June 23, 2005

How to Scar Your Child for Life

In two words:

Swimming Lessons.

So we decided that now would be a good time for The Boy to familiarize himself with the concept of swimming. We dutifully signed him up for two weeks of beginner lessons with the local YMCA, which started Monday at a local outdoor pool.

Monday was extremely cool and overcast. As a result, the water temperature in the pool was about four degrees. When The Boy stuck his feet in the water, I noticed that his legs were jiggling up and down, and it didn't appear to be from excitement (The Boy has a decided lack of baby fat or natural insulation). However, he gamely perservered, up until the time that the teachers told the students to walk down the two steps into the water (which comes to mid-chest on The Boy).

Instead of walking, The Boy fell forward. Face in water! Trauma! End of Days! So he was scared, and cold, and shivering, and clinging to his teacher like a tiny blue-ish barnacle. We extracted him from the pool and wrapped him in towels. Thus ended the first lesson.

His only comments on the way home were:
"Mommy, when I went in the water I could see everyone's legs!"
"When I grow up I'll learn to swim," which is Boy code for "try me again in ten years, 'cause I'm not going back."

Hublet and I decided to go back the following night to reacclimate The Boy to the pool and not let dread take hold, but we were saved, sort of, when the program director called and informed us that Tuesday's swim lesson was cancelled due to an unfortunate poop accident in the pool. Insert Caddyshack reference here.

The swim lessons, they were not proceeding as I had hoped.

But Wednesday was warm and sunny, and I coaxed The Boy back to the pool. After about twenty minutes of cajoling, I got his turtle float strapped to him, and got him to stand on the next-to-the-bottom step. He wouldn't go further, wrapping his legs around my calves and standing on my feet rather than putting his feet on the bottom of the pool. So I gently moved (well, pried) his feet off of mine and settled them on the pool's bottom. At which point The Boy exclaimed, "OH! The pool has a ground!" Apparently he thought it was a bottomless pit, and based on his first experience, I can see how that happened.

Then it only took a bit more coaxing to get him to swim with his teacher. I have decent hopes for tonight, barring further poop incidents, freezing temperatures, or aquatic face-plants.

If it doesn't work out, he can send me the therapy bills when he grows up.

Posted by Big Arm Woman at June 23, 2005 11:20 AM

I was forced to take swimming lessons for a session. I think I got two in before one of my quadannual bouts of bronchitis set in.

To this day I still can't swim. I cannot even tread water. I'm convinced I'm made of something far more dense than you humans. I could probably walk across the bottom of the ocean without threat of floating. The threat of crushing pressure is something to be considered for another time.

It's funny, though, when I mention that I can't swim. They react almost as if I just admitted that I had grown a second head just so I could eat it.

Posted by: marc at June 23, 2005 11:26 AM

I have no reply to that--just picture me looking at you expectantly, waiting for you to devour that second head...

As for the floating part, that's what life jackets are for.

Posted by: BAW at June 23, 2005 01:13 PM

File it away, but my earliest memory of betrayal (I have no memories of teat denied) is my mother backing away from me as I flail toward her in the pool, saying "come on, swim a little further, swim a little further . . . . "

I've forgiven her, but it still comes up on occasion.

Posted by: Michael Tinkler at June 23, 2005 01:20 PM

speaking of scarred for life:

when I was a wee bairn, my mother signed me up for swimming lessons. I loved it, until the very last day of the session.

For some reason, the person who ran the lessons gave into a masochistic impulse and required all the wee bairns taking the class to go in the deep end. Jumping off the low-dive diving board in to the deep end, no less.

Having a highly-developed sense of survival, even at the age of 6, I flatly refused.

"Oh, well," said the person running the lessons. "You can just come up on the low-dive board and watch - maybe you'll feel like jumping then."

I believed him - and this led to my first lesson in the Treachery Of Adults. I went up on the board, he picked me up bodily, and THREW me in the deep end.

True, there were several big strong college students there to catch me, but I was scared near to death, I started screaming at the top of my lungs, and I refused to go for any more lessons.

In fact, I was nearly 10 before I got over my fear of the deep end of the pool, and this only because a swim teacher at the camp I was going to heard my story from my mom and told me "I'll never make you do what you don't want to, but let's see if you can get comfortable swimming in the deep end." Only because she cared - and because she was willing to hold my hand and do baby steps - did I actually get to the point that I didn't freak out around water deeper than my chest.

You know, these days, parents probably would have sued that swim school for the trauma inflicted on their little girl. The fact that I remember it vividly 30 years later means it MUST have been a major trauma; I don't remember much else from my 6th year.

Posted by: ricki at June 23, 2005 01:59 PM

Let me add in the positive comment for swim lessons: we went the YMCA route for Precious 10 years ago; she went for three seasons straight, and had good teachers (non sado-masochistist deep-end throwers - I think the liability insurance reqts have probably weeded those out). We were in Dallas (TX), so the water temp was not so much of an issue. What you did, BAW, was right - slow introduction, reassurance, and then (hopefully from the instructors) Fun! Chin up - he'll be fine if you/the teachers are positive and patient. Cheers!

Posted by: Sheryl at June 23, 2005 03:25 PM

I'm with marc on this one. I never really learned to swim, despite a couple years of organized summer lessons and some impromptu lessons from my older sister. (Our training sessions usually ended with her shaking her head and saying "You're hopeless!").

I had a secert dread about my organized lessons. The entry level lessons in my town were conducted at an more-or-less normal swimming pool in a park. The more advanced classes, on the other hand, were held at "The Quarry"; this (as the name implies) is a small rock quarry on the outskirts of town which had been converted to a swimming hole. Now the deep end of the ordinary pool (8 feet) scared me enough, but I knew (even at the tender age of nine) how deep rock quarries can be. I was convinced that the very second I set foot in The Quarry, I would sink to the bottom and drown, and nobody would ever find my body. Fortunately, I never had to go to The Quarry; I think my parents came to agree with my sister and gave up on the lessons.

Now that I think about it, I haven't gone "swimming" (dog-paddling is more like it) for a *long* time, the better part of a decade. I don't even own a pair of swim trunks. Not that I feel deprived or anything, though.

Posted by: Peter the Not-so-Great at June 23, 2005 08:59 PM

There are hublet-sized wetsuits for little boys that are (a) very cool and surfer-looking and (b) make the cool-to-cold water quite pleasant. For added bonus power, many can be found in full SPF 45-mode. My nephew's been using the things for swim lessons since he was 3.

Try here: http://www.onestepahead.com/product/27227/312763/117.html

Or here:

Posted by: Carbonel at June 27, 2005 08:41 PM