Sink or Swim: Should I Push My Son To Swim?
Two summers ago, before my son turned 3, I signed him up for private swim lessons. Each session was 30 minutes (I believe he did 12 in total) and I can remember that the majority of the lessons my son spent asking the darling teen questions about the pool… and life in general... How does that drain work? Why is the pool blue? What's your favorite color?
Because we didn't have our own pool, the swimming school offered classes held out of a public pool. And by Beverly Hills "public," I mean the Century Plaza Hotel, home to just about every U.S. President imaginable while visiting Los Angeles. My point is, though my son was chatting his lesson away and walked away that summer with little (and by little I mean, NO) swimming ability or awareness of water safety at all, at least I got to chill poolside for a half hour a couple times a week at a swanky hotel.
Cut to this summer...
Well, wait. Let's go back to LAST summer.
SO, knowing that my son was able to talk and charm the goggles off a swimming teacher, I decided that I should follow in the footsteps of all the other Los Angeles Westside Mommies and send him to a swimming intensive (boot camp, really). I heard of a teacher who runs the school out of his home and has a very no-nonsense approach. The children, as young as 3 and old as 5, get in the pool without their parents, and in a nutshell, he tells the kids to swim to him. If they're not swimming, they're sitting on the steps of the pool, or holding on to the side, waiting for their turns. The ENTIRE TIME. And by entire, I mean, about 3 to 5 days of the 5-day class the children CRY. And by cry I mean, scream bloody murder. At least my son did.
Oh, by day 3... Yes, yes. He was swimming. Across the pool, head under water, jumping in: SWIMMING. But by day 5, he finally stopped crying.
I was guilt ridden and tormented the ENTIRE time. (And I really do mean entire).
However, he was swimming and by the following week, when we went back for round two of lessons -- to make sure what he learned really stuck-- he was a little fish without a care in the world.
On the very last day of week 2, the MOMENT we said goodbye to his teacher and got into the car, my son said:
"I never want to see XXXX again. Never. Send. Me. There. Again."
Cut to this summer. Yesterday. Now. TODAY.... My son is terrified of the water. He swam for those two weeks during the intensive and maybe a little bit for the rest of last summer. But once we got him in the pool this summer, it was like he was suffering from some sort of posttraumatic stress. He CLUTCHES to us in the water and is terrified of going in or under. When we're not in the pool, he'll even randomly ask if I'm going to send him back to the swim boot camp and begs me to not send him to any class at all -- which I assured him I won't. Ever. And God forbid I so much as mention said swim boot camp teacher's name to someone else, in the form of a story-- OY! My son FREAKS out and asks me to promise him a hundred times that I. Will. Never. Send. Him. Back.
I feel terrible. Like the worst mother in the world.
Aside from reassuring him, holding him, loving him, and sticking to my word about no swim classes, what do I do? I don't think forcing him into the water is right, but I do want him to learn how to swim. Not just for safety reasons but social reasons, too. All of his peers are swimming freely, supervised of course, but not CLINGING on to their parents for dear life. What do I do? HELP! I'm sinking...