Who knew that swimming could be so tiring for someone who never even gets in the pool?
Last Monday, E. started swim lessons. She desperately needs them. This child somehow thinks she’s Ariel and can swim on her own. When we go to Blizzard Beach or Typhoon Lagoon, it’s getting harder and harder to hold her in the wavepool or on the lazy rivers. She runs into the wavepool up to her eyeballs and no matter how often she gets dunked or swallows a big mouthful of gross pool water, she loves it. And you think Miss Independent would ever let either of us hold her? Fuhgeddaboutit.
She had some lessons last summer at the Y but I wasn’t thrilled with them. At 2, they said the goal was to “get her comfortable” with the pool. That’s never been our problem. A healthy dose of fear is what she needs. The five-week Y lessons covered things like blowing bubbles in the water, monkey crawling along the wall (her favorite), some back floating and jumping into the pool into our arms. To me, they were a waste of time and money.
This summer, I want her to swim. Period. I grew up in Pennsylvania and probably didn’t learn to really swim until 5 or 6. Last summer was eye-opening to me about life in Florida. We went to a mom’s club playdate at a friend’s pool and ALL the kids from about 2 and up were like little fish in the pool. E was about the only one who couldn’t swim on her own.
Through other parents at E’s school, I heard about a guy in our neighborhood who has taught EVERYONE how to swim. As soon as I met him, I knew he was the guy. His name is Rusty and he’s this wonderfully charming, hilarious and no-nonsense Ragin’ Cajun from Louisiana. He has the best expressions — like my father in Pa. he calls wrestling “wrastlin,” as in: “M’am, it’s gonna look like E. and I are wrastlin’ out here in the water.”
When we told her about lessons, E. was SO excited. She hopped right into the pool with him on his first lesson (by the way, that’s his pool, not ours. Pretty amazing, huh? It’s now my dream pool).
Despite some crying and some giant moutfuls of pool water, he was able to get her floating pretty much on her own by the end of the first 10-minute lesson.
Rusty assured me that she’d be “easy” and swimming within two weeks. Score! But he also reminded me that the goal of the lessons is floating and survival skills in the water. He’s essentially teaching a version of ISR (Infant Swimming Resource).
I thought she’d be hesitant about going back for Day 2, but she was still excited about lessons. By Day 3, though, things started to change. On Day 3, she threw a tantrum in the car and kept begging me to not get her out of her carseat when we pulled up in front of his house. It took a lot of effort to get her wrastled (yes, that’s on purpose) out of the seat and back to the pool. But once she got in, she calmed down a bit and did some amazing floats all by herself.
It’s brutal to watch though. He essentially dunks her under the water, spins her around and makes her to get to the floating position all by herself. I know it’s a necessary evil, but I hate it and I hate that she hates it.
On Thursday and Friday, Rusty had to cancel our lessons because his sons got the stomach flu going around our school. I thought a couple days off would get her excited to go again on Saturday morning. Nope. It was the worst ever. She cried here for 30 minutes as we tried to get her dressed and insisted that DadJovi and I both go to lessons. He said he was so much more impressed than he expected he would be about her ability to get into the float but he also vowed to never go again because it’s just so hard to watch. Dads are such wimps.
We had Sunday off but Monday. Oh Monday. Worst.Day.Ever. It started when I arrived at school to get her dressed for lessons. Oh, the tantrum. And is there anything worse than your child tantruming in front of her teacher? You know, the one who she NEVER throws a tantrum for and could never get away with acting like that? Great moments in parenting.
Then, she pulled her favorite stall technique — “I got to go potty!” And then she sat on that damn toilet for 20 minutes! I finally wrastled her off it, somehow got a swimsuit on her (it wasn’t pretty) and into the car. As soon as we got to Rusty’s, she starts screaming again about having to go potty. That’s the challenge of a 3-year-old bladder — you never know when they’re bluffing.
So then we got to go into Rusty’s mother-in-law suite (and yes, there was actually a mother-in-law there!) and then SHE got to hear me fail at getting my child off the toilet for another 20 minutes. I’m ashamed to admit this but it was the closest I’ve ever come to spanking her. I didn’t, thankfully, but I wanted to. Nothing was working — bribing didn’t work (I even offered up ice cream for dinner!) and threats failed too (the whole, “Fine, we’re never going to Typhoon Lagoon again.” somehow didn’t motivate her).
