Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Learning To Swim

Joy started taking swim lessons when she was almost three.  I signed her up for a pre-beginners class that is basically meant to get kids used to the water and to develop rudimentary swim stroke skills.  The first summer she took lessons, she spent the entire time clinging to the teacher for dear life any time he pulled her off the platform to swim.  I think she only accomplished two skills out of the fifteen necessary to pass to the next level.

The summer she turned four, she did a little better.  Rather than cling for dear life, she only clung tightly.  Her instructor managed to escape her lessons without claw marks.  She marked off three new skills that year.

This past summer she got even braver.  She jumped off the side of the pool from standing rather than sitting, and even attempted jumping once into the instructor's arms versus having to hold onto his hands at all times.  She practiced her swim skills while holding onto a kick board, and held onto her instructors hands versus wrapping her arms as tight as she could around his arms.  It was a successful session with her marking off ten out of fifteen skills.

Later in the summer after lessons were over, I took the kids swimming at a local lake several times.  The water level was about 2.5 feet for a good stretch.  Joy practiced "swimming" by walking her hands along the bottom of the lake.  Then one day I looked over and she was actually moving through the water doing her own version of the front crawl!  It was a very big day for her.  Since then she has practiced her front crawl every time she's gone swimming to the point that she can now swim about ten feet by herself before she runs out of breath and has to stand up.

Despite this accomplishment, she has adamantly refused to even try floating on her back unless someone is holding onto her hands at all times.  Every time we go swimming, I have her try it a few times, and the second I try to let go, she stands up.

Today we took the kids to a pool.  As usual, I tried to teach Joy to swim on her back.  She floated just fine but refused to let me let go.  And then a while later I look over and see Joy lean her head way back, put her arms out and float on her back all by herself.  I cheered so loud for her that Hubby told me to quiet down.  She spent the next hour alternating between the front crawl and floating on her back.

I learned something through this.  Whenever I tried to get her to swim, I always led her out to deeper water because that's where I could more easily stand up.  Deep water is over Joy's head and scared her when I would let go because she knew she couldn't just stand up if she sank.  She taught herself to do the front crawl in shallow water before moving onto deeper water.  She refused to float on her back in five foot deep water today but attempted it on her own in three foot deep water.

Joy is a gal who wants to learn new skills and be brave, she just needs to learn them first in a controlled environment where she can "save herself" if things go wrong.  She shows up in my kitchen to help me cook dinner in an apron, two oven mitts, and safety goggles.  She loves to cook but she doesn't want to get messy, get teary eyed from onions, or burnt on the stove.  She didn't walk until she was fifteen months old when her brother and sister both walked by their first birthdays--not because she couldn't, but because she didn't like falling.  She was just fine walking as long as she could hold onto something or had something right there that she could grab onto when she started to toddle over.

It is no secret to me which parent she takes after.  I loved ice skating and gymnastics and had dreams of being in the Olympics.  The only problem standing between me and the gold medal was a fear of falling.  I didn't want to try "dangerous" tricks because I didn't want to fall and risk getting hurt.  Even now I hate taking risks and trying new things that could lead to my getting hurt.  Hubby suggested we get away for a weekend this winter and go skiing.  I've skied once in my life and all I remember about that adventure was being out of control on a hill and not being able to stop, yelling "Look out!" right before I smacked into a guy that I liked at the time.  Visions of broken ankles and legs swam through my head at Hubby's suggestion and led to my rejection of his idea for something a little less...dangerous.

But I long to be brave, to learn new skills.  I just want to learn them first in a controlled environment where I can "save myself" if/when things go wrong just like Joy.  And so I continue to push myself this year to try new things, learn new things, do things even if they scare me.  Because the only thing standing between me and success is my own fear--sometimes justified, but usually not.

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