I'm the kind of person who skips to the conversation when reading a book.

Swim Lessons

Confession: I am a softy.

I am a total marshmallow when it comes to making kids do things.  (The only exception is when they are in danger.  “GET OUT OF THE ROAD!” is non-negotiable when there is an oncoming vehicle.)  I guess I believe that, the vast majority of the time, kids will do things when they are ready to do those things.  It’s important for them to be allowed to do things on their time schedule, not mine.

Learning to swim is a case in point.  With Level One lessons, I am fine letting them play on the steps.  We play little games to put faces in the water and to float, but I’m not even remotely pushy.  Play, have fun, come back next week — that would pretty much sum up my instruction with them.

Lately, I’ve had a very dear long-time friend, KT, helping me with my Level 1 class.  She and I complement one another beautifully.  I love working with her.  For one thing, since KT came to help, the kids are advancing in their skills so much faster.

Trying to get up the courage to put face in water...

Trying to get up the courage to put face in water…

KT’s style is sterner.  “I know you can put your face in the water,” she says to the little non-swimmer.

When their little mouths pucker up and their eyes start filling (and not with pool water), she says, “I know it’s scary, but you can do it.”

When they whine at her, “But I CAN’T do it!” —

She responds with a short, simple, “Yes, you can.”  And then she waits them out, standing in front of them in the water.

She’s always right.  They can indeed do it. And the joy on their faces is precious.

They eventually put their faces in the water for me, too.  I just sometimes wait weeks, patiently playing and encouraging.

The other day was funny, though.  KT and I both laughed and laughed about it.  Class always ends with a jump from the side into the pool.  This is an incredibly scary thing for some of them.

A few wave me aside. “I can do this myself,” they proudly say.

Others wave me closer, and closer, and closer, until I am literally holding their hands while they jump.  I don’t mind.  I figure that when they’re ready, they’ll jump alone.

While I am moving closer and closer because a little person is beckoning, KT stands her ground. “Nope,” she says. “You can do it.  I’m right here to help you if you need it, but you don’t need me to hold your hand.”

So, the other day, our little class of five non-swimmers got out of the water to form two line for that final jump into the water.  Four of the five stood in a line in front of me.  One lonely little boy stood in front of KT.  He looked at the other line and realized he had made a critical error.

“You’ll catch me, won’t you?” he asked KT.

“Nope,” she said. “I know you can do this.”

KT and I looked at each other and laughed.  The little boy looked longingly at the other line.

I drew my “X” in the water for the first child to jump in and held out my arms.  She beckoned me closer.  I moved toward her and KT laughed again. “They’ve got your number,” she said.

“And they’ve got your number, too,” I called back, catching the little mermaid-wannabe who flung herself towards me.

Solitary boy made a move to come over to my line. “No, you don’t,” KT said.

I caught another little swimmer and he watched.

“But… but….” he said, trying to think of some really good reason why he should be with me.

Finally he was the only child waiting on the edge.  KT waited patiently.  I laughed.

And then, finally, he jumped.  All by himself.  Into the pool.

His smile, when he came up, was priceless.

There are days I wish I were more like KT, and yet, I think we balance each other quite well.

Who would you rather take swim lessons from?



6 comments on “Swim Lessons

  1. Judith (Guion) Hardy
    January 23, 2013

    I would prefer you but probably go to KT. I guess it’s my independent streak. I’ve got to do it “myself”.

    • sarahlangdon
      January 24, 2013

      The funny thing is I probably would have gone to KT for the same reason. The old independent streak will get you every time.

  2. Alyssa
    January 24, 2013

    Your style reminds me of my mom. One summer when I was about 6, my family vacationed in Williamsburg, VA. My dad took my sisters to a nearby waterpark, but I refused to go. Instead, I stayed at the hotel swimming pool with my mom because I knew she would catch me. Over and over I would stand on the side of the pool, floaties on my arms, and work up the nerve to jump. Every single time we went through this rigamarole: “Are you going to catch me?” “Yes.” “Are you going to let my face get wet?” “No.” “Are you sure you’re going to catch me?” “Yes, I promise.” “Come a little closer.”

    I would pick you.

    And yes, I did finally learn to swim when I was good and ready. Sometimes, when I’m feeling really adventurous, I even let my face get wet.

    • sarahlangdon
      January 24, 2013

      I love it! That is most definitely me. Now let me teach you how to really swim.

  3. KT
    January 24, 2013

    hahaha that was pretty funny! I told a couple people, but it is hard to capture the visual humor in words, it is almost one of those, “you had to be there” moments. We do compliment each other well, and I love working with you too. I guess I am a little tough, but it is tough love, as you well know. I love the kids, and most definitely love teaching swimming for the last 30 years. Can’t wait til next week!

    • sarahlangdon
      January 24, 2013

      And I love teaching with you, too! I always learn something from you.

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