Sunday, August 2, 2009

Swimming Lessons

I don't think anything has taken up as much brain space or calender space as swimming lessons. I grew up with swimming lessons several times throughout the year. As a result, I had fantastic times at camp swimming or diving off of rafts. We canoed on family camping trips and jumped out of the canoe to cool off. Most importantly, I could swim so that my parents didn't worry (too much) if I got dunked into some deep water or fell off a dock somewhere.

And I was determined that my kids would learn to swim. Basic safety. Non negotiable.

At 8 months Jackson had his first lessons. My love of logistics went into full overdrive as I tried to figure out what I would do with Jackson while I got changed. He was a bit of a crawling curious monster at that age and would not sit peaceably anywhere (not much has changed since then). It all worked out as they had a playpen in the change room for moms such as me.

The early years of swimming lessons were much less about learning the skills as being comfortable and having fun in water. And so a couple times a year I had Jackson and then Sydney in the pool for parent and tot swimming. Sydney was much less taken than Jackson and she had to be distracted through many a lesson.

At age 3 I put them in lessons on their own which Jackson in particular enjoyed. He is not exactly destined to be Michael Phelps with or without fancy buoyant suit, but progressed through the levels appropriately. And he loves swimming lessons. Rare is the day I have to coax him to go. Which is saying something.

Sydney on the other hand was reluctant to go without us. We went through one whole set where Husband or I were on standby in our bathing suits. She eventually accepted that swimming lessons weren't optional and attended with mixed attitude: sometimes very keen, sometimes very unkeen.

Twice we had to pull her out over bum sparkle issues. The fear of sparkling at the wrong time (or the sensation that is brought by swimming) combined with public health concerns meant pulling her out was appropriate.

Actually scheduling the lessons of course is harder than finding a window for NASA to land the space shuttles. I spend a lot of time reading, cross referencing and pondering the possibilities.

My goal now is to have them in lessons 3 times a year. I have found they learn much better going twice per week, so we usually sign them up for twice a week lessons for 5 weeks. Husband and I put our heads down and steel ourselves to a bit more busyness, but it's something we must do.

This summer we have them in lessons 5 days a week for 2 weeks. Since it's a little hot out, the past 2 days Husband or I have swam in the pool with them before or after their lessons, to keep cool, burn off some energy and have some fun.

Well, today the two of them were swimming on their own underwater. I was impressed. I knew Jackson could do this a little, but he was doing it constantly, and for longer times. Sydney for a long time had to be convinced to get her hair wet. Now she is swimming away with her own unique stroke. After her lesson, she showed off her skills and she actually did a back crawl. Seriously I can't do that and I had a gajillion years of swimming lessons.

It is very gratifying to see my obsession with swimming lessons paying off. They are comfortable in the water and enjoy the pool. And they can actually swim.

Now, if I could just get them to feel the same enjoyment about eating vegetables.


Ellie said...

This post gave me hope: Greta absolutely will NOT put her face or head underwater. She hates the swim lessons at our Y, because the classes are too big. I am hoping to get her into a 2 week one-on-one lesson in late August. She is frustrated b/c she can't keep up with her friends, and for obvious safety reasons I am desperate for her to learn to swim. But, she has made big progress from last year when she wouldn't even go near the pool. Great to know the continued efforts pay off! Thank you!

Konnie said...

Hang in there Ellie. I think a lot of kids just 'get it' all at once. Sydney's comfor quite shocks me now, given her general reticence. I bet one on one lessons would be good for Greta.

Anonymous said...

I'm a swim instructor and I can say, do not give up hope! Just spend time with your kids in the water, play games with them, "wash" their faces and hair and ears in the bathtub, encourage lots and lots of bubbles, sing songs, and play with toys. Kids progress with water comfort at different rates but I have not yet worked with a kid who doesn't get used to it eventually - and possibly even love it! PFDs are great for kids who feel unsteady, and even sitting on the edge with their feet in is a good step in the right direction. Swim lessons at the Y are...mediocre. They teach some weird stuff at the Y. I recommend going to a public pool that teaches either Red Cross (Swim Kids) or Lifesaving Society (Swimmer) lessons - both are very strong programs :-) (Red cross will get your kids swimming with better technique, Lifesaving society will get them swimming farther but less 'prettily').
Have patience and trust that your child will get used to it...and private lessons can be excellent as the teacher is unable to spend enough one on one time during group lessons (though we dearly wish we could). Classes of 6-8 children should be the max ratio for one teacher.