went to Ryan's pal, Matthias, who together with his parents, put on a very entertaining show, with Daddy and Mummy giving lots of encouragement by blowing soap bubbles, rattling keys and making lots of clapping and flapping actions. Great fun to watch!


florinda said...

haha.. seems like great fun .. on matt's part

but great job ryan... gotta meet up soon.. serenade V okie

bellie button said...

haha, come to think of it, i think we were quite comical. hmm...

ryan sang? i shld have gone in to listen.

Doofus said...

hope you could record the little warbler one of em days! his development is pretty incredible huh

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