Sunday, May 9, 2010


The seasons are dashing past us. How did it get to be May? With summer just around the corner a nagging item on my "must do" list leapt to a priority. Swimming lessons. Scanning back over the blog I realized that this has been on the list for over a year. This weekend, I finally made good.

I managed to schedule a class for geekygirl at 8.30am, and geekboy at 9. We managed to get out of the house and to the class on time too. Geekygirl was excited but a little dubious about what was to come. She had actually been to classes at this same swimming school when she was an infant and we were diligent, overachieving parents of an only child, though she has no recollection of this, of course. I had prepared her for the fact that she would be going in the pool with an instructor, not in mummy's arms, but that Geekyboy would be going in the pool with a parent. I felt how hard this was for her to digest this. It must be tough to be the older child sometimes, must feel like parental rejection to see the younger kid getting what seems like preferential treatment.

Her class was first, so I'd hoped that I could at least sit close by and offer security and support from the side, but as it happened there was a cancellation in the 8.30 baby class, so it seemed sensible to take that slot for Geekyboy. Geekdaddy had forgotten his swimsuit so I had to go in with him.

This unexpected turn of events could have resulted in a huge meltdown. Geekygirl could have dissolved into a watery tantrum as she watched her brother being carried in my secure arms into the pool, while Geekydaddy and the lovely teacher tried to coax her in unsupported. But she didn't. She took a leap of faith onto the float that the teacher was holding, and let herself be guided out into the water. Wide eyed but listening to instruction, she started kicking herself along.

Geekyboy has splashed in the lake before, but this was his first formal class, poor neglected second child that he is. He wrapped his chubbly legs around my waist like a vice. "I no like the water, I no like swimming pool, its 'cary" he kept telling me. I agreed with him that indeed it was a bit scary, but that he was safe with mummy, and we joined the class,  all dads except me! The first exercise is one where they teach them the skills to get themselves out of the pool. He mastered this and figured class was over, running away along the side. It took a little persuading to get him back in.

People sometimes mock the sing song, happy clappy nature of these classes for infants, but the brilliance of the approach really became apparent to me as I watched its effects on Geekyboy. As soon as we started to sing the familiar tunes he relaxed. As the other kids followed the actions, he joined in with the comfortable rituals. By the time we got to the next part of the class, fetching toys from the side and putting them into the teachers big basket, he was enjoying it. When it came to walk along the big foam float and jump off into my arms he could hardly wait for it to be his turn, and he took a big leap into the water, going right under and popping up all slick hair and wet starfish eyelashes, laughing at the novelty of it all.

I was nervously keeping Geekygirl in sight as I bobbed and sang.  She seemed engaged and happy and I noticed her lovely inner smile of pride glancing across her face. Still, I was shocked when I turned toward a splash and saw my little girl "diving" from a kneeling position into the pool! Surfacing in the arms of the teacher, laughing, and going right back to do it again. And again!

It couldn't have gone better. We left the pool with that happy glow that comes with sucessfully pulling off a potentially traumatic outing. Even Geekyboys tears and wails of "want to go back in swimming pool" had a sweet irony. Nothing in the world quite beats that sense of achievement!

We felt so competent that we even took them for a post swimming pancake breakfast and pulled that off too.

I love the days when I feel good at this parenting thing!