Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Swimming: A life (and lifestyle) skill

On the day Australia won its first gold medal in the pool in Delhi, the Fibro boys headed back to swimming lessons. (The timing was entirely coincidental, but offered a lovely opening so I thought I'd go with it.) Having slogged it out through every week of a cold, hard winter last year, we decided to give the flu germs a rest this year and have the cold season off. It proved an entirely positive decision.

Last year, we (and I do mean we in every sense of the word) suffered (and I do mean suffered in every sense of the word) through innumerable ear infections, bouts of tonsilitis and, oh yes, the swine flu (renamed Man Flu around here as everyone got it but me). This year, a couple of runny noses and a hacking cough. Some might say that those two terms out of the pool have derailed my children's Olympic dreams. I say, whatevs (with accompanying shrug).

It's true that there have been some setbacks. Mr6 is still stuttering on the verge of 'the click'. You know that moment when they go from looking like epileptic frogs with windmill arms to resembling Ian Thorpe. He's still at the windmill stage, the stage where you wonder if he'll manage to roll over and take that essential breath. But so close. Today, he managed two lots of four strokes with connecting breath before disappearing underwater in a mass of bubbles and hair.

Mr3 doesn't want to go back tomorrow. It is sad. He was so enthusiastic this morning. Mostly because there were new goggles in the offing (you know how he loves an accessory). He looked the part as he strode to the pool deck in his tiny little budgie smugglers and matching blue goggles - just like a racing tadpole, as my Dad would say.

Then he discovered that his new instructor, Nick, is male and will not melt at the sight of Mr3's smiling face. Oh no. Instead, he wants him to actually, you know, swim. He had a go. He floated, put his face in the water, all the stationary stuff. But once he had to, you know, swim, it all went out the window. He forgot to paddle. He's supposed to paddle, paddle, paddle while he kick, kick, kicks. Instead, he sank, sank, sank.

Not happy Nick.

We'll be back tomorrow. Four days in a row, an intensive program, to kickstart them for next term. Mr6 can't wait. Mr3 will have to be thrown in to make him get wet. But I'll do it if I have to. Swimming lessons are the only form of legalised torture I condone. They can be agony to watch, as your child shivers and quivers and sinks and screams. But I sit on the side, cheering and 'thumbs up'ping in the face of their despair.

If you live in Australia, you have to be able to swim. If you live in Fibrotown, with some of the world's greatest beaches on your doorstep, it goes beyond a life skill and into a lifestyle skill.

By the end of the week, Mr3 will have stopped screaming. With any luck, he'll be paddling with style. And Mr6 - well, here's hoping for 'the click'.

Are your kids in swimming lessons? How do you cope with the screaming?

{image: KatieHalton/Etsy}


  1. so weird you should write about this. Psychic link or what? I blogged about it at my other place of residence yesterday.
    We are doing a similar thing this week. Thankfully today went much better. All 3 offspring in swimming lessons at the same time. 7 years of waiting. It was worth it.

  2. We too gave this winter a skip after having Noah in the water every week from 8 weeks old (he's 27 months now). We unfortunately have still had a rough winter health wise but who know's it could have been worse (actually I'm not sure that would be possible).

    We have enrolled him to start at the end of the month in a surf life saving swim course at the beach. If the trips to the beach over the last couple of weeks are anything to go by we will be in for lots of screaming.

    Nothing says torture like an 8.30am swim at the beach in October.

  3. @SeraphimSP - Would you believe I couldn't get them into regular lessons at the same time, so I'll be waiting around for an hour at the pool. Can't wait.

    @Kirsty - I've got my eye on Nippers or something for Mr6 over summer. Maybe. Might see how those windmill arms go first. Mr3 will be on the beach building sandcastles at this rate.

  4. My three are in lessons. I feel like I have practically paid for the entire Adelaide Aquatic Centre renovations through the fees for all three kids lessons.

    That said, we have a squad chick, a Dolphin and a Yabbie. Who love love love it. Every single Saturday morning of the year.It's a family affair - every Saturday morning. All of us. Rain or shine. Arrrrgggh!

  5. My two are still struggling along to. Doo Dah is not listening (as I blogged about today) and Nugget is starting to get the hang of it. Not up to windmill stage - I dread it.

