I sat in the kiddie pool a few days ago, with my 10-month-old in my lap. He was happily splashing away. Meanwhile, on the hot concrete, my 2-year-old was pacing back and forth, throwing toys in the water, but refusing to go into the one-foot deep pool. And in another four-foot pool, my husband was splashing around with our 7-year-old, who was wearing inflatable water wings as he confidently “swam”.
Meanwhile, I was eavesdropping on a conversation taking place in the kiddie pool.
“Teaching swimming is the easiest thing in the world! It’s SO EASY. Anyone can do it.”
The speaker was the grandmother of a little girl, about one-year-old, and she was confidently stating this to her son-in-law. “Seriously. Teaching swimming is the easiest thing in the world“. This woman repeated the phrase at least half a dozen times.
I looked at L, red faced with her arms poking out of her puddle-jumper. A few weeks ago she fell on the steps of a pool, face first (wearing the puddle-jumper) and ever since then the girl would not go in a pool. Be it a kiddie pool, or my little plastic wading pool in my own backyard, she is not putting a single toe in the water.
Then, my big boy E. I started swimming lessons with him at 3. This year is his fourth year of swimming lessons through the town, and he still needs water wings in deep water. He’s a “level 2” swimmer, but his instructor has to hold him up when he practices the back float. He talks a big game when it comes to swimming, but I don’t know if he could survive falling off a dock or boat.
I wanted to go to the woman and ask her advice. I really, seriously did. Because, among the things I feel bad about as a mother, my children’s swimming abilities ranks high. Especially with E.
I was a late swimmer. I was always the weakest compared to my friends. I can remember being 9 or 10 and all my friends trying to teach me to dive into the water, and me crying and refusing. Even today, I can hardly muster much beyond a breaststroke when I go in a pool. I have a very real fantasy of completing a triathlon, but this is always debunked when I imagine swimming long distance. I can’t do the freestyle across the length of a pool, how could I possibly swim a quarter mile in open water?
Anyway, on this same pool-date-day, L did manage to sit on the edge of the pool and kick her feet in the water. This is progress. I’m sure the fear of falling in won’t last forever, and before I know it she’ll be back splashing around.
Furthermore, E is becoming more and more proficient each day. Unlike when he was 3 or 4, he actually has a desire to learn to swim now. He has a full week of swimming lessons left, and I’m going to sign him up for the next session as soon as I can. He doesn’t appear to be super behind his other peers in ability. I know, based on his personality, if I had thrown him in the water with a rope around his waist two years ago, he’d still be suffering from major PTSD.
So while I still think about that woman and he Easiest thing in the world to teach comment, I also know for my kids this slow and steady approach is probably the best way. I’ll keep diligently signing the kids up for lessons every summer, I’ll keep them going to pools and lakes and the ocean, and I’ll keep all those floatation devices on them until they beg me to allow them to swim without them.