Sink or swim

After going to a swimming party this summer, I watched how each of our kids fared in the pool; Charlie jumping off the diving board and never wanting to get out of the pool, Coleman comfortably swimming around with his friends, Judah cautiously jumping off the side, never straying too far from the edge, and Josie kicking around the pool hanging onto a ball to keep her afloat. She whined when I told her that she had to stay where she could touch.

“But Mama! I’m not going to sink if I just keep hanging onto the ball.”

“Right, but that ball is slippery and if you lose your grip, you will sink straight to the bottom and Mama will have to jump in the pool with all her clothes on to rescue you and I really don’t want to have to do that.”

“Trust me, that’s not going to happen!” says the over-confident fourth child who’s never had a swimming lesson in her life.

Swim lessons for our family have been challenging, to say the least, and as it usually goes for a fourth kid, I kind of just forgot, gave up…whatever you want to call it. But because I want to be a responsible parent and not totally give up with the last child, I decided both Judah and Josie needed to learn to swim; or at least get to a point where they could survive if they fell into deep water. I kept my expectations pretty low. 

I signed them up for summer swim lessons, five days a week for two weeks at an outdoor pool. The outdoor pool seemed like a great idea since it was the last two weeks of August, but wouldn’t you know it, we got the earliest time slot, 9:30am. And wouldn’t you also know it, the first day was overcast and 59 degrees as they jumped into the pool. I’m pretty sure they hated me at that moment.

Judah felt out of place being the oldest and only boy in his class. Josie was upset because her teacher was a boy. The worst! They both came home saying they didn’t want to go back, which made me super excited about waking them up early the next morning and the next and the next, for two weeks.

The next morning was rough. I tried to stay as positive as I could, but I was prepared to go to full bribing if necessary. Someone would have to pay me to get me to jump into that pool in that kind of weather. The temperature was about the same; maybe even a little cooler because there was steam coming off the water as if it were a giant hot tub. I encouraged them that they could do it and they had to give it another shot.

“Tomorrow is a new day,” Josie had said the night before, with slight reluctance.

Josie was right. We remembered to bring goggles this time and for whatever reason, their attitudes changed. Judah remembered things from the day before and from previous swim lessons years before. And Josie made the greatest accomplishment of all; putting her head under water without holding her nose. That was all she needed. She turned into a fish.

Every morning after that, they jumped out of bed ready to go. They got into their usual routine and made great improvements as their classes went on. Josie even asked me to sign her up for one last half-session before school started. The look of joy and accomplishment on both of their faces when they finished was priceless. They did it. They stuck with it and learned to swim. No more using a ball as a makeshift life preserver. Phew.