No, the title has nothing to do with Finding Dory – that’s one in the many movies that I haven’t had the chance to watch yet.
(One thing good about children, I get to save money on entertainment because I don’t have time for entertainment! We have cancelled our cable TV for years and we watch, like, three movies a year. Hah.)
Anyway, this is about swimming lessons.
When Aidan was a wee bugger, we contemplated signing him up for swimming lessons. But the prohibitive costs – swimming classes for little humans can be really expensive – plus the distance plus our sheer laziness put us off going for formal classes. We took him to the pool occasionally and he grew to love swimming but on one condition: he had to have his puddle jumpers.
And then Zac came along and with the kids being in the same age brackets, some friends and us decided to form private swimming groups. Between the few of us, we have five preschoolers and four toddlers, enough to form two classes. And so we began our formal lessons last October.
I don’t dare to speak on behalf of all the kids but I daresay that my kids have definitely benefitted from the parent-accompanied lessons.
With Aidan, he’s always been quite cautious and fearful of water dribbling down his face. I don’t know if it’s a natural inclination or if it’s because of that one time when he tripped and fell face forward into the water (#parentingfail) but he is really, really resistant. For the past few months, he had steadfastly refused to put his face into the water. And that made it really frustrating for us. I started questioning if the lessons were effective and if we should switch instructors.
There was nothing wrong with his physical form though, he was perfectly happy to float and kick. He just didn’t want the water near his face. So much for swimming, right?
And then we had a breakthrough.
We hadn’t had lessons for two weeks and I was not expecting anything out of the usual. As the coach worked with Coco and Claire (yes, Yi Lin, Selene and I are in this together!), Aidan put on his goggles on his own accord. And then, suddenly, he dipped his face into the water.
Just like that. No fuss, no whining, no pleading, no cajoling. He just stuck his face in and he was out a second later.
“Look papa!” he called out to his father. “I put my face into the water without holding my nose.” And then he proceeded to do it a few times to show his father and the coach.
The rest of the class went swimmingly well (PUN! PUN!) and we were so, so proud of him.
As for Zac, he has progressed from screaming his lungs out the entire class to this:
Oh, it’s not that he hates water or swimming. He actually loves playing in the water. He hated having to work in the water. He screamed when he had to practise kicking, screamed before we dunked him into the water and screamed after he emerged from the water. It was pretty painful.
And then it was almost as if the switch clicked and he suddenly realised that hey, swimming is actually quite fun! He stopped screaming (THANK THE HEAVENS) and started enjoying it. He is now gleeful when he has to jump into the water, can hold his breath well under the water and knows to kick his way to his papa while underwater. He is so, so, good at it now, we all love to watch him swim.
Now that we have gone through this whole swimming process, I have come to a few conclusions.
Firstly, start them young. At slightly over two years, Zac is doing brilliantly. He has zero resistance to water and is practically fearless. Meanwhile, the older kids who started at a later age are so cautious that it takes a whole lot of cajoling (and bribing in some cases) before they would even put the tip of their noses into the water.
Secondly, be patient. I was not. I tried not to push Aidan too hard but at the same time, I was immensely frustrated by his stubbornness. But he did it in his own time, in his own way. I needed to respect his development.
Thirdly, praise the effort. We didn’t criticise him when he refused to do it but told him to at least try. And if he did make the effort but did not complete the act, we acknowledged his attempt. And when he finally did it, we told him how proud we were of him for trying.
Fourthly, get a good instructor. The first instructor we had was a doozy. She was decent but was bad at scheduling, bailing out on us at the last minute. We complained to the school and they sent us a replacement who was so, so good with kids. She made them work, doled out heaps of positive affirmation and was so patient with Aidan when he flat out refused to do certain things. The kids all love her. I know mine do, Aidan loves to run towards the pool every Saturday yelling “TEACHER W!!!!”
So there – now go forth and rear your own human Dory!