Monday, July 24, 2006

Swimming along

After a year's break, we have the kids back in a structured outside class again. It's more of a camp actually, since it lasts only two weeks and meets every day, but it's swim class nonetheless. They enrolled last Friday and met the teachers, and God Bless her, their actual teacher came out and talked to G at length. She was so sweet. The instructors decided G and N are in the same level class (along with their friend EV) and they started this morning. After watching them, I would have to agree.

Poor G. Her first and former swim instructor through the Charleston county parks department really sucked. She was also the only one in the class (why they kept it open I don't know!) and as a result got all the attention and no breaks. Making it worse, she got to see her little brother in the tots class one pool over, yukking it up with his full class and P-daddy in the pool with him. If she were a different kid, or wasn't so afraid, that may have been a good thing. As it is, she's still pretty scarred by it.

Fast forward to this morning, where G's vocal anxiety provoked N into saying he wasn't going in the pool, he was scared and he wasn't going to have any fun, etc etc. I maintained an upbeat, positive dialogue with them but it didn't seem to help G overcome her fears. N literally jumped right into things and had "super fun," but G was a screamer again at the very beginning. I actually left the pool area and watched through the windows. Without me there, while the tears were plentiful, G didn't scream. She participated pretty well actually, and only opted out of one activity. For all the buildup I am pretty pleased with how she did.

N, on the entirely other hand, was like a little fish. I am excited for him, and I hope maybe a little of that enthusiasm will wear off on G-girl. He was all smiles and can't stop talking about it.
The teacher is awesome, and they have a lot of protocols in place for the terrified swim student. They don't force the kids to do anything and they are all smiles. No judgments, no pressure. Perfect for G in this environment, and extreme fun for the kids like N and EV who aren't scared.

After swim, we went to Kelly's Diner and had ice cream and pancakes, then went on to the Beach Basket to get tomato cages for our droopy darlings. The lady behind the counter gave each of the kids a stuffed, decorative flower. So nice. It truly was a pleasant morning overall. Lots of positives to balance the scary swim class for G.


I hate feeling like I am forcing any sort of lesson on her. She has to learn this, though. We live on the beach, we're surrounded by water wherever we go and she loves it so much. I don't feel that swimming is an optional lesson. It's a life skill, like wearing helmets when you ride, holding hands when you cross the street, taking water when you hike or driving properly. I am emotionally invested in this beyond where I want to be, because I want her to be stronger than I was. I want her fear gone. I want it eradicated by her own empowered skill set. If she weren't so terrified, I wouldn't feel so strong about it.

I don't want her to go through childhood with the secret shame of not being able to swim. Already, all of her friends swim, and do it well. I didn't learn how to swim properly and overcome my terror of water until I was in college, when I was a camp counselor and knew I had to be responsible for other children. As a result I took a lifeguard training course. I didn't get my certification. but the instructor pegged me for what I was really there for and I finally did learn how to swim every which way, and do it well.

You see, my family of origin literally thought "sink or swim" was a valid way to go about things. G is very much like me, and the terror I had for water just incited my parents to anger. They thought it was all drama and would toss me into the Atlantic ocean whenever they could to "get me used to it." When the tossing didn't work, they thought gently carrying me out into the calm, deep water past the breakers and releasing me would work. They did try in their own misguided ways ways to teach me to swim, but they mercifully gave it up. On a vacation with my grandparents (without my parents) when I was 9, my uncle impulsively decided to give it another shot. He picked me up and thew me into the deep end of a hotel pool. I still remember the terror, the sensation of spinning end over end in the water, the sting as the water entered my sinuses and I inhaled in shock. I remember hearing muffled screaming as my grandparents demanded he go in after me. They knew I wasn't coming back up, but he waited, as he was just so sure I would. He got me right as I was blacking out.

Needless to say, G is in no danger of anyone doing that to her. However, my life experiences clearly inform how I am reacting to her own challenges.


  1. YEAH N!!!!! And I am very proud of G for going to class. Big hugs Mama.

  2. I so know where your coming from because R has always had fear of water, but at 8 is finally doing much better. In fact E and R learned to swim at the same time (4 & 6), my M is not a fish like E but not fearful like R. Hang with it, she'll grow to love it in time.

  3. Good on ya, mama. It's tough but you are doing a good thing by taking a step back and letting her experience this on her own, safely. You're right, this is something she has to learn and she will learn it. All in good time.

  4. Wow...good for G! SOunds like you may be on the road now.

    What scary experiences you've had yourself !!! Kudos to you for overcoming your fear, in spite of nearly drowning.

    I took to the water naturally as a kid, after a couple of (less) scary episodes with my parents.
    My two kids are fearful of the water. My son has just learned to swim in the last year at age 9-10. Daughter finally puts her face in the water at 6. Like you, I wonder how much of Son's fear has rubed off on Daughter over the years, and if she would have been less pensive, or all together different if his attitude were different.

    We don't do swimming lessons, (because of the fear) and I teach them certain skills when they are ready. But then we live in the desert, where the only water really to worry about is the swimming pools that we go visit. My attitude woudl be that it is a life skill to learn if we lived around the water like you do.

    It's hard to know when to push and when to just let it go, isn't it? It's like an art form that gets (hopefully) more fine-tuned as our children grow.

    RYC: Awwwwwww.. (big smile!) That may be very true!