Monday, July 26, 2010

The deep end. Well, really she shallow end

I've always loved the water.  I love swimming, watching waves crash onto the shore, walking along creeks, even just gazing at a quiet lake.  One of my favorite trips was spent island hopping in Greece.  I took ferries from island to island, when I'd find a new location much of my time was spent on the beach, looking out on the unearthly aqua water.  My honeymoon was spent SCUBA diving in Belize, diving in the morning and sipping beer at a bar overlooking the ocean I'd just been exploring in the afternoon.  I could spend hours in the water. I find it soothing.  In water I feel weightless.  Like I'm flying.  Carefree.

My mom enrolled Kathleen and me in swim lessons every summer when we were kids,  I've always been a confident swimmer as a result.  I want that for my children too.  When Big Dog was an infant we took classes together. I'm sure he didn't learn a thing, but he was so at home in the water he'd occasionally fall asleep as Mr. Dog floated him around the pool on his back.  Those classes ended and we took a break.  It's hard to fit them in when you work full time and weekend classes were scarce.  We've tried a few times since then, but classes require a commitment to fixed schedule that I find difficult to maintain.

As they've grown, the boys have shown a great love of water.  Give them a pool and a pool noodle, they'll splash about for hours.  After a few family swimming trips, I decided it was time for swim classes again.  I'm committed, and by virtue of my commitment, the boys are committed as well.  Little Dog immediately took to it.  He waits at the edge of the pool bobbing and bounding until it is his turn to splash around, learning the fundamentals of actual swimming under the guidance of the teacher.  He'll blow big masses of  bubbles at the first request.  He happily leaps from the edge of the pool to the waiting arms of his teacher.  After his first class, wrapped in his towel watching his brother take his turn in class Little Dog informed me he wanted to do this every day!  When I said we could probably sign up for a twice a week class next session, he looked at me with a spark of injustice in his eyes and pleaded, "But that's not fair!"  He greets each class eagerly, while I am still asked to walk him to the edge of the pool, as soon as he sees his instructor I'm forgotten and he slips right into the blue.

Sadly it seems that Big Dog is learning to hate the water he once loved.  The problem is the face.  He doesn't want to put it in the water.  And I mean he REALLY doesn't want to do it.  That is not a big problem on its own.  He can gradually build up to it.  Once he decides he's ready to do something, he pretty much becomes unstoppable.   Unfortunately he didn't get to decide.  In her infinite wisdom, or at least the wisdom that college-aged swim instructors choose to exhibit, she talked Big Dog into taking a dunk.  Though he gave a weak nod, I don't think he understood, and god knows he immediately regretted the quick submersion that followed his weak consent.  When he resurfaced, he was so angry he spent a significant portion of that class in furious tears at the edge of the pool.  On our way to the car he informed me he no longer wanted to learn to swim.  It couldn't come at a worse time.  The summer program we've enrolled him in has weekly swim classes as part of the curriculum.  At the time we signed up I thought it would be ideal.  I believed he'd love the classes and doubling up would help him progress much faster than the weekly lesson he was already taking.  No go.  We've had multiple talks about this. I've offered goggles and reassurances and even reminded him that when he learns to swim without help he'll be able to keep his own face out of water, but he needs to learn to swim first.  He tells me he wants to go back to karate instead.  He tells me he wishes he could make a time machine that takes him back to the days before swim classes.  I just listen and remember that learning to swim is a good thing, a life skill, a safety requirement.

I'm pissed off.  Not at him, but at the arrogance of the instructor who ignored the timidity in his agreement to be dunked.  After a week of negotiations, Big Dog complied with my request to go back for his second class.   I told him he would not have to put his face in the water unless he felt ok with that.

The class went off without a hitch.  At one point he dipped the lower half of his face into the water, then one side of his face and the other.  I could see his confidence returning. After class he was thrilled with his success, and I praised it heartily knowing that he'd taken at least one big step forward.

Today was our third week of class.  Little Dog met the water with his boundless enthusiasm.  So much so that the teacher had him sit on the side of the pool for a minute when he kept "forgetting" to keep one hand on the pool edge for safety sake.  Then it was Big Dog's turn.  "Please don't make me put my face in the water," he started with the reluctance beginning to grow and I reassured him this was his choice.  I said it would be great if he could continue to dip his chin and ears like last week, but we all respect his decisions and rate of progress.  Once he was in the water, he was all focus and dedication.  While he may not have put any more of his face in the water, he approached each exercise with purpose and did his best.

I'm just hoping one day the fear from that initial dunk will recede and he'll recapture the comfort he used to find in the pool. Until then, I'm waiting patiently and sportively for the playfulness that was washed away when he was forced beyond his comfort zone to return and I have my swimming buddy back.


Sybil Runs Things said...

The exact same thing happened to my friend's now six year old. To this day she freaks out if anyone so much as splashes water in the pool and it gets on her face.

I do think, without anything at all to base it on, that these kids will get past it without too much coaxing. Once they make the decision in their head they'll be fine. My daughter, also six, didn't have a face in the water issue, but just a fear of the water in general. One day a switch flipped and now she cannonballs in off the side with no adult within 50 feet of her.

Anyways, keep trying! And stay patient.

followthatdog said...

I know he will get over it eventually, he just needs to decide on his own. He's like this with many things. Fearful at first then completely into it. I just wish the teacher had respected that a bit more and let him set the pace.

Sophia Chang said...

I have SUCH a connection to water too, and I grew up with a which I didn't learn how to swim until I was 12 years old.

Here's to late blooming fishies!

geekymummy said...

he will get there, sounds like he's making progress already. I was scared of putting my face in the water too, but I learned to swim eventually when I was about eight. I still to this day can't dive, mind you!

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