that other girl, she can’t do it

We were in Florida last month, and there we had the privilege of working with a swim teacher, named Dick Cutrera, who absolutely blew my mind. I took my two-and-a-half year old daughter to six lessons at his house in six days, and she went from someone who sat on the top step and ran screaming for a towel if she were splashed with a single droplet, to someone who jumped in– without any flotation devices– and swam back to said steps. He’s a wonder worker who has been teaching kids to swim for FIFTY YEARS (Cosmopolitan magazine did a fabulous Palm Beach spread of him teaching kids in a Don Draper-era 1961.) 

I was as enthralled during Maggie’s lessons as she was, because “Mr. Dick” keeps up a constant banter with his young charges that is a marvel of child psychology. His chief means of motivation is the constant mention of another (imaginary) child, one not nearly as successful a student as his current one. It goes something like this:

“Ooh, you put your face in the water? That other girl, she can’t do that.”
“When you get water in your eyes, you wipe them down, right? That other girl, she cries for her mommy to bring a towel.”

Maggie’s smug superiority that she is nothing like “that other girl” is really something to behold.

Mr. Dick’s other means of motivation is a Ziploc bag of Mardi Gras beads, and another Ziploc bag, filled with soil from his garden. “Oh, you’re going to get to pick out a necklace,” Mr. Dick told Maggie as she perfected floating on her back. “You’re going to get TWO necklaces. That other girl? She’s getting black dirt.” The black dirt, sitting there next to the necklaces, will never actually be given to any child; but it is all the proof Maggie needs that this other girl actually exists.

Other things we learned about “that other girl”:

–she lives right up there (pointing vaguely) and she might be watching you from the window
–her name is Mary (sometimes)
–she broke Mr. Dick’s garden gnome and her mommy is going to have to buy him a new one

Maggie scooped up these bits of information with wide eyes, nodding sagely, and although it’s been three weeks since we came back, she still talks about “dat udder girl, her not do it, her get black dirt” several times daily. 

Since “that other girl” got Maggie to swim, I have decided to apply this line of reasoning to the potty, as well. Wish me luck.