The Horror Of Swimming Lessons

Last week they loved swimming; this week they can't touch the water without sobbing


I couldn’t keep them out of the pool. This week, I can’t get my daughter Adelaide into it.

Earlier this summer I signed up (and paid for) all three of my girls to go to swimming lessons. They started this week. The older two are learning different strokes, how to dive and things of that nature.

Adelaide, who is four, was all gung-ho to start lessons so she would no longer be shamed by the dreaded "wearing of the arm floaties.”

But something (I don't know what) happened between last week when we were in the South visiting family - and swimming - and this week when Adelaide made her big debut at the community pool.

Last week, we swam every single day and there were no tears at all. There was no “I’m scared. It’s too deep. Water will get in my eyes. Someone will splash me. I will go under!”

There was no “My head hurts. My belly hurts. I have to pee. My leg hurts. I need my towel. I’m hungry. I need my goggles. I think I have to poop. I hear thunder. Do you hear thunder? I think my arm doesn’t work anymore. Look at my arm!”

There was no “I can’t swim in there. I can only swim next to Sadie and Josie. I don’t like that teacher. He looks mean. He looks like someone I don’t think I like. He has scary sunglasses. I need a girl teacher.”

I told her she was being silly. The teacher was nice and I would be right there at the edge of the pool.

“I cannot get in.”

I showed her all the other kids who were having fun and how the water barely reached their belly buttons.

“I am not going to do it.”

I showed her the games, the plastic rings, the foam noodles.

“Uh-uh. I’m not getting in.”

I pointed out that the water was only one foot deep. ONE FOOT.

“I am NOT.”

I coaxed. I reasoned. I pleaded. I got mad. I threatened. I yelled.

I wasted $30.

Last week, Adelaide jumped right into the pool and swam around like a fish. Last week, she said she wanted to be a dolphin when she grows up. Last week, she didn't want to dry off.

This week, she threw herself down on the (dry) concrete and cried.

Kids are so weird.

Kate Pitrone August 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM
A person can drown in a foot of water. I, too, developed a fear of water while taking swimming lessons. My fear was about having my face in the water. I could control my horror while putting face in the water and blowing bubbles. I could even stand swimming with my face in the water for a few feet. Then I had to right myself and breathe like a normal person. Dead man's float was terrifying. I did it not to be spoken to firmly but gently, but I hated it. I didn't float, but slowly sank, tipping like the Titanic "You are not relaxed enough!" Who could relax in that position?
Kate Pitrone August 12, 2012 at 01:59 PM
Australian crawl was what really did me in. I could not concentrate to coordinate arms, legs, and face turning in and out of the water to breathe. The latter, of course, is key to swimming more than a few feet. All I could feel was panic rising while trying to learn that coordination. The sense of panic was what drove me from the water. I still cannot swim. Or rather cannot swim well, because I learned the mechanics. I was forced to at the Lake County Y by a tough woman instructor who I now know must have been very, very patient. As an adult, I heard stories about my almost drowning when I was very young: from bathing incidents to floundering in pools when Dad dropped me more than once. Once I was put on a big slide by older kids who didn't know I couldn't swim and then I couldn't find my balance in the water when I hit it. Those stories I didn't know when young, but the images of them were in my mind. Every slip I made, every rush of water up the nose and I saw those images and knew I would die. I don't know what to tell you, what will get Adelaide beyond fear. Perhaps a return to arm floaties? What I can tell you is that the fear is an awful feeling. I feel sorry for your girl and for you having to cope with this for her. God bless you!
Callie E. August 12, 2012 at 08:26 PM
You never know what's going to scare a kid one day but they'll love it the next! I like her list of excuses though! I'm going to use some of those next time I need to get out of work! ;-)-
Maritza Loechtenfeldt August 13, 2012 at 02:10 AM
I understand her fear and your frustration. I once paid $80 for ice skating lessons, only to watch my then 4 year old pout and cry on the edge of the rink for 6 weeks! I still RSVP "No" to any skating party events, be it birthdays or fund raisers :(
gail gorby August 13, 2012 at 11:27 AM
To funny !!! Love it !
Devone August 13, 2012 at 07:14 PM
Thanks Kate for sharing your story - I'm not going to try and force her... we will just give it another try next year. I would hate for her to not be able to get over her fear just because I pushed her too hard. I think I'll try one of those floating swimmy suits instead of the arm floaties... maybe that will help.
Devone August 13, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Yes, she is a genius when it comes to those... :)
Devone August 13, 2012 at 07:16 PM
Oh no, Maritza! You lost even more $ than we did! We are scared (or rather, I am scared) of ice skating, too... maybe she would try that, though... I wonder if they'd give me a free lesson to try it out, though!
Devone August 13, 2012 at 07:16 PM
It wasn't funny while I was there! hahaha
Lisa Pitsenbarger August 15, 2012 at 06:16 AM
Oh my goodness, I TOTALLY understand! Been there, done that! I'll have to tell you my Jacob story when I see you... hang in there!! :o)
Sharon August 16, 2012 at 03:49 AM
I know how she felt; I was terrified when taking swimming lessons, and I was much older than Adelaide (28 yrs. old). It does seem strange that she loved the pools during the summer trip, though, maybe it had something to do with the situation. It was not as serious then, and nothing was expected of her. BLESS HER HEART!


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