Thursday, July 15, 2010

Floating, Kicking, Swimming, Success

Becca had her last swimming lesson of the 8-class session tonight.  It is hard to describe the feeling of watching her and reflecting on the progress that she has made these last couple of weeks.

The sessions started out a little bit rocky and frustrating.  I am a careful parent when it comes to signing my child up for classes, lessons, camps, whatever.  As with any class that you might sign up for, there are prerequisites, skills that you should already have before beginning.  Becca met all the criteria perfectly for her Crocodile group.

“Child must be able to enter and go underwater easily, be able to understand the concept of kicking and scooping, attempt to kick and scoop, and jump to the instructor from the deck.  Basic swimming strokes will be taught.”

One of the other children in Becca’s class could not even put her face in the water easily.  I could tell there was no way she would jump to the instructor.  Becca knew the basic front and back float, and learned how to kick and crawl.  She practiced what she learned in our small pool at home that night, and the next day, her instructor was impressed with her progress and had her move to the next class up.  For this class, the criteria is:

“Child should be ready to move onto the larger pool and be able to enter the water feet first from the deck and swim front crawl for about half the distance of the pool (approximately 12 meters).  Stroke development and water safety skills are the focus of these classes.”

This was close.  She hadn’t been taught how to breathe while doing the crawl yet, but I knew that she would learn quickly.  However, it was apparent that the kids in this class weren’t ready for the basic prerequisites, either.  At the end of this session, they told her that they were going to move her up to the Dolphins because she was more advanced than her classmates in this new class.

We went home, and I reviewed the prerequisites for the Dolphins:

“Child must be able to swim the whole length of the pool (25 meters) from crawl and backstroke without assistance, complete half the length of the pool breaststroke, and must have passed the Marlin class.”

Well, no way in hell did she meet those requirements.  Before the next class, I chatted with her new instructor and explained that 1) she didn’t meet the prerequisites, 2) she had never had a lesson before starting this session, 3) she had learned the crawl two days prior, but not how to breathe, and 4) had never been in the deep end of the pool.  He looked a little surprised and said he would bear that all in mind.  She learned a little bit how to tread water, but looked scared doing it, and was struggling with the breaststroke.  While class was in session I reviewed our options, and discovered that for a little bit more money private lessons might be an option.  It wasn’t something I had considered when I signed her up, but this was like having made a down payment on private lessons and being able to pony up a small amount more to complete the fee.  After the classes, I asked if it would be possible to upgrade her to private lessons for the balance of the session.  Yes, that was possible, and her first instructor was available to teach her.  We were set, and on day 4, she started private lessons.

She took off.  Before I knew it, she was treading water, discovered she has a killer backstroke, learned how to breathe while doing the crawl, was diving for rings, jumping off the side of the pool, diving off the side of the pool, and swimming all the way across the pool.  She struggled with the breaststroke, but has learned enough to keep practicing.

She is so much more comfortable in the water, and she loves it.  I think she loves it that I have relaxed a little bit.  I went from eyes glued to her in the pool, to being able to read a sentence or two in my book, or sometimes a paragraph, before glancing up to see what she and Kelson were up to.

Tonight was the last class and they had a bit of fun at the end of class.  She got to go off the diving board.  The first was a cannonball, the second a jump in, feet first, and the third her very first attempt to dive head first from the board.  Her legs weren’t pretty, but she did it.  And what happened next is what will stick with me forever.

After coming up from her dive, she treaded water casually in the middle of the pool and chatted briefly with her instructor before swimming to the end of the pool and getting out.  The lesson was over.  What a memory.  When she came to get her towel, I told her about that moment.  I said, “Wow, that was so neat, Becca.  After you came up from that last dive, you just treaded water and chatted with Kelson like you’d been doing it forever, before you swam to the edge of the pool.”  She said, with genuine surprise, “I did?”  Then, “I guess I did.  I didn’t even notice.”  It is becoming second nature to her.  She didn’t have to think about what to do with her body to make it stay up in 13 feet of water.

At the end of the lesson, Kelson gave Becca an Otter Pop and her report card with a BlowPop tucked inside of it.  Kelson told me that he was going to give us a swimming pass so Becca could come to an open swim session to practice for free.  As we were walking to go get that, I thanked him, and said, “I want you to know how much this means to me, for her to be strong and competent in the water.  Twenty years ago yesterday, my brother drowned at age 26.  This means the world to me.”

Tim knew how to swim, having taken lessons as a child with the rest of us, but was never really comfortable in the water.  I know that there were other factors that day that contributed to his death - not the least the shock of cold water on a 100 degree plus day, all alone, and the fear that I am sure caused everything to fly out of his head he had ever known about swimming.  He didn’t have the confidence in the water that I want Becca to have, and that her big sisters have.  Becca looooves the water, and I want her to be safe and strong.  Thanks, Tim, for helping press me on to get this done.

I have a feeling I will be spending a lot more time pool side.