Yesterday was the first day of swimming lessons for Bean and Gracie. We do swimming lessons every summer, and last year even did several rounds of them throughout the summer because Bean liked them so much. When it was time to get back in the pool this year, Bean was good and ready. He loves swimming, and when we finally got to the YMCA yesterday for lessons, he could not contain himself!
That’s his swim instructor there to the right, and Bean pretty much followed him around all afternoon and talked the poor guy’s ear off.
Bean told him how much he loved swimming, how often he swims (practically every day at our house), what he likes to play in the pool, how far out he can jump in the water… I think Bean talked for 15 minutes without taking a breath.
When the lesson actually began, Bean jumped right into the deep end of the pool and never looked back. He is in intermediate swim lessons this summer, and will learn how to do a few different kinds of swim strokes. He started learning how to back stroke yesterday!
I know it’s too early to mark our kids as being any kind of specific athlete, and it is a particular pet peeve of mine when parents rush to push their kids into one specific sport. BUT. I do find myself wondering if maybe swim team is in Bean’s future. He was very interested in the swim team practicing in the lanes next to him, and I know they start them on the Y swim leagues as early as kindergarten. I don’t think we’re ready to sign up yet, but it is definitely something I’m keeping on the radar for him. He’s like his momma, and he loves being in the water.
Bean and Gracie’s lessons were about 20 minutes apart, so after Bean’s lesson, the kids went over to the wading end of the pool and played with the other kids. They had friends there from church and daycare, so they jumped right in.
Even Gracie played, which I took as a good sign. We have been worried about her with swimming lessons. Gracie loves the water, but she is not very good doing what she doesn’t want to do on command. (In other words, she pitches hellacious fits if you make her do something that she doesn’t initiate on her own.) But I was hoping since we have already been in the pool so much in the past month and since her swim teacher was actually one of our neighbors that she might be more inclined to participate this year.
Oh, how wrong I was.
Gracie sat down on the side of the pool with the other kids in her swimming group (one of which was a little girl in her class at school, so you would think that would have helped her comfort level a little bit). All the kids were totally fine. Even Gracie sat there cool as a cucumber. Until the teacher spoke to her. The minute Miss Julie spoke to her, Gracie exploded into a hysterical mess.
This is the part of raising Gracie that is hardest for me to handle because I get so frustrated with her. I know she is fine. She was fine two seconds ago and nothing has changed in her environment. But that sudden turn to the Dark Side comes over her, and she becomes inconsolable. If there was a legitimate fear, that would be one thing. But I know she isn’t afraid of the Y because we have had lessons there before. I know she isn’t scared of the water because she swims in our pool all the time. I just know her, and I know that it is simply a game of wills. She doesn’t want to go to swimming lessons, so she FREAKS OUT until she doesn’t have to go.
Chris and I stay pretty tough with her, though. I sat down beside her on the side of the pool, but I wouldn’t let her crawl up into my lap. She had to sit there with the rest of the kids. I just moved a little closer for support. She also didn’t have to participate, but she had to at least sit on the side of the pool and watch the other kids. Which was hard for her considering she was screaming so loudly it was hard to hear the other kids or the teacher.
If this was something extra-curricular, like soccer or ballet or even swim team, I wouldn’t push her. But we have a pool at our house and we are surrounded by water in our part of Florida. Swimming is a non-negotiable for safety reasons. You have to be able to swim without a flotation device.
After lessons yesterday, Chris and I came up with a new rule for our house. If you can’t sit through swimming lessons without crying, then you can’t swim in the pool at home. When we got home, Bean wanted to go practice his backstroke in the pool, so we let him. But Gracie had to sit on the deck instead. We go back for swimming lessons again on Thursday. If she can sit through them without screaming – she doesn’t even have to participate yet! – then she can go in our pool until the next swimming lesson. But if she screams through her next lesson, her pool restriction continues.
I hate being tough on Gracie, especially because her default reaction is to cry. And what parent wants to keep pushing when their child starts to cry??? But that’s the trick about raising a spirited child. We have to look past the tears and emotions to what this is really all about, and for Gracie it is 100% about having to do something she doesn’t want to do when she is asked to do it. She’s capable. She’s safe. She understands. So, into the pool she must go.
Tears or no tears.