“No, stop! No! I don’t want to! Help!”
How often do I hear those words at the pool or the lake? Sadly, way too often as parents force their terrified children to float, swim, or be alone in the water.
Another parent once commented to me how comfortable Dylan is in the water. We were 15 feet out in a lake and Dylan was up to his chin in the water.
I said loving the water was important to me and so I’d taken him to pools, lakes, rivers, and the ocean since he was a baby.
She gestured to her son, who was sitting on the bank afraid to venture in alone, “I see. We’ve never pushed him like that.”
What? No, no, no. What a misunderstanding!
Most of the kids I see in the water are pushed and pressured in some way. They take swimming lessons as young as toddlers. They wear arm floaties, and their parents let go of them in the water even when they’re scared. Their parents coax them to come in, coax them to jump, coax them to come deeper.
I personally love the water. I love pools, lakes, streams, rivers, the Gulf, the Atlantic, the Pacific, baths, showers, the rain, you name it. I love the water so much I chose the word Waters as my last name.
It is incredibly important to me that my kid love the water, too. If it turns out that he doesn’t, I’ll get over it. But I am determined to do my part to help him love the water.
Notice that I said “love the water” and not “be an expert swimmer before age 5”. People who love the water will learn to swim. But some people who learn to swim hate the water. Maybe it’s all that fear, pressure, and coercion.
“We’ve never pushed him like that.”
I have never, ever, ever pushed, pressured, coaxed, or encouraged Dylan to do any particular thing in the water.
I have only brought him to the water.
I have only been together with him with the water.
Sometimes it’s a lake and he sits in just a few inches in while I go out and swim.
Once we got in a canoe, and he said he was scared, so we got right back out.
Sometimes it’s been the ocean and I didn’t act like he was weird if he just played in the sand all day.
He’s never worn a floatation device except when it was required by law. I’ve only ever wanted him to go as far into the water as he was comfortable, with his own body.
As all of this is going on I can see him learning to swim. It’s slow, yes. It’s a years-long process instead of 8 sessions of swim lessons that leave some kids in tears.
It’s a gentle process, unfolding before my eyes. The way he moves in the water changes every year as he experiments with arm and leg movements, floating, and his face in the water. Someday he’ll be able to swim as easily as I do, a dance between himself and the water.
For now, my desire to help him love the water has already succeeded. This summer he has requested that we go to the pool every single day. Yes! This is a life goal I can get behind!
Welcome to the water, kid.