Friday, May 22, 2009

Swimming SUCCESS!

My poor Pablo, king of being anxious about pretty much everything. His first summer, he loved the pool. He was around 6 months old and I suppose couldn't see that clearly yet.

By the next summer, his eyesight had improved. He took one look at the enormous hole filled with water and decided that his parents just possibly wanted to kill him. That summer, he didn't really swim much. By much, I mean AT ALL.

At ages 2 and 3 he was still pretty much convinced that swimming was a VERY STUPID IDEA and only got in toward the end of each summer, clinging tightly to me as if I would accidentally forget and drop him. By the very end of the summer, he was willing to jump from the side, but only if his face didn't get wet and only if he was IMMEDIATELY returned to the edge to get back out. After all, it's one thing to jump in for the thrill, but quite another to hang out in what is clearly a DEATH TRAP.

By age 4, he was a bit more chill. He was still not comfortable by any means, but he was more willing to be towed around in the water and down right excited about jumping in from the side. As I had every summer, I worked on his strokes and basic water safety etc. You know, all the stuff I thought I would ever need to teach him before he got all excited and started doing it on his own. In fantasy land.

This year we were ready. We made plans. Good ones. We got Pablo all hyped up to go to SWIM LESSONS. We talked to people and got recommendations. Then we sent him someplace we could afford. The first session of 8 classes was wonderful beyond reason. He teacher, Jamie, was the love of his life. He wanted to marry her. He listened. He TRIED. He improved by leaps and bounds.

Then she got promoted. And don't get me wrong, I am very happy for her, but I always find it kind of sad when someone is clearly talented and then stops doing what they are exceptionally good at. Pablo trusted her. Completely.

Then came Tiffany. Now, if anyone seemed like the sort who would forget and drop a kid in the water, she was the one. A vacant stare. Slightly slack jawed. And 12. Ok, maybe 18. Same thing, right? She had the least skill with children I have ever seen for anyone who actually WORKED WITH CHILDREN. At one point we watched her argue with Pablo for FIVE MINUTES with each saying "You listen!" "NO, you listen!" "No, YOU listen!" Now, it does surprise me sometimes when Pablo acts his age (of 5) but it shocks the hell out of me when a 12 (ok, 18) year old acts his age. He was scared and wanted to tell her something so he could feel safer. It was about not going underwater. She wouldn't listen.

And then it happened. The bitch dunked him. Deep. He came up screaming. If I had been there, I would have started screaming too. Fortunately, my partner was the one present, and she is known for being more even keel, even when 12 year old morons decide that it would be "good for him" to learn that trusting adults is a sham and that swimming pools are indeed horrible, scary places. He didn't go back to the class. He changed to a different teacher and finished his sessions with her. Barely willing to get in the water, unwilling to do more than get towed around.

He has gotten in the water with me only with coaxing. I had to make a lot of promises. I would NEVER let him go. I would NEVER dunk him. I would NEVER make him get in the water. It was sad since he had been so excited to try this year. The first few times we went, Pablo used a noodle and loved it. Then we switched to an innertube because it didn't have a habit of floating off almost instantaneously when his arms were raised.

See, I have this thing about flotation devices for children. I think they are generally really dangerous because they give the child a false sense of security and a false sense of their own ability in the water. Way too many kids drown because they think they can swim. I wanted Pablo to feel his body in the water in a totally accurate way.

But after all this time and all this hardship with fearing swimming (not to mention now taking 2 children to the pool almost every day by myself), Iwanted him to find a way to feel confident in the water. He natually has an unhealthy dose of the DANGERS. He needed the space to find the FUN. So I remembered this thing I had seen (and dismissed).

Now the cool thing is that it allows his arms and legs to have a completely free range of motion so he can actually do swimming strokes. It also keeps him from being scared to death of drowning. In an hour at the pool today, he swam more happily and more effectively than 8 weeks of swim classes and 5 years of previous trying. It doesn't keep him high in the water like a life preserver and he certainly can't lounge in it like an innertube. It just gives a little boost. The coolest thing is that it actually has 9 flotation pads in it, and as he gets more comfortable, we can remove them, one at a time, until he doesn't need it anymore. I am beside myself with excitement. He didn't want to leave the pool today. His water obsessed sister gave out before he did.

It is just possible that this boyo will not only swim one day, but that he will LOVE it.


  1. Ohhhhh, if I was there, omg, you would have had to physically restrain me!!!

    So glad he's loving it again.

  2. I would have been so ticked off. And complaining loudly to whomever that girl reports to. People just don't realize how traumatic something like that can be. My cousin dunked me when I was really little and it took years before I even took lessons. I still don't swim that well.

  3. Ooh yeah, I'm getting one of those... and oooh, Tiffany should thank her lucky stars you weren't there!!

    Glad he's doing better in the water!


  4. Poor guy.

    We got those floaties and actually the boys and Brad are off using them at the pool right now. I didn't know you could remove the floats as they get more confident. Cool. I'm going to have to look more closely.

    T is the same way, and last year when we were doing lessons, it was just a good thing I was signed up with Z and in the pool myself because I wouldn't have been able to bear watching him. He screamed the whole time. Though his teachers seemed nice. This year, we have the pool at the gym and no lessons. I'm just going to go with them everyday and get them comfortable and work on getting their faces in etc.

    Z is the opposite. We need him in the floatie because he will dive right in. Last year when we went to AZ, he saw a woman swimming laps and was determined to follow her. He had only just turned 2. He's the one we have to make sure is water safe. He has absolutely NO fear.

    Cheers to Pablo. Lets hope he's a floppy dolphin by the end of summer.