Swim School Doesn’t Always Go So Swimmingly, But T’s Surviving and Proud of It

Getting ready to dive in for more swim school fun!

When you live in a city where the word “Beach” is in the name, it’s fairly clear that it means you are close enough to the ocean for it to be a pretty large part of your culture. Between all the sandy beaches, backyard and clubhouse pools, and the many miles of seaside boardwalks to stroll (and in a preschooler’s case, sprint), there’s no shortage of opportunity to socialize near or inside of water. Oh, and throw in the fact we have a Quicksilver 9-foot inflatable with an out motor (i.e., small raft-style boat that seats our family of three plus one more semi-comfortably, plus a small cooler, of course).

Because of the nature of where and how we live and play, T’s been going to swim classes with steady regularity since infancy. No, he hasn’t gone once a week since he was two months old or anything crazy-strict like that, but it has been something that he’s done once-weekly for about six months on, six months off since he was about eight months old.

It all started with mommy-and-me classes at Watersafe Swim School (http://www.watersafe.com/). Great little place: warm water, small group class environment, and social for us moms. The series focused on providing the babies a level of comfort and fun by just playing in the water but it also offered a small introduction to survival skills such as assisted back-floating (this school’s particular tool for survival should – god-forbid – a small child accidentally fall or slip into the water).

After T and I finished the mommy-and-me classes and after a few months’ respite, I signed T back up for private lessons the four to five months preceding a trip to Hawaii (read: eight days of pool time, morning, noon, and night). T attended a 15-minute lesson once-weekly one-on-one with an instructor. Might sound like a short amount of time, but given he was just about 1 ½ years old, the time was just enough, if not too much, to get the job done. Plus when T was this age, every week for the almost five months that T attended, he cried – no, bawled – before and during every single lesson; let me tell you, it was absolutely agonizing to witness. However, I also witnessed the fact that while he was bawling his head off, he was trying absolutely everything the instructor was asking him to do. I still to this day don’t know what the crying was about since I was sitting pool-side watching every minute of every lesson clapping and being super-supportive, rah-rah mama, or hiding behind one-way glass if the crying got was just too much to bear (ugh), but no matter. Once we got up through the time of our trip, we decided to take a time out again from the lessons for a little while; regardless of how much progress he’d made, and he’d made plenty, his lungs (from the crying and screaming) and my heart (from the pure aching) needed the rest.

We restarted lessons again once T turned 2 ½, and again we returned to Watersafe. We managed to get the same instructor, which was helpful and T appeared happy by this news, but once again, oh boy, the crying! It was absolutely amazing that we weren’t past this (sigh). So for another few months, we again endured the “crying-but-doing-all-of-it” routine, but I ultimately decided that he just didn’t need to go through all that agony again (nor did I).

After that run with Watersafe, I sought other options for swim lessons, and we discovered a local girl who taught lessons from her backyard pool. This was a dream come true for me as I had great memories growing up of learning to swim in a backyard pool and I honestly thought that was a thing of the past. So I put T in this short “swim camp” (what I called it to help make the transition from the other school to this one go as smoothly as possible) for two weeks, three times a week. Aside from the coldness of the water, he seemed to like it a LOT more than Watersafe; in fact, he only cried the first time we went there and for maybe five total minutes! Obviously, that was a definite improvement to our previous situation, but I’d also say that while T definitely learned in this environment, it wasn’t as structured or efficient as the other place (meaning, more time for T to take breaks, more time for him to hang out and play, and the lessons were longer stretches of time, too). But who cares, he liked it and he listened and was learning a little something, so I kept the info for the next year in the event she would come back and teach again.

T now can freely back-float and kick himself from platform-to-platform with little help from his instructor, Jeff.

And so here we are again… it’s mid-swim lesson season (what I now call the months from April through about October as these are the months I have routinely enrolled him in swim classes), and T has been back at Watersafe since April. He has a new instructor, which of course was a big change and which of course also meant… bring on the crying. Ugh, not again, simply unbelievable! Anyway, we offered T a choice after June that he could either stay at Watersafe or change-over to the “swim camp.” This time I said he could do swim camp for a month come July, but T surprised me and told me, no, he liked Jeff (current teacher) and he didn’t want to switch and he wanted to stay put. As much as I wanted to keep our swim camp reservation, probably more for my own positive childhood memories than perhaps for T’s overall benefit, we gave it up (but again I kept her information should T change his mind for next summer).

T face-down about to water-cannon attack some other boys in the pool while on a weekend getaway June 2011.

T is still at Watersafe, where he now is kick-swimming through the water several yards at a time face-down, diving down to the bottom for rings, and jumping off the side only to resurface solo into his survival-style back-float. He finally looks like the kid that’s with us on pool vacations, or in our backyard hot tub, or in the bathtub, the kid who has fun but at the same time is confident in the water. Is he ecstatic to go to swim every single week? No, not really, but once he’s in there, he’s doing it; he’s meeting challenges, making crazy progress, and by the time the lesson is over he has this sense of accomplishment and pride that only comes from inside of oneself. “Mama did you see me? I did it! I got two rings on one dive!” Yep, I saw it all, T, and I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it myself. In fact, it wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t stuck with Watersafe, so I’m glad we – I mean YOU – decided to do that, too.

Boy, I really hope this is the breakthrough moment that we’ve all been waiting for, but I suppose we’ll have the answer to that question for certain next swim lesson season. As for the time being, I am going to enjoy the tear-free, “I did it!” moments anytime I can get them.