I have always loved the water and am nearly positive that I could swim before I could walk. I spent as much times a humanely possible in my grandparents’ pool and then as I grew older, I began to swim competitively. My summer jobs in high school and into college included lifeguarding and teaching swimming lessons. I truly embodied a term I like to call “sunburn chic.”
So, obviously, when I had a child, I knew that water safety and proficient swimming abilities were very important.
Time for Swimming Lessons! (Summer 2018)
I researched and researched, as any good Type A would do.
One swimming school said that the parents were not allowed to be present. Well, my child is quite sensitive and struggles to be separated from me. It took him weeks to adjust to the new Montessori program I put him in. Cross that school off the list.
A few of the others required a membership at a pool or access to a pool. I had neither.
I found a teacher who taught lessons at her home and did not require that the parent leave. My little boy was in a lesson with another little girl similar in age. I booked her when I got my tax return (side note-why in the world do these things have to fill up so fast!).
Every afternoon, we went.
And every afternoon was like torture. He screamed and cried for nearly the entire lesson. I tried hiding from him, sitting in my car, putting on a happy face and cheering for everything. Nothing helped.
The response from the teacher was, as I understand from many other parents, typical of many other swim schools in the area. “Well, water safety is important. He has to learn it.” (No kidding, lady.) I watched her respond to him in a stern and non-compassionate fashion. At one point, she pushed him under the water, which he was clearly not ready for, in order to get him the idea of being under water.
Maybe that works for some children, but it did not work for mine. That experience was traumatic. And, he learned nothing but fear of the water and fear of the idea of swimming lessons.
Flash forward to the beginning of this summer. (Summer 2019)
The mere mention of “swimming lessons” sent my new 5 year old into a full blown panic. I’m talking screaming, crying, flailing, snot, the whole shebang.
But, he has to learn. Or does he?
What does he really need to learn?
Instead of paying for lessons, we joined a community pool.
I took him 1-2/week. We got into the water, without a flotation device and just got used to the water.
I systematically undid the damage done the last summer. It took time and persistence. Every time we went, the goal was to practice the skills we learned the last time and do one more new thing. Blowing bubbles, putting his whole head under water, kicking, jumping in, walking with his hands on the side of the pool, climb up the ladder to get out. And then, heap on the positive reinforcement.
Does he know how to swim? No.
Is he running from the pool as if it is a lake of fire? Also no.
Is he excited about his time in the water and wanting to learn more? Yes!
And that, is a step in the right direction.
The Moral of the Story
There is no crying is swimming. At least there doesn’t need to be.
The first step in swimming lessons should be to cultivate a love of the water. If we try to move too fast and do too much, that is when damage can occur.
I am not of the mindset that in order to succeed, you must go through pain. Discomfort, perhaps, but pain is a whole other thing. And, that was what our first foray into swimming lessons was, pain.
We will likely try swimming lessons again next year. But, I can guarantee you that if I can’t find a compassionate teacher, I will be back in the water, teaching my love of the water to him.