Growing up in Manhattan did not make me a good swimmer. Although I have no memory of swim lessons, I learned enough along the way to get myself across a pool, but barely. So naturally, I want my kids to learn to swim.
When my first child turned 4, I thought we’d find the nearest pool, enroll early and we’d be off. As it turns out it’s not actually that easy to teach my kids to swim. It seemed like luck, timing and mood all had to come together just perfectly.
First, there’s the personality click between your kid and the teacher. One teacher can get them happily across the pool doing new things and another lets them float, whine and hang. Another is simply too tough and pushes so hard they turn off and decide they hate the water. Once you hit that magic combination, you get into a nice groove and start to see some progress. Your child swims a little on their own, floats and enjoys learning to swim.
I find myself rescheduling gymnastics and doing irrational things to follow the teacher and keep the rhythm. All the while the constant drumbeat pounds away in the background…”I can’t swim. MUST teach kids to swim.”
In the end, the magic teacher moves on or goes back to school or quits and I have to watch the cycle start again. The fearful entry into the pool, the gradual warm up to a new instructor, the stressful adjustment period.
Second, there’s the water temperature. If it feels cold, they back away, shake their heads and refuse to get in the pool. Wet suits and coaxing and good arguments about warming up do nothing. Twenty minutes go by trying to get in the pool. Ten minutes are spent trying to peel my child off the side of the pool. I’m screaming in my head as I watch all the other happy kids jump in and swim off. So a nice warm pool is a must.
Third, group vs. private lessons. Group lessons make perfect sense. They are more affordable, kids challenge each other and they look forward to showing each other what they can do.
But there’s also the 22 minutes out of each 30 minute lesson that they are standing, floating, hanging, drifting and learning nothing. Private lessons start looking better…and more expensive. If the magic teacher can teach a private lesson at the right time, the fear melts away and the learning really begins.
Fourth, year round vs. summer swimming. My kids are eager to tell a new teacher that they can’t do anything and need to hang on to a floatation device for dear life. This is after they’ve learned to cross the pool alone, tread water and jump off the diving board to safety. A whole winter would surely set us back and I don’t think I could take starting over again. Who wants to lose all that precious progress? I wonder if I’ll have to face two kids who refuse to put their faces in the water next summer. Not worth the risk. Year round lessons.
When I ask myself why I go through all of this frustration for swim lessons, I see the answer when they are happily swimming with their friends and enjoying the water with confidence. And I have that deep relaxation that comes from knowing they are safe around water. Everyone is happier for it.
All the while, I am such a hypocrite because I can’t do half the things I’m forcing them to learn. Finding my own magic teacher and scheduling my own swim lesson is next on the TO DO list.