I have always disliked swimming.
Show me a warm, soothing sea and I’ll happily bob around in it all day; floating for hours as the sun warms my face, diving down to pick shells from the sandy seafloor, and emerging occasionally for a piña colada and another chapter of my book.
But lengths of a pool? Proper swimming? I hate it.
There are too many terrible memories of school swimming lessons, where I never progressed beyond a flailing, spluttering doggy paddle in the shallow end. I was always that kid who, on the walk back to class, curled up with stomach cramps and puked on the pavement because I’d gulped down so much chlorinated water. My cheeks still burn with shame at the memory of a Primary Seven swimming gala where I had to be rescued from the ‘fun’ race – that humiliating spectacle that the non-swimmers had to participate in, clinging to a novelty float and wishing the world would end.
So when DorkySon was still very little – less than six months old – we decided that DorkyDad should be the one to do swimming lessons with him, lest I somehow, subconsciously pass on all those bad feelings. We signed up to Waterbabies, and I sat on the side watching as the two of them ventured into the water for the first time.
It was no use. DorkySon had inherited my aversion to water anyway. He was not taken in by the cooing nursery rhymes that accompanied his dunkings, and he grew less and less happy with every week. By the fourth lesson he was sobbing in his pram before we’d even entered the building. We gave up.
But then, last year on holiday, something changed. Perhaps it was the sunshine, or the relaxed atmosphere of an outdoor pool. Perhaps it was the presence of two kind, encouraging older boys, or perhaps, like with so many other things, DorkySon just decided it was time. We will never know. But some switch was flicked and our sweet little guy decided that swimming was his thing. He pulled on his trunks, clutched his noodle with grim determination, and ten minutes later declared himself a convert.
“I really love swimming,” he said. “It’s so relaxing.”
Now we have moved to Australia, where there is a beach around every corner, and having the ability to stay afloat is a non-negotiable. Every single child here learns to swim – the earlier the better.
So every Thursday afternoon we plod off to the proper pool where DorkySon is learning how to do those laps and lengths that I could never manage. He is the smallest in the class by a good way, and also, unsurprisingly, the palest. He wears a bright blue swimming cap, with matching goggles that he hasn’t quite mastered taking on and off yet. We sit and chat as he waits for the lesson to start, and I can’t help but smile. He is so proud of his laminated swim card, showing that he has already progressed from A1 to A2. He is fascinated by it all – the floats, the flags and flippers, the lane markers and the lifejackets that are hanging on a rack at one end of the pool. He asks me every thirty seconds what time it is, wants to be sure that it will be his turn soon.
When the lesson finally starts, the other parents pull out their books and phones, enjoying half an hour of peace and quiet. But like the very worst soccer mom stereotype, I can’t tear my eyes away from DorkySon. Not because I can offer any constructive criticism, but because I am so overwhelmingly proud. I watch him sitting on the side, grinning and chatting with his classmates. Occasionally he will scan the seats by side of the pool as he looks for me – when he picks me out he gives a big wave and a grin, then his attention returns to the teacher.
The kids all lie on a big blue mat, kicking their legs out behind them. They hold onto noodles and propel themselves forward. I smile as DorkySon lies on his back, pushing that bright white belly up to the ceiling and floating like a leaf on the water. They hold their breath, put their heads under water, monkey crawl along the side, dive for treasure, and jump in to the deep end with big, enthusiastic splashes. In the space of half an hour, I watch my four year old do a dozen things that I know would be beyond me.
When it is over and he comes scuttling along the side – teeth chattering, a pink mark along his hairline from the swim cap – I am waiting with a towel to wrap him up, a carton of juice for him to guzzle down.
Every week, we do this, and I am so happy that he is happy. I am so happy he finds it fun.
My son is a swimmer, and I am his number one fan.
I didn’t take the boys swimming as babies because I’m just not confident myself but it is so lovely to see them taking to it now their older. Like you it makes me so proud to see them making progress under their own steam.
Just like me, I am not a swimmer by any means. I can and do, but must keep my head out of the water, so I do laps (occasionally) with flippers and board. My kids – just like yours.No fear whatsoever. And I couldn’t be happier. It’s such a good thing to them comfortable with it all.
That’s such a lovely post, and that brilliant picture really does say it all R! 😀 I love swimming, really love it. I will even go to great lengths (haha!) to put up with the miserable old ladies in the pools here who tut and shout at you if you happen to splash them and wreck their hair and make up (because it’s sensible wearing that in the pool isn’t it!)… 😀 I just wish I could swim properly. I can only do breast stroke, back stroke and swim underwater, we just weren’t taught how to front-crawl and I can’t get the hang of it. When my Australian friend came swimming with me she thought it was hilarious and now thinks all English people swim like me… 😀
Oh DorkyMum you have gone and made me all weepy. What a lovely post. I too was always the palest in my swim class, damn that Irish skin of mine. Well done Dorkyson!
So… the next one I’m hoping to read… How Dorkyson took you in hand and showed you the pleasure of swimming; assuming you’re big enough to forget your horror as a youngster. Swimming can be fun, ask your sun. Down under? Warmth? even more fun.
This made me smile. I actually love swimming but swimming lessons with two kids in the hot and crowded local pool is the absolute bane of my life on a weekly basis. When we were in Miami my daughter suddenly did 16 lengths out of the blue, I had no idea she could even do one. Palm trees, buzzards above, open air pool – makes all the difference! Go Dorkyson!
I am so pleased he has taken to it. Swimming really is a life skill. I am sorry you never had the chance to enjoy it. My mum taught me to swim and I absolutely adore swimming, I just wish that I could swim more often. Water confidence is one of the things I really wanted to pass on to my son and it is difficult to get motivated on a wet and cold winter morning. I comfort myself with the idea that if we don’t go swimming we will just get wet anyway so we might as well go to the pool! My son isn’t bothered he just wants to get in the pool and get going. Isn’t it amazing how your children never cease to amaze and surprise you?
How horrible that you had to go through that at your school gala – I can feel your pain and humiliation; schools really don’t have a clue sometimes. But how wonderful that Dorky Son has taken to the water and is really enjoying learning to swim. I must admit, I do love a good length of the pool… lovely, lovely post as ever. X
Awwww so pleased your son is having so much fun swimming and that you are enjoying him enjoy it so much. Hate things that school and things like school galas do to you 😦
I absolutely hate actual swimming. I can sort of swim as in i don’t drown when I am out of my depth but lazy floating is more my kind of thing. I am also trying not to pass that on to my kids. Fingers crossed they too emerge as swimmers soon
I love watching my four-year-old learning to swim too! Something about their uninhibited joy, and the freedom to splash. I’m glad yours is keeping up with the Aussies.
Oh, I’m the same as you when it comes to swimming, seems like there are a lot of us about. We managed a term at Waterbabies with our little boy, he didn’t out and out hate it but it wasn’t his favourite way to spend time and going to the lessons in Edinburgh from Fife meant it was almost a day out. We need to get him back in the pool though, he loves paddling in the beach in our village so hopefully he will take to swimming like DorkySon. So nice to read how well he is doing with it.
Ohh I love that last line, beautiful. I hope I can say mine are all swimmers in a few months. The girls started lessons just last week. Mich x
It must be in the genes sis! I had quite a habit of ‘forgetting’ my swim kit in school…..
Never too late though – Grandpa learnt at the age of 37 I think, didn’t like the thought of being unable to rescue his kids if they fell in the water.
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