Tuesday, July 28, 2009

The Swimming Lesson.

Nolan loves to swim. When he was three, one of the first things we did upon moving back to Minnesota was to enroll him in parent and child swimming lessons.

Day one I was polling other parents as to when they thought our kids would go under the water. With much convincing and coaxing most hoped by the end of the class. Nolan made it to day two. He let go of my hands and thrust his head down under the water and I could see the smile forming on his lips before he even surfaced for air. As it just so happens, I may be a bit taken with the water myself. It would surprise me not if I too sported the smallest of smiles. From then on, he and his little blue-belted-body boldly ventured further and further out into the pool and so began my earnest attempts to keep up.

We never had to question if he was ready for the water or the new skill his teachers were introducing. He sailed through his classes. Last summer he started in level two, passed to three, spent a week there and was moved up to level 4. I saw him emerge as a confident and strong swimmer.

I was so excited to begin our lessons last week. I, too, went through the entire series of lessons. I know from experience at this level the strokes would be harder to perform. They will require some skill and finesse, some coordination and a desire to perfect them. But Nolan has never lacked in determination. Until now.

I knew it would happen at some point. A teacher that doesn't mesh with Nolan. And in an effort to demand the very best out of Nolan, this new swim teacher threatened to "punish" the class when Nolan didn't perform. Now the weather has not been hot enough to swim every day like we normally do. Plus he was also somewhat leery of the whole 50 minutes being in the deep end of the pool. So when they were told to tread water, Nolan had a hard time wanting to let go of the edge of the pool for long periods of time. The teacher told the class that every time Nolan touched the wall, they would have to tread water LONGER.

It was no surprise today when Nolan woke with a "sore throat." He whispered that he wouldn't be able to go to swimming lessons for the rest of this week. He looked defeated. He tried to dig in his heels when I protested. I debated a long time on what to do. A part of me didn't want to force him to go, and it had nothing to do with his throat.

Still another part of me wanted to be THAT parent. The kind that swoops in, rescues their child and gives the instructor a piece of her mind. But a quieter part of me, desperately wanted Nolan to figure this out on his own. I thought to myself, how many times have I wanted to quit something? Too many to remember. But after sticking most of those things out for awhile, I realized sometimes when I struggled the most, things turned out the best. I'd find an inner quality I didn't know I had. I developed an ability to persevere. I wasn't and still am not, a quitter.

So Nolan and I agreed. It was his decision. But if he was quitting, he was going to tell his teacher face to face himself. We even role-played the kinds of things his teacher might say in an effort to talk him out of it. Slowly I could see something soften in Nolan. He finally looked at me and said "Do you really think he will want me to stay? 'Cause I was thinking he wouldn't care." I assured him I thought his teacher would care. Without saying anything he went and put on his suit and we left for the pool.

I watched and listened from the sidelines and I said a little prayer. "Please let today be different."

And then I heard the words I'd been dreading... "and if you touch the wall, we'll DOUBLE your time treading water today." Then, after a bit of a pause I heard... " JUST KIDDING!! Lets see who can tread water the longest today!"

In no way did this sound threatening, much more fun in a competitive way. I still saw Nolan reach for the wall, but this time no body said anything. This young instructor continued to engage the kids in a playful manner today. He threw the rings that Nolan is always so eager to retrieve. He loosened up and seemed to enjoy the experience.

My confident swimmer emerged again. He came home begging to go to the outdoor pool today to practice. We spent several hours swimming together today, just a mom and her son, still enjoying their love of the water. And yes, just like when he was three, I am still attempting to just keep up!


  1. Awesome story. What a great mom to let him make the decision.
    By the way, I dropped out of beginners (and I was in 4th grade) the last day, because I was scared to jump off the board.

  2. Vicky, I love how you guided him in the right direction yet let it seem like it was all his doing.

    It so hard to sit back as a parent knowing that our children could get hurt emotionally. I'm glad this was a happy story and some positive action and thinking worked.

  3. Glad that it turned out so well...me - I would have probably bonked the teacher upside the head. You are a better person than I!

  4. This is a great story, Vicky. You are a wise Mom...and your son is a brave young man. I'm wondering what changed the swimming teacher's tone/mind...It seems that he might have gathered that his strategy wasn't working...but whatever it was, I'm glad that it worked out for you and your son.
    Smiles from Jackie

  5. Bonnie, its was HARD to sit back though and just watch.

    Liss, ultimately I would have gotten involved if I had to, but I was hopeful for a good outcome.

    Libby :) :) Now why doesn't that surprise me? A mother of 10 has her days, no doubt!

    Jackie, I wondered the same thing. My hail mary attempt at a prayer perhaps? Or maybe just a good weekend on his part? I'll take it whatever it was.

  6. Thanks for the comment on my last post. I'm glad that not all of my blog friends view me the way Anonymous does. Those mean comments really hurt my feelings. I try not to let it get to me, but I fail! Did you know that a few of your friends have stopped by my blog to say hello and send me their prayers. Stillness Speaks and Jackie have both dropped in and left me some comment love. You aeem to surround yourself with such kind people!
    So glad that the swimming is going better for your son! Wonder what caused the coach to change his attitude? Divine intervention perhaps?

  7. Lol, sorry for the typo in the last comment. I was trying to say that you seem to surround yourself with kind people!

  8. Kaleena, I do have some incredibly kind blog peeps :) Yourself included! I am so glad Stillness and Jackie came to leave you some encouragement! You just come back if you need some reassurance that you deserve nothing but the best!

  9. So glad that turned out well! I was steaming in the beginning! I hate when teachers do that! Swimming is a great sport!

  10. Wow. Way to go, Mama. It is SO hard when kids struggle through classes. This is a great lesson for Nolan, for Vicky, and for all your readers. Makes me take a big breath and...exhale.

  11. You are just the best mom Vicky...I love watching you parent from afar...and you're a mighty good girl too. I would have tied an anchor to that teachers ankle and let him tread water for a little while. Hum...not really but I would have threatened him with that. I'm not such a good girl :)
    love you and I'm joining you today in prayer for our girl Gitz and baby Stellan...

  12. Pat on the back for letting your son make his own decisions and standing by him no matter what he decides and what the outcome! I shall come back to you for Mommy lessons :)

  13. Missy, I know, ME TOO! Steamed I tell you! But willing to let it play out a bit to see what would happen and relieved it got better.

    Anita, yes, way hard to watch them struggle. But I fear becoming a helicopter parent in the worst sense of the word, so I am working on it.

    Robin, you're too kind, and you should have seen the things I envisioned doing to him! But he is a young college student who may know swimming, but just not a lot about encouraging kids... so I cut him some slack. I assure you not always such a good girl... different blog, different day for those stories!

    Stillness, yikes, I think I got a bit lucky on that one, truthfully, but thanks for the sweet compliment!


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