Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Swimming Lessons

This is not my favourite week of the summer. We race out the door by 8:45 am to get both kids to the pool for 9 am lessons. I kept William out of his Sea Turtle lesson on Monday, due to his fever over the weekend, and I thought it might help his anxiety to watch his class before he joined in.

Ava was the kid who simply jumped into the water at three years of age, did everything her teacher asked, and had fun. I thought that was normal. Then William came along, and when he turned three, he made it about eight minutes into his first preschool lesson before bursting into tears and calling repeatedly for mommy, and then flat-out refusing to get back in the water.

I pulled him out, figuring in another year he would be more mature, but after watching all of the kids in his class on Monday, he spent most of the day and evening crying about how he was afraid of swimming, didn't want to put his face in the water, and was happy to wear a lifejacket forever. No amount of encouragement was working, and yesterday morning I woke up with a serious feeling of dread for how the lesson was going to go.

He cried on the way in, begging not to go, and I just ignored him with a line of chatter about how wonderful swimming is, and how much fun he was going to have with his nice teacher and his class. I said, "I'll give you a big thumbs up from the benches, like I always give to Ava." His response: "I don't want a thumbs up!"

We walked in, and with no dithering I took him to his teacher and then sat down, fully expecting disaster. It didn't come. He participated with the rest of the class, gave me a shy little thumbs-up and a tiny smile, and even put his face in the water. The first time he sputtered and cried, I figured the jig was up and he'd be dropping out yet again, but his teacher convinced him all was well, and he finished out the lesson. When he came to me, he was grinning and proud, and my heart jumped around inside my chest. I couldn't have been more impressed if he had just been accepted to Harvard. He conquered his fear, tried something new, and stuck it out to the end. For him, it was a real victory.

I'm so glad that my expectations are much more reasonable this time around. With Ava, I desperately wanted her to pass her first swimming lesson, and when she didn't, I felt embarrassed and frustrated. Her teacher told me that she needed a little more confidence in the water, and that trying again at the first level would be helpful for her. I watched every moment of every lesson, and being the expert that I am, I thought she should have passed when her friends did.

Her teacher was right, of course, and by the time she hit the next level, she soared through them all, with the increased confidence that repeating the first level gave her. Now she is a natural in the water, but she wasn't always that relaxed. The point of the first preschool swimming lesson is to really introduce them to the water, and keep it fun and not overwhelming.

My expectations have been radically lowered with William. I'm not expecting him to pass, as he is tentative by nature and needs a lot of time to warm up to anything new (like his mother). It's no big deal to me if he is asked to repeat Sea Turtle. I'm beyond thrilled that he is enjoying it, and listening to his teacher, and learning that he is safe even when I am not right beside him. On the first day, he has surpassed my expectations for him, and I'm very proud, regardless of the outcome of the lessons.

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