Swimming lessons for reluctant learners

by CountryFriedMama on June 21, 2011

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A month ago, friends of ours bought a house with a pool. They invited us over soon after, and we have had several wonderful afternoons floating around in water warmed by the hot Alabama summer sun.

On our last visit, I sat on the pool deck blowing up The Belle’s floaties while Miss D. waded into the shallow end, where I knew she could touch the bottom. But sometime in the 30 seconds during which I looked down to pour the contents of my lungs into a piece of plastic shaped like Nemo, Miss D. bobbed past the place where she could stand. Another adult pointed, and I turned to see Miss D.’s eyes, reddened with chlorine, filled with panic and hovering just above the surface of the water.

I pulled her out, put on her floaties, and she spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, happily. We all had a nice time, then came home and launched into the busy evening routine: the dinner, bath, pajamas, stories, songs, glasses of water, extra hugs, Go To Bed Already! dance we do every night.

I didn’t think much about the brief scare we had had at the pool. Before I went to bed that night, though, I glanced at the local news on the TV. A toddler had drowned in a nearby lake.

I couldn’t sleep that night. All I could see when I got into bed was Miss D.’s panicky eyes in that pool. In the morning, I signed her up for swim lessons.

Sounds reasonable, right?

Not so much.

I don’t remember the last time Miss D. fell apart the way she did at swim lessons tonight. She screamed at the teacher, told her swimming was boring, kicked, yelled like a wounded animal and refused to try anything that was asked of her.

So now, I sit here thinking of my child’s reddened eyes as she struggled in her friend’s pool and her reddened eyes as she cried on the edge of another pool tonight, and I’m trying to decide what kind of mother I am.

Am I:

A) The kind of mother who sees her child struggle and removes her from a situation that upsets them both;

B) The kind of mother who forces her child to stick out an upsetting situation, recognizing that her kid, who easily excels in many ways, will hurt extra hard when she actually has to try; or

C) The kind of mother who is so terrified of  the dangers of summertime, pools, the ocean, deep puddles and all bodies of water that she will submit her offspring and herself to torture in the hope it will breed safety?

What kind of mother are you?

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How to motivate beginner swimmers | Country-Fried Mama
June 29, 2011 at 4:17 pm

{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Twitter: lostsuburbbliss
June 22, 2011 at 7:31 am

Ugh, I’ve been here. We had a similar scary episode with my youngest, but AT a swim lesson. I’m sure you can imagine how the rest of the lessons went. I was so torn, because I knew if I took her out of lessons, it would just reinforce her behavior. However, nothing was getting accomplished. So, I took her out but continued to take her to the pool. She was fine in the water, as long as it wasn’t a lesson. I waited for a couple months then signed her back up at a different place. She resisted at first, but I stuck with it. Now she’s a great swimmer and even laughs about those first lessons. (I’m not quite at the laughing phase…that time was terrible for me.)


Rachel @ Grasping for Objectivity in my Subjective Life
Twitter: objectivityrach
June 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm

I feel your pain. But I must say, I’m glad I didn’t attempt swimming lessons this year. I felt guilty about it, but I just couldn’t stomach it. I figure if she wears floaties nearly constantly, I’m good.


My Kids Mom June 22, 2011 at 2:31 pm

Swimming is a tough one. I think everyone should know how to swim- it isn’t like riding a bike. You’ll never accidentally fall onto a bike! So, yes, I think you must make sure she can swim.

That said, and living across the street from a public pool, I have watched a variety of kids learn to swim. Some had no lessons, some had expensive lessons all year round, some had a lesson for a few weeks each summer. Some screamed every day of their lessons and never did cooperate with the teacher. But of that group, all the kids were in the pool (to play) several times a week. None of the kids ever wore any type of floaty (not allowed at this pool). And all those kids could swim by the time they were seven. Now, not all of them look graceful! But they can save themselves if they fall in. And they’re all comfortable in the deep end.

I would keep taking her to the lessons you’ve paid for, but remove yourself and your worries from the vicinity. If you must stay, take a book and pretend to be uninterested. But most of all, keep taking her to pools for just playtime. Eventually she’ll be ready to follow her peers and all the information she learned in lessons will become useful to her.


bubbe June 22, 2011 at 2:49 pm

I think they either are born to be swimmers, dancers, gymnastics-ers or not. I was not a good swimmer, couldn’t breathe right, easily panicked but got by alive through various camp experiences. I have no idea how both my kids became life guards, and you a swim team record breaker. Do you remember how swimming was introduced to you?


Steel Magnolia June 22, 2011 at 9:52 pm

I am the kind of mother who should not have read this blog post give days before my children start their own swim lessons! LOL Not to mention that I’m about to take my own swim lessons in a couple of days, too. Have mercy!


Steel Magnolia June 22, 2011 at 9:54 pm

That’s “five days” before they start their classes.


Twitter: janatude
June 23, 2011 at 6:45 pm

This is a tricky one. My family is from the city, so no one learned how to swim. No one had a pool. I have been reflecting a lot about how much I seem to want to protect my son from every bad thing that could happen to him. My mom wasn’t like this, nor was hers. It’s not possible to protect them, and sometimes tough love is nice. But when you’ve grown up with tough love, you want your kid to feel like the world is a soft blanket. You don’t want him/her to see the holes and the darkness. Anyway, this is all my way of saying I don’t know what kind of frickin’ mother I am. Probably the kind who thinks too much.


lindajones June 24, 2011 at 4:27 am

I took my grandson to lessons, I scheduled 5 in a week– it was chilly for summer and the water was cold. We ended up going to 3 of the 5, he cooperated in the first lesson only. When I took him home he practiced everything he had been told in the three days and was swimming like a fish as quick as that— he was listening, not cooperating. Having seen the reports last year on how silent and quick drowning really is, I say stick it out.


June 25, 2011 at 2:46 pm

I taught swimming for years. Stick with the lessons. Try not to be in view so she can see you and I think she may do better?


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