Teaching Your Child to Swim While Achieving Personal Goals

At the beginning of the summer I set a goal for myself…and for Jack. I wanted him to be able to swim on his own with no floating devices. He, of course, had no idea this was coming. Keep reading to find out whether Jack and I reached our personal goals!

Before we ever thought of giving swimming lessons to Jack, I remember hearing about Infant Survival Swimming and absolutely freaking out at the thought of throwing a baby in a swimming pool in hopes it would naturally float to its back. I just thought it sounded so horrible. And then I attempted to give Jack swim lessons. Suddenly, the concept didn’t sound too bad! Think about it, choosing this method you’d never have to go through the agonizing pain of dragging your kid to swim lessons only to have them scream the whole way there, and continue throughout the lesson as they clung on for dear life to the swim teacher’s neck. I’m kidding, of course.

We started introducing Jack to the swimming pool at about 5 months. He liked it and didn’t even cry. He was obviously a natural. Living in New York City in an older apartment building, however, we don’t have the luxury of having our own swimming pool so Jack’s encounters have been few and far between. On vacations we’ve always tried to stay in nice hotels with pools and of course, there were all those trips to Florida to stay with Grammy, but none of it was instructional. In other words, we never made him do anything, much less anything he didn’t want to do.

Judy-isms swimming
Holding on for life

My first attempt at swimming lessons for Jack was when he had just turned 4 years old. A friend and I decided we’d put the boys in a semi-private lesson at a class located in the health club of another apartment building. Big, huge, ginormous mistake! It was so crowded with multiple children of all ages taking lessons at the same time. Total chaos. To make matters worse, because this was the first time either of the boys had instructional swim lessons, neither were confident at all and didn’t want to do anything the teacher asked, including letting go of her neck. I remember the instructor actually tossed Jack in the air to get him off of her. I’m sure that little move scarred him for life. It scarred me.

Reaching the Goal

After putting swimming on hold for several months, I decided to revisit swim lessons ahead of summer camp this year where I knew he would be swimming every day. Thankfully, a good friend of mine had told me about an awesome swim teacher (her name is Kim, but we call her Swim Kim) she was taking her reluctant son to and how well he was doing. I remember first talking to Swim Kim and explaining the prior experience Jack had and she stopped me and said, “Judy, I will have him swimming in 10 lessons…I’m that good.” I was sold.

True to form, the first several lessons were a nightmare. Between the kicking and whining all the way to the pool, to the negotiating with Swim Kim during the entire lesson about what he’d do and not do (I swear Jack is going to be a lawyer), I didn’t think there was any chance Jack would even get in the water much less be swimming by the time camp rolled around.

And then the lesson just before the third week of camp came and all of a sudden Jack was in the water without crying and actually listening to what Swim Kim was saying to him…and he was swimming! And this all happened in less than 10 lessons. Yes, Swim Kim is that good! At the beginning of camp each child is given a test to determine which group they should be in. There are five groups and of course, Jack was in the white or first group. By week three of camp he had moved up to the yellow or second group. He was so proud! This was obviously due to the frequency of swimming each day and the continued lessons with Swim Kim. Oh, and because he was actually enjoying swimming!

Jack never moved out of the yellow group, but it didn’t matter. His swimming improved exponentially and in fact, at the end of camp we got a nice letter from his swim teacher at camp that read in part, “Jack was one of my absolute favorites, even though quite careful and reluctant throughout, he accomplished SO much. In case he did not tell you, he learned to “dive” from the edge of the pool by himself or perform a “blast-off” start, tread water for 10 seconds, and swim two yards of free style – all without any form of assistance.” Uh, he most certainly did not tell us any of that (big shock seeing as all I ever got when asked what he did in swimming that day was, “nothing”). All I can say is…MISSION ACCOMPLISHED!

As parents we put so much pressure on ourselves about teaching our kids to swim. We just need to let them progress at their own pace, with a little encouragement. As I said to Jack, you don’t need to learn how to swim like an Olympic athlete; you just need to learn how to swim. I mean after all, in New York City, we do live on an island!

I’d love to hear from you about any swimming challenges or victories you’ve had with your kids!


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