I grew up in the water and for me, swimming is just like walking. It comes naturally—or I always assumed it did. As a child I took lessons at the local club, where the instructors threw me in the deep end, shouting that there were alligators under the grates. I’m sure the throwing in was done ‘safely’, but it was terrifying and to this day my heart rate goes up when I swim over filters and grates in the bottom of the pool. After that particular set of lessons, my mother apologized, she enrolled me at the public pool and I learned to swim in a fun, safe, encouraging environment.
Every kid takes to water differently
When my oldest turned four and I realized I had yet to enroll in him swimming lessons, I did a lot of research. I wanted to meet the instructors, understand the program—and I wanted to know how they dealt with fear. We ended up at our local club and my son had an awesome college-aged instructor who taught him the proper form to several strokes. He passed through two levels in one session. Then I enrolled my (then) two-year old daughter. I was confident she would have the same success and love the water, but it took three sessions before she could put her head under the water. The instructor took a different tac. He was awesome and patient with her and encouraged her love of water without scaring her. Then one day things clicked, she jumped in and swam across the pool into the waiting arms of her instructor and moved up to the big pool for the next session.
Getting involved…and more confident
Children three and four were also taken for lessons at the same club. By the time my youngest came along, I felt I was in a position to conduct the “Mommy and Me” swimming classes. After three children going through these sessions I was looking for progression earlier and earlier. We had a new instructor who taught a new way. Some parents were appalled as the instructor took our children one by one and forced their little heads under the water and “swam” them to us—never letting go. I WAS THRILLED. We encouraged a child’s natural response to water, holding their breath and kicking their arms and legs. Suddenly my nine month old was swimming under the water over to me and popping up laughing! She could walk early and would jump off the side into my arms where I let her fully submerge before hugging her little body to mine and bringing her to the surface. Parenting styles change, and with my oldest, I would have definitely been uncomfortable with this method of teaching. But as a seasoned parent, I was willing to try it. Had she hated it, had it scared her, we would have done something different.
Finding the right fit for your comfort level
There are many types of swimming lessons available today. Inside, outside, group, and individual. Competitive or recreational. Various methods and level of intensity. When my children were young, my main goal was to ensure they had the skills to survive if they fell into the water. We taught them to flip onto their little backs and float. “Pretend there is a balloon tied around your waist and it’s making your belly button reach for the sky!” We found the approaches that were right for us so that we could accomplish that. As they got older they wanted to learn more and eventually completed all the available levels for recreational swimming. And then decided to move onto another sport.
Life Long Love
Though we’ve moved on from formal training, my children, like myself, swim for fun. It’s a skill we have in our tool box and one we frequently utilize. I know we can safely manage our family through water sports and fully enjoy ourselves. We can head to the beach without a worry. Safety vests are always available and we observe all precautions, of course, but thanks to swimming lessons, we possess the skills to be confident and the common sense to be safe.