  6. I think i'm the only mother in Australia who doesn't have her children in swimming lessons. I'll put them in the school ones every now (4 children in lessons on a weekend, we have athletics, where would i begin to fit it in at the AIS) & then, but they were all born in Darwin, if you can't swim up there you're a social pariah, so they can all swim. I know it's all about strokes, but they are all so slightly built, doubt they'll be Commonwealth Gamers??!! Love the last post, you golfing super model you!! Love Posie

  7. Ahhh what a classic!! We too opted to go without swimming during the winter - but to no avail still had dreaded sickness, but at least it was not wasted money. As for your Mr 3 refusing, i love your persistance!! My Ms 2 cried so much she literally passed out during the lesson! That's right, eyes rolled into the back of her head, sobbing, she put her head on the kick board and just turned off! Fell asleep/passed out - not sure really, Amazing!!
    Good luck ;-)

  8. My son is half child half fish! Given a chance he spend the rest of his life in a pool or on a beach, not such a bag thing actually.

    Here in NL swimming is a high priority too. With so many canals and rivers around, and being one of the low countries, its almost ingrained to start the swimming lessons early.

    We all love to swim, even Ruby who at just 2 yrs old propels herself off the side of the pool!

  9. I'm attempting to teach my 4 yo to swim at the moment. He is at the drowning Labrador phase currently.
    Both my boys love the water and I have taken them to the pool over winter as well.
    As awkward and un-sporty as I was as a child, I could swim well, so I'm hoping that my boys inherit my swimming *ahem* style.

  10. My 10 year old was a late starter but now loves it. The humiliation of being put in the bottom group at school (it's called Penguins which he found most insulting) spurred him onto the next level and now he has gone up again. But that was after quite a lot of lessons after school, entertaining the other who was then a baby whilst trying to look and make approving faces at the same time.

    She is more of a water baby. Did the whole underwater swimming business at 5months when they still have that reflex where their throat closes over and you get to see them swim to you underwater like on the cover of that Nirvana Nevermind LP. But without the dollar bill.

  11. I kept my cherubs out of the pool this winter too. How much can they be learning when they're standing by the side of the pool shivering? I'll do the intensive sessions this summer but I'm not too fussed...

  12. #1 son was an exercise in mental torture. Honestly I could go to Guantanamo Bay and not break a sweat after swimming lessons with him yet the other 3 are water nymphs. It's funny though they make such a hoo-har about immunisation but no one gives a toss about swimming lessons.

  13. Both boys are set for lessons this term. Sadly, though they'd been in lessons and a few months in the US, it seems they've lost the skills (or the will?) to do a proper stroke. Or in the case of 3yo, get his face all the way in the water?! Nevermind, 5yo starts Nippers on Sunday, lessons begin for him the following Friday and he'll be up for it. If not, I suppose being part of the surf lifesaving crew means there will be plenty of people there to fish him out if he decides to stop mid-stroke to look for a shiny fish!

  14. Firstly, thanks for reminding me of yet another thing on my To Do list that I forgot to do - Book swimming lessons.

    Secondly, from the perspective of a swimming Olympian, I agree that the screaming is all worth it. Swimming is an essential skill in Australia (especially if any of your kids or their friends have birthdays in the summer months - the pool party is a compulsory part of Aussie childhood). Alas, I have yet to push through the torture myself. Little Lion is only 2 and with Blossom at 5 mnths and no extra hands to help, the swimming lessons seem to have gone by the wayside a bit.

    As for the 'click' - it may take years, but it will come. I looked like a 'drowning moth' (to use my mother's description) until I was about 12. Who would have guessed that 8 years later... (insert shameless self-promotion for 'Wobbles - An Olympic Story' here).

    My challenge is that because I swam, people just assume that I'll teach them myself! Honestly! What mother in her right mind would voluntarily be the source of such torture every week? I say, let Nick be the bad guy for once!
    So, I'm off to find me a Nick with a free spot in a lesson that doesn't start before 10am and a creche that doesn't smell of urine and vomit. Wish me luck!

  15. I tried swimming lessons for my oldest, but mums were required to be in the water with the babies and every time I looked away, the younger one would tip over his pram and crawl as fast as he could towards the deep end of the pool. End of lessons. But somehow they all learned to swim. Not on any professional level, but they won't drown either.

  16. The screaming will just stop one day. Being on a property with a dam only about 600m away from our house, I had both kids into lessons at 6mo old - and because it was a social outlet as well, for both the kids and myself. However, until my in-laws got a pool last year and we ended up swimming every day, both kids were screamers in the water. Not so much now! They've realised that having fun in the water is much better than sweltering on the sidelines :)

  17. I'm actually a swimming teacher, and in my experience success really does depend two things: firstly the child needs to 'click' with the teacher, and secondly peer support can often help. The peer support thing can be especially helpful to get over the initial nerves. If they are having a lot of fun in the water with their friends (even if they are not technically 'learning' a lot to start with) the screaming will end! I hope it all went well :-)


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