Friday, June 3, 2011


My oldest child is a fish.  He adores swimming and always has.  I helped teach him how to do it.  I'm in the process of teaching my youngest.  One of the impressive parts of both of those sentences is that I am not a good swimmer.  It's amazing to me, in fact, how many things I have given up being actually afraid of, so that I would not pass my fears on to my kids.

I don't usually mention it, but to this day, I can clearly remember being 4 or 5 and almost drowning.  We were at a neighbor friend of my stepfather's.  She had one of those round 5 ft above ground pools.  I was in the middle of a little rubber duck.  Everyone else had gotten out and gone in.  I was actually having a great time, right up to the point that I decided I wanted to go inside as well.  I was in the middle of the pool and wanted to head for the deck to get out.  And was small enough that I slipped down through the center of the duck.  I did like all people who don't know how to swim-- and panicked.  I remember my feet hitting the bottom and pushing up to the surface and trying to grab the duck-- but I didn't know where it was.  I remember taking as much of a breath as I could before going under again.  Hitting the bottom with my feet and pushing back up to the top again.  I don't remember calling for help.  I don't think I had the breath to do so.  I very, very clearly remember seeing Keith standing by the sliding glass door watching me.  Pushing up again and seeing the lady of the house come running towards me.  Pushing up again and seeing her dive into the pool. I remember her snatching me and putting me on the deck and as I lay there gasping for breath, with her beside me, I also very clearly remember hearing Keith say, "Well, you -almost- swam."  And thinking, "Swam?!  I almost -drowned-!"  And for the next 14 years, would not go in water I could not stand up in and still breath if I wanted to.  I still can't stand to have water in my face.  Even in the shower.

On an aside, with this being the season for swimming, I want to share this information about drowning.  It may save a life:  like mine, when the neighbor friend recognized that I was drowning.

All of this to say that I didn't learn how to back float, or even do rudimentary swimming until I was 18 and my friend Ambrosia taught me.  I was always okay with being in water that I could stand up and breath when I got tired.  Once I learned that I could back float, I was no longer terrified of being in deeper water...  though on more than one occasion, I would take a deep breath, sink in the deep end and walk along the bottom towards the side of the pool, pushing up to the surface for another deep breath as needed so that I wouldn't freak out about failing to swim--a way I learned -not- to panic.

So now we fast forward to having children.  I have never wanted my children to have's not exactly fear any more, but it's certainly not pleasure or enjoyment-- and I have always wanted my boys to be like fish in the water.  My oldest was easy.  He's always loved jumping in and having a grand time.  He really learned how to swim when he was about 6 and finally had regular access to a pool to practice in.

My youngest, on the other hand, 2 years ago, when he was 2 1/2, was in a neighbor's pool with a bunch of older kids.  The water was about shoulder height on him and the rest of the kids started swirling and rough housing-- and knocked his feet out from under him.  He went under and couldn't get his feet.  I immediately grabbed him from the side and set him on his feet.  I did -not- freak out.  I did -not- take him out of the pool as I checked to make sure that he was alright and only surprised.  Once I was sure he was okay, I let him continue to play in the water.  He doesn't even remember it, but from that day, he's been 50/50 about getting in pools and absolutely would not put his face in the water.

Until today.

Yesterday, I called Mark's cousin and we set up to go over their way to swim in the pool.  So today, my youngest made a deal with me before we left.  He said, "Momma, will you take your glasses off?"  (Which I almost never do.)  I said, "If I do, will you not be a weanie about being in the water?"  He nodded, I nodded, and we had ourselves a deal.

My oldest and his cousin swam around in the deep end having a jolly time and my youngest and I were in the shallow end.  I got him comfortable getting his face wet, cupping his hands and moving his arms properly, keeping his feet of the floor of the pool, and starting to kick.  We worked on holding our breath under water (which meant that we -both- had to get our faces wet).  I even got him more comfortable with jumping into the water.  After an hour, we had both swum across the shallow end over a dozen times.  Admittedly, he was in a chest floaty, but he took it off twice to practice without it!  I am so proud of him!

Then, he wanted to swim across the length of the pool into the deep end.  And he did (with me staying close by, hanging on the edge of the pool.  I am not a fast swimmer, nor a strong one, so I wanted to be close enough to reach him quickly, if needed.)  He went back and forth half a dozen times, even starting to hold his body correctly and dip his face in the water (: 

And after each of his accomplishments, I'd say, "Do you know what -you- just did?!"  And he'd be proud of his own feats (:

I love this smile, on my 5 year old, out in the deep end without me for the first time.  Pure enjoyment and confidence!  Shortly after this he said, "This is fun!"

In the end, I got out of the pool and just let him play with the water, his brother and his cousin. 

And in my mind, I danced in joy that my boy was starting to be a fish like his brother, especially when he didn't want to get out when it was time to get ready to go home (:

1 comment:

  1. I too have gills. Swimming is one of those things that I never understood a person NOT doing, as I have had an affinity for water as long as I can remember. Granted, until I was 6-7 doggy-paddling was the name of the game. Also, this "walking on the bottom" thing is completely foreign to me, perhaps I have been unknowingly gifted with natural buoyancy... I literally CAN'T sink in water. Hmm, something to ponder.


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