Saturday, August 04, 2007

8/4/07 The two pools

Today the boys started a 4-class session of swim lessons at the same pool where I swim.

Gabriel really wanted to see a 50-meter pool, and when we arrived, he asked a lifeguard how deep it was. She assured him it was only 3-1/2 feet deep where he'd be swimming, mistaking his question as motivated by fear. No, Gabriel just likes to fish for big numbers. He wasn't impressed with 13-1/2 feet deep.

The boys got put into the same class, and it's small, so in theory, the teacher can adapt the instruction according to the kids' ability. In practice, both of them were given instruction at about the same level a brand-new 2-year-old might get.

The boys clung to the side until the teacher pulled them around in a slow semi-circle, saying "whee!" if they actually put their face in the water. Later, one of the lifeguards told me they'd bump Gabriel up a level, but really, I didn't see anything being taught for little kids that comes close to even Julian's level.

Then again, how would they ever know that he can jump in and swim across the pool taking his own breaths if they don't ask him to? Julian isn't about to volunteer that. And Gabriel does more than that in his Tuesday morning swim lessons -- he works hard, in fact.

We'll bring them back next week, but my guess is that this place is a bust for them too. Not to mention the inevitable complaints about being cold. They're very spoiled by the ultra-warm waters of the teaching pools oriented toward little kids.

Then this afternoon, we went to one of Dave's coworker's annual pool party, in her backyard.

There, we had vindication of sorts. I insisted on being in the water with the boys at first, quickly remembering that even last year, I felt comfortable enough just sitting by the edge and watching them. And this year, Gabriel had no compunction about jumping in the deep part and swimming across to get to a chair. Later, Dave played a game with the boys that involved them swimming -- really swimming -- to retrieve a frisbee.

Even though Dave's been the one taking them to (so far failure) swim lessons on Saturdays, he hasn't seen Gabriel really swim, and he was impressed. Even Julian, once he gets past his initial hesitation, is very comfortable jumping in and making progress toward a target using his arms and kicking.

For me, all the time and expense of swim lessons come together when I see them just....swimming. They're just having fun and playing, but they're both clearly using the skills and confidence they've gotten from swim lessons. Gabriel especially is old enough now that it's really sinking in (hmm, poor choice of words!), since he can follow instructions and remember and his lessons are more than just playtime. It's really gratifying to see them applying what they've learned in a fun context, without thinking about it or concentrating, just....swimming.

In fact, at what age do you stop being completely paranoid about water safety? Knee-jerk answer is to say "never," but really, at some point, you're going to let them swim without being in the water with them, then without being right by the side of the pool. I'm not there yet by any means -- a 5-year-old who doesn't quite make it across the pool and starts to panic can easily drown -- but today I certainly didn't worry watching Gabriel jump into water well over his head, even when I was too far away to rescue him quickly. (In fact, it's become more of a safety hazard for him to jump in where it's too shallow.)

I also saw Gabriel politely, but with clear irritation, ask (demand?) that another much older, bigger kid let go of the chair he was on, when the other kid playfully swam up to it and started spinning it around. "Can you let go of that right now please?" Gabriel insisted. I watched Julian in a similar situation, and he took the opposite approach, instead engaging into the other kids' game.

Katrina joined in the fun too, as did Dave. As soon as I brought her in, she immediately started smiling and flailing around in the water until another grownup approached me -- then she launched into her pitiful cry, clearly mistaking the other adult as a swim teacher. But after some time in the water, she relaxed around other grownups. She was so exuberant that it got hard to hold her, as she splashed and blew raspberries and laughed and tried to jump out of my arms into the water. No problem going underwater either, coming up smiles and raspberries.

I noticed that another 17-month-old toddler there howled wildly when her father attempted to get her to put her head near the water. Though I still firmly believe that kids who haven't had early swim lessons can quickly catch up, there is still a lot to be said for teaching babies. Katrina is a swim-lesson-cryer, unfortunately, but it's entirely related to being held by other adults. She is very, very comfortable in the water and really, really enjoys it.

I attempted a photo-op with all three, but to my surprise, the uncooperative one this time was Julian! And both boys grabbed Katrina so quickly and closely that they'd knock her off balance. So this was the best I could do.

It was a lot of fun going to a party with other grownups -- and this year, lots of other kids -- but I was quickly reminded about the Stage we're in: crawling. It is SO cute, but SO inconvenient in these situations! Katrina really couldn't hang around outside; there were too many people, she could easily get stepped on, and all sorts of little things on the ground that just weren't good for her to have her hands in. I hung around inside the house with her, but even that was very limiting. A crawler is no longer content to sit placidly on a blanket or in a stroller, but there are a lot of places they can't just crawl around.

At the big pool this morning, as Dave was getting the boys dressed after their lesson, I brought Katrina in the stroller into the women's room with me while I got dressed (I snuck in a short swim during the boys' lessons). The floor was wet and full of hair and icky stuff, so there was no way I could let her crawl there either. As I quickly combed my hair and packed up my things, another woman there smiled at Katrina, then recognized me: "Oh I remember you, you were the pregnant one last summer!" The women I got to know a little all knew me as the one who was pregnant and miserable and found swimming to be an essential remedy. It was kind of fun, really, reconnecting with those same ladies -- with the baby there. They didn't even know if I'd had a boy or girl.

Boy, was everyone tired tonight from all the water time today! Katrina zonked early, Julian didn't even make it through dinner, Gabriel was unusually cooperative and efficient getting to bed. My turn.


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