Family life

A swim class triumph!

Three-year-old Avery's enthusiasm for swimming lessons had gone from warm to ice cold. But just when Tracy decided to pull the plug, something changed

By Tracy Chappell
A swim class triumph!

Photo: freefotouk via Flickr

Three weeks ago
We are leaving for swim class. The girls’ bathing suits are on under their clothes, the towels are packed and I even remembered a plastic bag for the wet stuff this time. As always, they’re excited to go. This makes sense for Anna, who leaps into the pool and spends the 30-minute lesson in aquatic heaven. But Avery’s enthusiasm doesn’t last quite so long. She loves getting her bathing suit on. She loves taking her clothes off and putting everything into the locker. She loves skipping along toward the pool area (walk please, walk please, walk please) but as soon as we cross the threshold into the pool area she grabs onto my hand for dear life.
We approach her teacher (the lovely, vibrant, couldn’t-be-sweeter M, who each week greets Avery with the hugest welcoming smile) and Avery’s death clench circles my legs. The tears begin. “No, Mommy,” she moans. We shuffle together into the glassed-off toddler pool, where we go through a series of urgings/begs/bribes to get Avery into the pool. I try to encourage without being too pushy or insensitive, but treats certainly have played a role. Some weeks it works. This week, it did not.
I should clarify something: Avery loves the water. I’m not insistent that my three-year-old be in swimming lessons no matter how much she cries or protests. I assumed Avery would adore lessons. And Avery has told me before that she wants to get into the pool, but she doesn’t want the teachers to talk to her or come near her and she doesn’t want to participate in class. She just wants to be in the pool on her own. So we went with that for a while. She’d be in the pool beside the class and I watched her from the side and the teacher stayed close and Avery was happy as a clam. She would cry if the teacher tried to ease her into the lesson, or even any of the end-of-class games. So we just decided to follow her lead.
But after the holiday break, Avery refused to even get in the pool and we thought we were back to square one. She was hysterical a couple of the times. So she just sat on the pool deck and I sat on the other side of the glass and we both watched Anna’s swimming lessons.
Two weeks ago
It’s a day just like any other swim class day. Except for one thing: we leave early for the YMCA to give me time to cancel our membership. We have a family membership and Sean and I weren’t making use of it (despite our best intentions), and Avery wasn’t even putting a toe in the pool anymore. It felt like a huge waste of money. They’d told me not to pull Avery, but by now it’s been five months with no progress and I just can’t bear the tears anymore. I figure we’ll try lessons again later. So I do the paperwork, which gives us three more weeks. And that’s that.
We get changed, we head to the pool, and the most peculiar thing happens: M greets Avery with her usual enthusiasm and I gently attempt to transfer Avery’s hand from mine to M’s and — can I get a hallelujah? — Avery takes M’s hand. Her big blue eyes stare up at mine for a moment, but I give her my biggest smile and say, “Have fun!” and off they go. My heart leaps. Honestly, I’m a little in shock. So is M. She tries to be stealth in giving me a is this really happening? look as she leads Avery off to the pool.
There is absolutely no looking back. Avery not only pitter-patters off to the pool, but jumps in, joins the class in blowing bubbles and practising floats and doing bobs. M keeps giving me these hilarious looks of awe that it’s all happening. Avery waves at me with a big smile. I do little mom-cheers from the bench. I also get a few smiles from other moms on the bench, who have been watching our drama week after week. They know how valuable a little triumph like this is. We can never predict when our kids will surprise the socks off of us, we just know that they will. Again and again.
Last week
I didn’t do anything about un-cancelling our membership until I was sure it wasn’t a fluke, but this past week’s lesson was similarly wonderful. Avery was having a ball. Why the sudden change? I have no idea. As I’ve mentioned before, Avery seems to be coming out of her shell, gaining more confidence and courage day by day. I’m happy for her — because she seems so much happier overall these days, and is so proud of her swim class accomplishments. So, we’ll keep going to these lessons (and I’ll have to work harder to get my butt there too). There’s no way I’m closing the door on this big leap forward. 

Photo by freefotouk via Flickr

This article was originally published on Feb 13, 2012

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