Thursday, August 30, 2012

Swimming Lessons

This summer has been all about swimming.  In late spring, the boys took swim classes, Gryffin a beginning class & Skyler level 4 "Stroke Development".  They passed their classes with excellent marks (proud mama that I am, I put the only 'report cards' they've ever received on the fridge) and took their new-found skills into the summer.  Since then, the boys and I have found any excuse to swim.  We are all much happier in the water.

Gryffin 'swimming' on my back -- this is my favorite picture of myself, go Erik!
Skyler has been swimming independently for years, mostly UNDER the water.  Now I watch Skyler execute a rather good, and (in typical Skyler fashion) very quick crawl, complete with the dreaded rotary breathing.  When we swim across that small cove in Walden, he's much faster than I (I prefer the sedate & slow side stroke). 

Skyler has always LOVED being in water.  When he was an infant, and even a toddler, baths were our go-to cure for teething bouts, insomnia, grumpy days, illness, heat waves, boredom.   But being out in water over his head was a challenge for Sky.  Feeling nervous and out of control, he would cling to me like a little koala.  I couldn't understand his discomfort -- Skyler!  Who was so fearless about any other physical challenge, nervous about swimming?  Why, I'd been taking him to the water since he was tiny!  And me, I loved swimming, how could he not?  Then, when Sky was 3 years old we BOTH had a series of nightmares about him and the water.  At this point I figured the divine (or my sub-conscious, whatever) was giving me a pretty strong message & I should probably just let the swimming thing go...and I did.  Water was playtime, but just to his waist.  So what transitioned Skyler from this child afraid of going into water over his head to the cormorant-like swimmer he is today?  The gift of fins & a mask when he was about 4 1/2.  Almost instantly Sky was swimming independently, under water, diving, doing flips, out in deep water.  The mask helped Skyler not only see under water, but helped prevent water from going up his nose.  But the fins were even more important -- they helped him swim fast enough that he could stop himself from sinking (my 0 body-fat boy has no buoyancy), he could now literally keep his head above water.  Now he swims beautifully, without the props, and chooses to stay under water.  

Gryffin has had a slightly different journey into the deep end. G has always been scarily fearless about the water.  At 6 months, while in vacation Florida, he crawled directly into the ocean up to his chin & would have kept going if I hadn't grabbed him back.  He was that toddler that walked off the steps of the pool into water over his head.  His preferred way to play at Walden was in water up to his chin, walking on tip-toes to keep his head above water.  Unlike Sky, he didn't really like being held out in deep water (although he'd swim on my back for a bit).  At swim classes last spring Gryffin figured out that he could swim independent of adults, with just a noodle under his arms - I wish I could duplicate in writing the sound of his delighted squeal.  Imagine a very roo-like "look at me swimming!". 

Even more exciting was the moment this summer Gryffin started swimming "for real".   Gryffin taught himself to swim at Walden on a rare visit when Skyler was in camp, so just the two of us were at the pond.  I was on the phone embroiled in a very intense conversation with my sister, while vaguely keeping an eye on Gryffin.  I noticed him bringing his large bucket out into the water where he turned it upside down and jumped off.  It took me an embarrassingly long time to notice, but eventually it occurred to me that he was jumping off the bucket and swimming for about 4 feet.  In a nice tidy dog paddle.  Well, that was the beginning & now he swims comfortably for about 10 feet before needing to put his feet down or grab onto my shoulder.  He's working on his diving and his back float.  He's had his first experience swimming independently in the ocean (playing a frightening for mama game called "rescue", where he dumped himself - without warning - off of his boogie board and would fight the waves to swim to me or Sky). 


I take from my boys and their adventures in swimming a few lessons about learning, individual timing, and faith. When Sky was 3, I couldn't have imagined him the same child who I struggle to keep up with as we swim.  I am reminded that my job is to give them opportunities, and then the space and time to explore on their own.  Gryffin's self-taught swimming reminds me that the explorations that make me nervous may be the exact exploration they need to move forward.  I take in the lesson that sometimes they learn more if I'm not watching.  My boys continue to teach me to have faith in them,in their process and pace.  I take from them a reminder that children are not taught.  Children learn.  And that when the timing is right that learning happens effortlessly, and with joy.



  1. This is great! Ironically I will be taking Shay on his first swimming lesson this Saturday, and really enjoyed hearing about your boys and there different experience with water...
    We love you guys and can't waite to see all of you.


    1. Glad you stopped by! Enjoy your lesson with Shay -- it is such FUN to be in the water with those happy, squirmy little people. Love you too!

  2. I found your blog via a national homeschooling list, but it looks like you might be from our neck of the woods.

    I loved reading about your boys' evolution as swimmers. The pictures are beautiful, too! My kids are pretty much afraid of the water, despite a lot of water time when they were babies and later weekly one-on-one lessons. My 7yo has said emphatically that she does NOT want to take swim lessons anymore, so I guess we'll just hang out in the shallow water and wait until she's ready.

    1. Thanks CJ! I think swimming is one of things that tends to backfire on us when we push too hard...but I do think our own joy in the water is a wonderful model for our little ones. I'm glad you stopped by & thanks for the comment :)