The boys are taking swimming lessons this week. It’s a five-day survival program that teaches your child to swim to the steps or side of the pool in case they fall in. It’s not for the faint of heart. The kids cry a lot as they are (very lovingly) taught the skills they need to be successful. Some parents cry, too. There are actually boxes of Kleenex strategically placed around the pool wherever parents might sit to watch. If you’re a Helicopter Mama (you hover too much) or a Curling Mama (you’re always clearing a smooth and perfect path), you need to leave your equipment in the car. The kids are safe and secure in the water, but they have to find the strength and courage within themselves to either sink or swim.
Riley’s doing the program for the first time. He cried on the first day, but it was mostly whining. He’s doing great now and is really getting the hang of holding his breath under the water and kicking hard with his legs. Dylan did the program once before, but I signed him up again because swimming has somehow ended up on his list of things about which he has a lot of anxiety.
I don’t care whether or not Dylan (or Riley) becomes an Olympic swimmer. I just want him to break down the wall he’s put up and have fun in the water, and I’m happy to report that he has. Remember when I wrote about that Sunday afternoon bike ride where for a fleeting moment he let go of his anxiety and felt the pure joy of having the wind blowing in his face and pedaling all by himself? That’s what happened in the pool this week. He had another glimpse (like on Fringe when the soft spots open up to the alternate universe). Not only is he overcoming his fear of the water, but he’s also feeling how strong and capable he is and is excited to swim every morning.
I’m having an “everything I need to know I learned from swimming lessons” kind of moment, but I like to think the hundreds of dollars (and I mean hundreds) I spent on these lessons are giving the boys more than just survival skills. I see both of them building physical strength, gaining self-esteem, feeling pride, learning to keep at it and trusting their instinct. In my mind, these are priceless side effects of learning what to do if you fall in a pool.
Sink or swim. (Swarm or dance!) I hate the idea that either of my boys will ever have to think about sinking or swarming in their lives, but of course they will. They’ll inevitably experience disappointment, heartbreak, loss and other misfortunes. It’s not my responsibility to keep these things from happening, but it is my job to give them the tools they need to get through them. So far my toolbox includes unconditional love and trust, a moral compass, self-confidence, juice boxes, animal cookies…and swimming lessons.