Last month after two classes, we pulled Sweet Girl out of swim lessons.
We tried swimming lessons last winter, and though we toughed it out to the bitter end, it was a less-than-great experience for everyone involved.
Sweet Girl didn’t enjoy the cold water and the noisiness of over 100 boisterous children learning to swim in a echoing swimming pool. She didn’t enjoy the lack of transitions between the different activities we participated in in a given lesson.
And she definitely didn’t enjoy the stress of wondering whether her mom or dad was going to dunk her head under the water (even though we rarely did and if we did, it was part of the lesson and we’d always tell her beforehand).
No, Sweet Girl was definitely not a fan of swim lessons. So we took a break and when summer’s warm weather rolled around, enjoyed free time at our local outdoor pool, our neighbours’ backyard pool and at the beach.
The entire summer she loved being in the water.
We practiced kicking, jumping into mom and dad’s arms and putting our faces to the water. Yes, we had a grand old time just hanging in the water.
Sweet Girl was also quite taken with the lifeguards and their role in keeping us safe. That we needed to stop and listen to them if they blew their whistles and asked us to get out of the water.
Here’s a photo taken last week of Sweet Girl being a lifeguard. She said putting the orange belt on is what makes her a lifeguard. Oh and Spike, also in the photo, is her “lifeguard cat”:
Come the fall we thought Sweet Girl would be ready for some formal lessons and so registered her for classes. We couldn’t have been more wrong.
In lessons one and two, our normally happy, go-lucky girl got anxious the minute we joined her swim lesson group. She refused to participate in the activities and began crying when it was suggested she practice jumping into the water. Something she knows how to do. And has done. Fearlessly. All. Summer.
Since it was obvious Sweet Girl wasn’t enjoying herself, we pulled her out of swim lessons. Instead, we’ve been taking her to the pool during public or family swim time. And wouldn’t you know…we again have our happy, go-lucky girl who loves to play in the water.
This is an interesting lesson for my husband and I about our daughter’s emotional readiness. While we want Sweet Girl to learn how to swim, we aren’t going to rush her. She simply isn’t ready.
She’s a bit of an introvert, slow to warm to new situations and we recognize the structure of the swim class is over-stimulating and over-whelming to her.
Like a lot of toddlers, transitions from one activity to the next are hard for her. A 30-minute swim lesson that packs in a bunch of different activities doesn’t give her the time she needs to warm up to one activity and then prepare herself for the next.
Add into the mix uncertainty due to the newness of these activities and serious fear she is going to be dunked under water (it doesn’t matter how many times we tell her we won’t, she is fixated on this fear). Well, Sweet Girl isn’t having any fun at all.
While plenty of toddlers can handle the structure of these swim classes — otherwise why aren’t there more children screaming their heads off at the swimming pool during lessons? — mine cannot.
Sure, encouraging her to try new things and to test her boundaries – those are all ways to build her self-confidence. I get that. I see the value in it. However, pushing Sweet Girl to do something she simply isn’t ready to do…won’t build self-confidence. It’s going to erode it.
We will come back to swim lessons most certainly. However, I’m not stressing that she doesn’t know how to swim yet. I didn’t learn until I was six years old when one of my friend’s taught me. She will learn. When she’s ready.
Curious, how old were you when you and/or your children learned to swim?