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Girl Goes To A Swim Class: Third Time's The Charm?

So we’ve been wrestling with Maddie
and swim lessons all week long; we tried a group swim class a
couple times with disastrous results (see previous entries), and
I’ve begun thinking perhaps my kid’s going to be the
twelve-year-old with water wings and nose clips. In a last-ditch
effort to overcome Maddie’s fear of swim class (not to be
confused with a fear of the water, since she plays for hours on end
in our community pool) we set Maddie up for a few private swim

The issue actually goes deeper than simply swim lessons: this is
Maddie’s first class of any kind, so her first time under
someone else’s authority, her first time in a group learning
situation, and so on. Add to that Madeleine’s reservations
about putting her face in the water, and we’ve got an
emotionally-charged half an hour on our hands. Truthfully,
we’d thought about chucking the whole thing in the garbage
and keeping Maddie out of any kind of lessons for the rest of the
summer; after the trauma she’d had the past few days, we
didn’t want to be making a bigger emotional mess than she
already was in. I mean c’mon, folks, she’s three!

But we know Maddie will have to work with
a teacher at some point – I’m smart, but not that smart
– and water safety is a big issue if we’re going to be
in the pool every day, never mind the fact that my
attention’s split between her and Cora. So we opted to try
one last thing – privates – before throwing in the

Madeleine was agreeable to the privates, as long as the teacher
understood Maddie had no interest in going all the way under water,
and as long as she was the only person in the class. She thought it
sounded fun, and was very interested right up until the moment we
pulled the car into the parking lot.

At which point she started to cry.

Feeling like the wicked witch of the west, I wrangled Cora out of
her car seat, grabbed Maddie, and marched our cheery parade into
the pool room. Madeleine cried harder, declaring she’d
changed her mind and that perhaps she’d try it next week
instead. I bent down in front of her.

“Baby girl, I know you can do this. It will be nothing like
your other swim lesson, and if you don’t like it you never
have to do swim class again. But I know you can do this.”

The teacher picked Maddie up and carried her into the pool room,
just like the previous lessons. At the stairs into the pool she
stopped and instead of carrying Maddie into the water, as she had
before, she set Maddie down and said, “Would you like to step
into the water and play with me?”

Maddie stopped crying, looked at her, and said, “Ok!”
She walked calmly into the water and proceeded to laugh, play, and
yes, swim, for the next thirty minutes.

I finally understand the phrase “weeping with relief”.
As I watched Maddie cruise around the pool (her caveat of staying
on the stairs cheerfully abandoned), kicking and splashing and
making a long alligator nose with her arms, I started crying right
there in the parent observation room: crying with pride in my
brave, beautiful daughter, crying with relief that I’m not
the meanest parent in the world and my gamble paid off, crying for
joy as I saw my baby girl willingly go under water not once, not
twice, but THREE times. Maddie had a wonderful time and talked the
instructor’s ear off; several times in the lesson I saw her
pacing back and forth on the top step, expounding on some topic
(probably Elmo) in all earnestness as she picked up water toys in
ever-deeper water.

I also finally understand why parents will say, “Money is no
object” when they’re not millionaires. I see how much
more Maddie learned in one private than she had in all the other
lessons when bullies and fear were obstacles, and wish I could put
Madeleine in all private lessons. Under the teacher’s
patience and attention, Maddie blossomed in confidence and trust
and willingly tried new things, and I’d empty my bank account
to keep her on that track.

Unfortunately, I know this is just the first step, and she’s
going to have to get into a group class at some point. We’re
hoping we’ll just do a couple weeks of private lessons, get
her used to the teacher, then put her into a new beginner class
with the same teacher later this summer. We’ll see how it
turns out.

For now, we’re basking in Maddie’s triumph; when she
saw her Daddy she said, “Daddy, I had swim class today, and I
wasn’t afraid, and I went all the way underwater THREE
TIMES!” That statement alone is fantastic, but the joy on her
face, the beaming pride and new self-confidence shining out of her,
is priceless. For the rest of the day, there was a lightness, a joy
to Maddie’s play that had been missing all week – as if
a weight had been lifted off of her.

Look out world, because Maddie’s got her groove back.


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