Monday, January 26, 2009

The cost of making a swimmer

We had an uneventful weekend, which sometimes is the best kind. Our major event lately on weekends is Emily's swimming lessons. Emily had her second swimming lesson on Saturday morning. Last week went really well, much better than I expected. She's taking her lessons at Carleton. The class is small - just four kids and often two instructors. The kids stand on a table in the water. Emily fell off the table twice, went under, was caught by the instructor and thought it was the best thing that she dunked under water.

This week was a bit different.

She started to get frustrated that she couldn't do everything really well, like swim for example, after two weeks. She started to get anxious about dunking with her instructor. She didn't like the splashing that one of the boys is constantly doing and in her defence, even as a pacifist, I would have given him the 'ole knuckle sandwich at that point. Just before it was her turn to dunk she turned to me and said "I don't want to do swimming lessons anymore." I went to talk to her "poolside" to tell her how important it is to learn to swim and how she had fun last week and just tell G to stop splashing you. And then it was her turn to dunk. She looked at her teacher, started to cry and said "I don't want to dunk!".

It was clear that at that moment, her instructor's heart melted just a little bit. I could see it in her face. She just hugged Emily and said "We don't have to dunk" and then just put their faces in the water instead. Class ended shortly after that but not before Emily got to swim around with her pool noodle. That restored things. A little bit.

Afterwards she seemed to get how important this is in life and that we've paid for these and we'll keep going. I did agree that she can skip the week during Beth's visit (yes, Beth's visit!). I also told her I'll try and take her swimming once this week to practise dunking and floating. Just the two of us.

I have some bad memories of swimming lessons. Although I'm a good swimmer and love to swim lengths for exercise I have a very healthy fear of the water that started when I was a kid. I still get it sometimes when I can't quite get my breath. I spent a lot of my time crying in swimming lessons and begging to go home with my mum. I remember one particular time I was supposed to swim halfway down the pool, turn around and come back with my friends. My mum was sitting in the on-deck gallery at the other end of the pool. I just kept on dog-paddling past the mid-way point right to the gallery with my instructor wondering what the heck I was doing. I was making a break for it.

I don't want Emily's memories to be the same as mine. I want her to have fun and look forward to swimming lessons. I told her about my memories a little bit of swimming and how I was scared and sometimes sad but now I'm really glad my mum made me go because now I'm a great swimmer and really love it. I hope this helps her and doesn't scar her for life.


Lynn said...

We had similar issues with the Captain last year. He was very nervous and reluctant to put his face in (his instructors were great, I thought -- encouraging but never forceful). Over the summer we decided to pull him out of lessons, but just go to family swim once a week. We hoped it would help him see swimming as a fun event, not a terrible thing, and it did work to some degree. Now he's back in lessons and I wouldn't say he's enjoying it, but he is willing to go with no tears or trouble, he tries everything, and even sometimes will put his face in. So Emily will get there, eventually!

Karen said...

Thanks Lynn. It's good to hear another story from the trenches!

Shan said...

We've had swimming issues with Abby too. We have a small pool and a big pool at the high school. All of Abby's classes were in the small pool until now. They're in the big pool with the table to stand on. The adjustment to the big pool has not gone well. The first session she refused to get in the water the first couple of classes. The rest of the class was constant bargaining and trying to be firm with her. she ended up finishing and passing the class. The next session was the same thing so after the second lesson we pulled her out and got our money back.

I think the big issue was she wasn't confident in the big pool. It's way too big for her to feel comfortable in. The next session the class was on the other side of the pool and she was positive she wouldn't be able to touch there.

She loves the water and is a pretty good swimmer and floater, but I feel strongly that she know how to be safe in deep water. she's great in our pool at home, but it's less than three feet deep. For now she's going to public swims once a week with Grandma to play and get comfortable in the big pool without the pressure of the class. I'm hoping to start lessons again soon.

Jen said...

Karen -- I used to teach kids this age and I can tell you that how they react now has little to no bearing on their future comfort in the water. They might be a bit skittish today, and in a week, month, or year, have a totally different response. Last year, Gillian was timid in her swimming lessons, and this year she is flailing about trying to swim like the big kids. We didn't do anything to get that change -- she made the jump on her own. I'm sure the same will happen for Emily. The big thing is just to ride it out.