swim lesson debacle

I took L to her second swim lesson yesterday with B in tow.  It was a debacle.  By five minutes in, she was in hysterics.  Backing up a little, I took L to her first lesson on Tuesday.  I’d taken her to the pool a few days before, and she’d had a great time playing in the shallow area, which ranges from 2 to 2.5 feet.  She mostly walked along the side, but she also enjoy me holding her while she “swam.”  Her first lesson started off well.  She sat in the water with the other kids, two of whom were crying, and dutifully put her left ear, then her right ear in the water.  She started getting a little alarmed when they made her blow bubbles, and after a couple rounds of the pool blowing bubbles with the teacher, she started freaking out.  She off and on cried the last twenty minutes of class.  Undeterred, I figured that she mostly didn’t like all the splashing and water in her eyes, so I ordered goggles overnight from Amazon.  We splashed in my new big bathtub, and she seemed relatively psyched for lesson number two.  Nevertheless, I was feeling pangs of anxiety as we headed into the pool.  Something told me this was not going to go well.

The lessons are in deepish water, maybe four feet, and the kids sit on the steps.  L was not to happy about me leaving her on the top step, and the waterworks started when the teacher moved her down to the second step (maybe six inches of water).  I ended up sitting beside her, and she wouldn’t stop crying or let go of my hand.  Please remember, I’ve got B in the Ergo the whole time, and all of us are getting soaked, L being the only one with a swimsuit.  I made her sit there for twenty minutes but stayed with her and didn’t make her do anything more with the teacher.

The whole thing was extremely unpleasant on so many levels, and I really didn’t know how to handle it.  Should I have stayed back and let me child remain in full hysterics and let the teacher deal with it?  Should I have just pulled her out of the lesson and left when it was clear she wouldn’t be learning to swim?  The teacher gave no guidance whatsoever as to whether she’d prefer I intervene or stay back.  Honestly, I felt like other parents much have been judging me as some kind of harsh or abusive parent for making her stay for so long when she was so upset.

L wasn’t the only crying kid.  Of the four kids in the lesson, on day one, there was major crying from three of the four, though the other kids seemed to get a bit happier as the lesson went on, while L deteriorated.  On lesson two, two of the four were very happy, but the other kid didn’t even make it into the pool.  His mom ended up leaving with him at some point.

L is used to having me around, but of course she’s been in the care of two different nannies, and in general, she does well with other adults in settings where there’s a low adult to kid ratio.  However, she’s clearly not comfortable getting splashed nor with deep water.  Clearly spending more time getting her used to the water would have helped.  We haven’t gone to the pool much since I got pregnant with B.  J is not into indoor pools, and it is extremely difficult for me to manage both B and L at the pool at the same time without help.  I was happy with the idea of lessons that didn’t feature me in the pool, but at the Y, parent & child lessons weren’t an option anyway.

I do feel that the lesson could have been run a bit better.  When three of four kids are crying hard in your lesson, that’s not a great sign.  The two kids who are doing well practically know how to swim already.  The can swim around with the little float on their backs and are 100% comfortable swimming with their face fully immersed.  These are the lowest level lessons, and it seems to me that there’s a bit of an ability gap.  L probably would have done a lot better if the first lesson had focused solely on getting comfortable with being in deep water without Mom around – just blowing bubbles, maybe some kicking and moving around in the water without her face immersed.  I feel like with only four kids, the instructor could have tried to tailor things a bit more to their individual abilities.

Anyway, if you’ve read this far about preschool swim lessons, I’m impressed.  After yesterday’s disastrous lesson, taking L and B to the pool on my own suddenly seems easy by comparison.  Swimming is such an uphill battle around here.  In my prenatal aerobics classes, the vast majority of the other women are clearly not swimmers.  I love being in the water and swimming, and I’m determined to turn L into a swimmer.  Hopefully I won’t traumatize her for life in the process.

4 thoughts on “swim lesson debacle

  1. Sarah

    Yeah, that sounds really tough. We’ve been lucky that Emma has always liked her swim lessons. When we did the parent/child ones she occasionally had a freak out, but they were short-lived. When she moved up to lessons on her own (3 kids & 1 teacher) I was really worried she’d freak, but she surprised me. She is more timid than the other kids in terms of jumping to the teacher, etc, but she doesn’t cry.

    In the parent/child class we took, there was another little boy who would wail and wail every time the teacher took him to do something on his own. Teacher & parent basically just let him wail. This went on for weeks, but he did (very slowly) get better with time.

    If L tends to warm up to new situations over time, I’d suggest just continuing to take her and see if it gets better with time. Also my friend had the same issue (her son crying the whole time) and would go sit in a different area where he couldn’t see her, which she said seemed to help.

    It’s too bad the teacher wasn’t more helpful! You’d think she would be prepared to give some guidance given that freaked out kids isn’t exactly uncommon with this sort of thing.

  2. Jennifer

    We went back to the pool today, and things were going swimmingly, ha ha, until a girl took her pool noodle. Cue temper tantrum. *sigh*

  3. becca

    I went with a friend who had twin boys to a YMCA swim lessons (her husband was out of town for work), I think they were just under 2 years old at the time, I can’t remember. Let’s just say the child I was given BAWLED the entire hour, while she happily played with her other child. Its fun holding someone else’s bawling child while a Y instructor sings the dumbest children’s songs ever. He learned to swim eventually, so it all worked out.

    I am not sure how it is with your kids, but I would say with puppies and my siblings, they can sense adult anxiety. Sounds like you went tensed up for a break down instead of a good time. Of course, you can’t help your worries, so…

    My mom likes to brag about how my brother and I both learned to swim using the old Y- method which was basically toss your infant in the deep end and have the life guard rescue you when they started to drown. 🙂

    There’s my babbling comment.

  4. admin Post author

    That’s interesting that you learned like that, Becca. I thought that was more a thing of our parents’ generation.

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