Amazingly the thing that finally worked was a threat to leave without lessons. Someone please explain to me why a child who is in the midst of a 45-minute meltdown over these lessons would cry harder about leaving these lessons? I don’t get toddlers.
So, out to the pool we went, 20 minutes past when the lessons were supposed to start. Thankfully Rusty is a patient man with years of experiences with tantruming toddlers and three young sons of his own.
You’d think all of that drama would have been enough but then he started THROWING her across the pool (it was only a couple feet) and forcing her to get up into the float by herself. I almost lost my shit. Again, I rationally KNOW this is a necessary part of the learning process but as a mother, it’s about the hardest thing I’ve ever watched. I almost started crying myself. But she performed like a champ. It’s amazing how quickly they can learn how to survive with the right training.
Somehow we muddled through Tuesday’s lesson (it was a lot of the same tears and tantrums) but last night, Rusty stopped the lesson after a minute or two. He knew she was off.
For days, she’s had on and off diarrhea and I just put it off to swallowing pool water and the anxiety around lessons. But I think he’s right — I think she has a touch of that stomach bug going around.
So today, we’re home sick and guess who’s sick now — me! Perfect.
We’re taking today off from lessons and may try again tomorrow. We’re supposed to have lessons the rest of this week and then next week. I don’t know how much more E or I can take.
Someone please tell me it gets better? Am I killing her love for the water? I keep trying to tell myself that it’s better to make her deal with this now rather than risk her drowning. Do the ends justify the means? Or am I subjecting her to torture that isn’t even doled out at Guantanamo?
You’re a tough mom. I’m not sure I could handle watching that and dealing with the repeated tantrums, but you’re definitely right in how important it is to get them to learn some kind of swimming skills. I’m sure once she gets fun playtime in the pool she’ll go back to loving the water.
It most certainly gets better!! My little girl is 4 now, and we’ve had her in swim lessons each summer for 3 years. The first year, was rough, but she learned good stuff. (we did the ISR classes). The second year was AWFUL! Each swim class she would make herself throw-up in the pool to get out of the class (she’s a sharp cookie and realized that if she thew up, they had to close the whole pool at the Y to clean it up – no, that’s not embarrasing at all). Thankfully we had a wonderful instructor and she worked patiently with her and made her stay in the pool after her up-chucking episodes (when she could hide it from pool security) to make her work through it, and she learned all her skills great, which is the important part, even though she seemed miserable. I think a hefty hunk of the issue was her just exerting control over the situation though.
It all paid off, and at her lessons last year she started swimming like a little fishy! Goggles are so fun! Swimming is so fun! I was so excited we finally turned a corner! Those lessons were pure joy for all of us! I made sure to tell the mom’s whose lessons were before or after ours, if their kids were stuggling. It does get better, there is a breakthrough. 🙂 Hang in there, it’s worth it!
This year we’re struggling a little bit, so I’d recommend you do refresher classes fairly frequently, like at the very end of summer (our summer, October-ish), and right as soon as it’s warm enough to go in the pool (April-ish). Good Luck!
I hesitated to comment on this…I’m so old (not complaining) that what I did may be outdated. I grew up in upper desert Southern California, summer temps in the 110s, so “waterproofing” kids was essential (everyone had pools and the public pool was the town meeting place. I taught swimming lessons and lifeguarded at our public pool from age 13 to 18, plus taught private swim lessons on the side. My method was to waterproof the child, as Rusty is doing with E. But my methods were more to have fun with the child so that they learned without knowing they were learning. Then I could translate that new skill into something new. Blowing bubbles to face in the water to dunking under water to jumping from the side to my arms, jumping alone, jumping into deep end, jumping from diving board, then learning to swim after a jump…blah, blah, blah. I occasionally had kids who tantrumed or who didn’t want to swim, but we just went with it. For what it is worth, as a teacher, I always had more problems with kids when parents were watching…I preferred it when parents weren’t right there. One way or another, if E comes out waterproofed, she is on her way!