Swim ‘Lessons’

5 Jun

My oldest son is on the high school swim team. One of the most tender moments I’ve ever had with him was after he had just finished a swim meet. He came walking up to me with a funny look on his face and said “Mom, thanks for making me take swim lessons.” Then he walked off.

It made me think about how important swimming has been in our lives, and how it has intersected with school. We started early, and the things we did when my kids were young have paid off. Whether it is swim team, after school time spent at the pool in the fall or just swimming laps indoors through the winter, I’m glad we prepared the kids well.

We enforced rules. When we sat the kids down and told them the old standards – “no running at the pool, no swimming without a parent present,” we were telling them how to act at our home pool. But when I saw one of my youngsters acting very respectfully to a teacher, I have to think our pool preparation had a little bit to do with that. I didn’t want my kids to be fear motivated, but know that the dangers of the water were real – and in teaching them respect for the water, it translated to being respectful in school.

The kids had consequences. Of course, being kids, our children pushed the boundaries at the pool. The first time I caught one of them running and made him come inside for 30 minutes, they knew I was serious about pool behavior, and it made the rules easier to enforce. The other day one of my boys came home and complained about being given detention for running in the hall at school. When I reminded him that it was no different than our pool rules, he grudgingly agreed, and after a few moments, had to smile because he knew I was right.

We modeled good behavior. Kids watch adults very closely, and when our children saw my husband Ed and I walking slowly and carefully around the pool area, I know it had a big impact. Our kids not only learned about what to do at the pool, but good behavior became a habit. The inherent risks and dangers of being around the water made us take doing the right thing to a new level. When my kids watched us obey the pool rules we set out for them, somehow the lessons took a little more deeply. When one teacher told me that my youngest son was the most well behaved of her students, I was thrilled.

My kids all had swim lessons. I did a lot to teach my children about being around the water, but when it was time, they were all enrolled in swim lessons. It was funny to watch how well they responded to the young lifeguard types who taught the class. They were being told the same things I had tried to teach them, but they accepted it a lot better. As a result, every one of my children learned all the basic strokes, and grew very comfortable being in the water. So when my son tried out for the swim team, he had spent so many years perfecting his back stroke that he easily made the team.

We started early. When my kids were really young, we found a really wonderful site called Poolsafely.gov, which has videos and lots of great information about pool safety. The videos are interactive – they have simple games that show something happening at the pool, and have the kids discover the safe and unsafe ways to handle the situation.


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