Saturday, July 9, 2011

Hovering over swim lessons

A few friendly coworkers and I were having a conversation regarding cruise vacations for families. I've been on a cruise once and I wasn't exactly a huge fan so for now, I think we'll be sticking to land vacations. Although, I have been told that the ship makes all the difference. Anyway, that's not the point I want to make.

So my coworkers were discussing how great the programs for kids are on these cruises. You drop your kids off, they have a blast and you and your spouse/partner are able to spend some time alone sans kiddos.

"I can't do that," was my response.

"Yes, you can. Your kids are old enough. They only have to be three for this cruise."

"No. I just can't do that."

"Why not?"

"I'm a helicopter parent."

And so there it is. The confession. I fully admit to it. I actually think that I am overprotective and that overprotectiveness has lead to helicopter tendencies. I don't want to blog this huge post right now regarding how I became an overprotective/helicopter parent but I'm sure some of you can figure it out.

Rich and I firmly believe that kids need to be good swimmers. One of my brothers would not be here today if he wasn't a strong swimmer. We wanted to start the girls with swim lessons sooner but we hit a few roadblocks. For little ones, the swim classes are "Mommy & Me" or "Daddy & Me" type programs and we are clearly outnumbered. In addition, it was not unusual for the girls to be hesitant around the water and I didn't want to go into swim lessons with them freaking out.

My father was in the military and the first few years of my swim lessons took place at a naval air station. Oh, you don't want to dunk your head underwater? Okay, we'll just do it for you. Oh, you don't want to jump in the deep end because you really can't swim and you won't be able to stand up? Okay, we'll just throw you in, watch you flounder for a few minutes and then jump in to save you. Oh, you don't want to jump off of the diving board? Don't worry. We will just throw you off.

My brothers and I then took swim lessons with a young woman who lived in our town and had opened up her family's inground pool for swim lessons. We did not learn a thing. I clearly remember fake swimming - trying to kick with one leg while my other leg held me up. My parents finally found a place where we were not tortured but given the lessons that we needed.

The girls had the first swim lesson at the local Y last weekend. I did not have any expectations at all. I should note that my kids like being in the water. Although, Anna has been a bit more hesitant this swim season. I have heard of some places (and see some parents post online) where the parents are not allowed into the pool area while lessons are taking place.

This does not work for me, the overprotective, hovering parent.

Thankfully, the Y does allow parents in. I think it would have been a huge disaster if they didn't.

There ended up being only one other little girl in their class and she arrived late. So we started off the lesson with a young guy as the instructor. You have to understand that this aspect alone had disaster written all over it. My girls do not like boys and they certainly were not going to get into the pool with a complete stranger, who was a BOY.

He had them sitting on the edge of the pool without bubbles or any type of flotation device on. He then placed a U shaped noodle under their arms and told them to slide into the pool. The girls just stared at him. He kept trying to convince them to get into the pool, which was so no okay with me. They don't know how to swim AT ALL and holding onto a noddle doesn't exactly seem to be very safe.

After a few minutes of the noodle nonsense, I explained to him that they don't know how to swim AT ALL at that they were not going to slide into the pool holding onto a noodle because they don't know how to swim AT ALL. This was a super beginner level I class as well. We made no misrepresentations regarding their abilities.

He responded with, "Okay, why don't we put bubbles on them."

At this point Rich and I were clearly becoming frustrated. The instructor then suggested that the girls, now armed with bubbles on their backs and a noddle, try entering the pool from the stairs. Em showed some bravery but would not go in if the instructors was waiting for her in the pool. Someone clearly needed to be in the pool to show them how to get their balance. This of course ended up being me. Well, I didn't go in the pool but the bottom of my rolled up capris were soaked.

Finally (and I mean FINALLY) a female instructor from another class came over and Em went right to her. As did the other girls. She sent the male instructor over to teach the other class, which had two instructors, and told us that the male/female issue happens quite often. They are supposedly going to change so that there is a female leading the girls' class.

The lesson mainly consisted of the girls practicing their kicking and scooping and throwing rubber duckies out into the pool and then "swimming" out to get them. The girls still had their bubbles on and were using the noodles. Allie and Em did great. At one point, the instructor let go of Allie and she was swimming by herself. Anna was a bit hesitant but still tried. She was clearly afraid of getting her face wet.

At the end of the class, they took turns jumping into the pool. The instructor did hold their hands but the last time, she was barely touching Allie and Em. She had made a comment during class when they climbed out of the pool that they must have had lessons before. When I told her no, they hadn't, she told me that they did very well for their first time.

Let's hope we have some little fish soon!


Tracey's Life said...

I used the YMCA for lessons for my kids and we did it for many years until they were "Flying Fish". It worked for me, but I get the concern with having to watch 3. You may wish to inquire at your Y what rate would they charge for semi-private lessons for your girls if you see the class size growing. It does take time - hang in there and they will learn. You are correct in teaching them to swim - it is incredibly important. I am amazed how many kids cannot swim at our High School where the kids are required to take swim in PE.

Wendy said...

Sarah, I can't even tell you how terrified of swimming lessons I am for the girls. Our Y is one of the ones that doesn't let you near the pool, and there is NO WAY I am ok with that. M&L would never go in with just a noodle, either. What the hell was that kid thinking? I can't even think about them being allowed to jump in the pool even with a floatie on. No way. Water is my biggest fear. :/

Michelle said...

Sarah my kids go to the Y here near us on Cape. My oldest, Niamh, loved it from Waterbabies up until Pikes. One day her teacher was out sick and a male teacher filled in. She cried right away when he got in the pool and has refused to go back. I am so sad because she LOVED it. I am going to try again in the Fall.

Glad to hear the girls loved it.

Michele said...

We started when Madeleine and Lily were 3, and I'm so glad we did. The entire first summer was about bribery with ice cream for getting your face wet. I also switched to private lessons for the last two summers for just our family, and we've gone with the female instructor thing too.

They are actually swimming on their own this summer (although Lily doesn't have enough meat on her bones to actually float yet), and it's so nice. We actually were at the pool for two whole hours yesterday. I was in the water with them, but it was nice

Kendra said...

I found your blog through Disboards and it's very cute. I am a helicopter parent as well. I am trying to be better about it but I can't seem to stop worrying. I'm glad the swimming lessons went so well! :)

~Jess said...

Good job girls! We started swimming lessons last year with our daughter (she was 9 months). It's PACA (parent and child aquatics)...just getting them familiar with water, this year we did the same thing, but it's more like what you have going on.

I don't blame you at all for being a "helicopter" parent.

Hope's Mama said...

I hate reading "judgey" things about "helicopter parents". I'm one too. I think you can guess why. No doubt the same reason you are.
Thinking of you, Sarah.

Pyjammy Pam said...

Oh man, you would NOT like the lessons the boys are getting now! :D It's more of the Marine-style you mentioned, but a littler gentler. At least I can be there to watch!

moplans said...

glad it went well in the end! that is quite a lot of progress over one class.