A little over three years ago, when Harrison was just a wee little peanut getting ready to head to preschool for the first time, I thought he was going to L-O-V-E swimming lessons. His preschool is at the Y and therefore swim lessons are part of the curriculum. Perfect! I thought, because while I can swim (it’s not pretty), I’m certainly not qualified to teach him how to do it. The first time came and went, but when the second one rolled around two weeks later, I realized we were in trouble. HD was not a fan. Not at all. There was not “Yay! Swimming Day!!!” at our house after the initial day. More likely it was tears and fighting to get his suit on so he’d be ready for the day, every single time. Truth? I made Ben do that. It became such a battle that I had to remove myself from the situation and let B calmly get HD in his suit for the bimonthly day of lessons before he left for school. I did my part last year, however, and came up with the Brave Toes solution. That got us through Year Two, ahem, swimmingly.
So just when I thought we had this swimming gig figured out, Year Three came along with an unexpected twist: swimming lessons every.blessed.week. of the year. Wha??????? I guess it makes sense. He’s with his class every day of every week so they have time to do a morning one day of each of those weeks in the pool. And it’s not a “day” of swimming. It’s a 15 minute lesson that is part of centers, with time for prep and drying off tacked on before and after the lesson. I thought after HD’s improvement last year that he’d be fine with the increase, and at first, he was. But by the end of September, he had clearly realized that something was very different about this year’s swimming schedule which lead to meltdown city in early October.
We have always, always, told HD that it’s his choice to swim when he gets to school. We ask that he put his suit on and we talk about being brave and proud and all that, but ultimately, it is always his choice. And he always chooses to swim. Even on the day he dissolved his teacher’s arms prior to his lesson, he still chose to get in the pool. So why the upset? I really don’t know. He’s just very anxious about getting his face in the water and even though we practice in the tub at home, he’s been struggling this whole month on swim days. And since Raegan has music and art classes at the YW and CMCN on Tuesdays, I can’t really get there to help except for the odd week of the month that does not have Toddler Art, which just so happened to be today for October.
After working plans out with Harrison’s classroom teacher, we made arrangements so I could get there after Raegan’s music class this morning to help HD get changed and watch him during his lesson. [I actually got in on some center time too which was pretty awesome (still could never be a preschool teach though and bow down to any and all who are!), and then it was lesson time.] HD wasn’t nervous at all, which he told me would be the case when we talked about it at breakfast, because I was there. And while that’s super and flattering, we’ve got to figure out some more coping skills because obviously this is not going to be a regular thing.
As it stood today, I’m glad I was able to get there at least once because I learned a lot. Standing and watching his group get in the pool and do their warm up exercises was eye opening. The teachers kept telling Harrison (and some of the other kiddos) to relax their feet as they kicked the water. Then when practicing putting their faces in, it was “relax” your neck to let the air/bubbles out. And again, when doing Fat Bears (or is it Flat Bears?!), I heard it multiple times, for multiple kids. The concept makes so much sense. If the body is tense, you cannot move with or respond to the water and let your breath work for you. Tense your neck and you cannot release air. Go stiff in your legs or ankles and you cannot kick to stay afloat. Basically, the message is: hold on to the stress and you cannot succeed. Can we say, “Metaphor Alert”?!
As I’m sure you’ve already guessed, some other lightbulbs went off in my head while watching HD’s 15 minute lesson. When his swim teachers kept talking about relaxing and letting the breath go, the body be loose, I of course thought of yoga. How many times have I heard (and said!), the body and the mind go where the breath go. If your breath is racing, your heart and your head will be as well. Deep breaths relax us, allow us to move, and sustain us during times of turbulence. How have I never before seen the connection between swimming and yoga? Well, probably because I don’t swim, but lucky for me, I have a friend who is currently teaching an early morning class in the pool and I’ve discovered that starting my mornings early (while subbing at the Y last week and this week) is very worthwhile, so perhaps I’ll get some more practice and peace with the water that way. As with any other mood, kids pick up on our attitudes, and I’m sure Harrison feels my lack of confidence with the water. Beyond getting myself to the pool, now I see how I can help my sweet boy away from the swimming lesson days, as well, by talking about his breath and breathing. We use calming breaths a lot in our house (some days more than others and usually me, not them, but you know – I’m leading by example, right?), but directly talking about relaxing his body while in the pool? That will be new and hopefully very, very helpful.
Really, today was a huge success, not only because HD had a calm lesson before, during, and after, but also because I got to witness him in struggle while simultaneously being presented with a solution for potential improvement. I am grateful for the insight and the knowledge I have through my own training and am fingers crossed that it/I can help him.