Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Swimming Lessons

My wife and I are determined that our kids learn to swim at least as well as we do (which is to say pretty well, though not competition-grade by any means). Like Coleridge's Ancient Mariner, they're surrounded by "Water, water, every where" - from home swimming pools to lakes and rivers. There's simply too much water in Central New York for my kids to be running around unable to do something as basic as swimming. To that end, we've signed them up for swimming lessons through a local group - The Liverpool Jets - every summer (and sometimes winter) for the last... um... many years. I forget how long we've been doing it with the oldest kid - seems like forever.

Anyway, this week we begin the most recent season of lessons. My eldest has finally mastered everything she'd previously struggled with, from just putting her face in the water to jumping in and diving in and even rhythmic breathing. This session is really just to polish off her skillset and make sure she's truly learned all of the basics. I don't really care whether she knows every competitive stroke, and I can teach her the rescue-stroke/side-stroke if she ever decides she wants to be a lifeguard or something. She's nearly done at last.

The boys, too, have come a long way. All of them have. Last summer really saw them make tremendous gains. Each kid struggled at first. They're stubborn little buggers and skittish about anything new. Where some kids would jump or dive in without concern, my kids tended to freak out when asked to put their whole faces or heads in the water or even to jump in with someone catching them. Somehow, in the second half of last summer's three swim sessions, the kids got their acts together and just did what they had to do. I'm hopeful I can recapture that spirit of cooperation this summer as well. After year upon year of these swim lessons - many more sessions than were needed to actually teach the skills - I'd love to see us finish them up. It'd be nice to go occasionally for open swim rather than every day to watch the kids refuse to try some key requirement of their class.

Yet, for the frustration I might experience with repeating the same lessons over and over (and sometimes over and over and over), that's also a big part of the value. They needed the time. They needed the opportunity to get familiar with the sensations on their own terms. Hopefully once they have, that comfort will stick with them even if they should find themselves in a panic-prone situation - somewhere where they unexpectedly have to put their skills to the test.

Swimming's a lot of fun and I hope this training gives them the ability to enjoy it as recreation or even as a sport if they're so inclined. More, I hope they never need to rely on their swimming ability to save their own life or someone else's, but if they need to I'll be glad of every moment we spent at these lessons. Being a strong and capable swimmer can't save every life, but being unable to swim at all certainly won't.

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