We arrived at the kids’ first swimming lesson yesterday and the instant we entered the indoor pool area I remembered a critical piece of information about swimming lessons: the person not submerging themselves in water should dress appropriately for the sweltering air temperature. Which is to say, jeans and a sweatshirt are a bad idea.

Dylan, who until that very moment had been chattering nonstop about how excited he was for swimming, burst into tears at the sight of the sweet-faced young instructor. Our previous swim teacher had simply ferried Riley through the water, tears and all, distracting him with floating toys, but this girl blinked at Dylan’s sniveling downturned lip and informed me she didn’t think it was a good idea to push things.

There he sat on the edge of the pool the entire half hour while she interacted with the three other small children. Once or twice she approached him, he shook his head, and she shrugged and left. Soon he forgot what he was upset about and began kicking happily, then reaching down to splash the water. I stared holes through his back while sweat coursed down my forehead, waiting for the inevitable moment when he would fall in, and so at least it wasn’t much of a surprise when he eventually did and I was able to quickly race forward and snag one fish-slippery arm in order to haul him out as he bobbed back toward the surface.

The instructor raised her eyebrows sympathetically at me, then turned back to the other kids.

Eventually it was Riley’s turn for his lesson and I spent most of the time attempting to pull dry clothes onto Dylan, wondering just what sort of physics transformation takes place with children where their damp skin becomes like Superglue to fabric, then I had to keep Dylan away from the edge of the pool while we waited for Riley, then I helped stuff Riley into his own clothes, then I drove home where I staggered across the doorway and collapsed in a pool of sweat on the living room floor while the boys started running from one of the house to the other shouting “PSHEW! PSHEW! PSHEW!”

So obviously, my big plan for helping the kids siphon off some pent-up energy through swimming is going really really well. I don’t even know what to do now because jesus, I don’t want to spend two afternoons a week poised in a breathless, heart-hammering crouch by the edge of the pool, ready to save the toddler from drowning. I sort of want to tell this girl to nut up and just grab my reluctant whiny-ass kid because he’ll be FINE IN TWO MINUTES IF SHE DOES, but then again, I suppose it’s not technically in their job description to deal with reluctant whiny-ass kids.

Should I just get in the water with him next time, if he withdraws from her again? Sidle over and hiss death threats into his perfect shell-pink ear? Say fuck it and give up on lessons for him right now?

Trouble:

trouble

Mr. Easy-Peasy, comparatively speaking:

riley

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Ashley, the Accidental Olympian

Don’t give up. I’d ask her next time to force him in. As a swim instructor sometimes we didn’t want to push and then be reprimanded by uptight parents.

So if you give her the go ahead to force him in, she’ll probably be relieved.

Jessica
Jessica
13 years ago

At the very least, you shouldn’t have to pull your kid out when he falls in the pool! I would have put a complaint in about the instructor not making additional efforts to get Dylan in the pool.

emily
emily
13 years ago

Maybe go in before the lesson with them/him until he gets used to the water and then hand him over to her?

caleal
caleal
13 years ago

Except it is her job! If she’s a toddler swim instructor, she should be used to dealing with toddlers. Maybe it would be a good idea to next in next time if it doesn’t seem like she can get him over that herself.

Gnometree
13 years ago

I wouldn’t get in with him, but i would sit on the edge of the pool with him. Maybe he’s not ready? do you pay for each lesson individually, or is it a pay up front kind of thing. If you only pay for each lesson, I’d tell him he’s not having a lesson this week, just let riley swim and see how he reacts to that

Jessica V
13 years ago

I used to go in w/my son at first, even though the class was not “mommy and me.” The instructor was OK with it and it only took a couple of classes for my son to warm up before he didn’t need me in the pool to participate. However, I hate swim class – as you say, it is super muggy in the pool area, but then freezing in the locker rooms (at least ours is) so not only are you struggling with the kids but you are turning blue and shivering yourself.

Glad Dylan was OK – super scary!

sara
sara
13 years ago

Take them swimming for fun one night when you get into the water with him and then he’ll be ready for the water during lessons. You can teach him to float yourself. Maybe talk to the instructor ahead of time or call around for lessons that will be more hands-on with a reluctant child. I don’t think it’s abnormal to fear getting into water when you can’t swim and your in the hands of a person you’ve never met…seems sort of logical actually.

Deb
Deb
13 years ago

She SHRUGGED when your kid who DOESN’T KNOW HOW TO SWIM FELL IN?

Holy crap. I just started my kids two weeks ago, and put them both in the same class. Could you maybe move Riley back until Dylan feels more comfortable? My kids are much more confident with their best friend beside them.

On the second lesson, I was in the doghouse with the instructor because my Super! Enthusiastic! daughter does not excel at listening or waiting her turn. She kept jumping in when he wasn’t looking. Freaked him out, you know – with the whole possibility of drowning and all.

*sigh*

I am old enough to be the instructor’s mom, so that was extra awesome.

Good luck, dude.

Nolita Morgan
13 years ago

I vote for “hiss death threats into his perfect shell-pink ear”… but maybe that’s because that comes easy to me these days… I usually don’t LOL about anything, but I did with this thought!

Next time will be better I am sure…as long as you remember to dress in layers (of terry cloth!).

Maybe tell Dylan that if he doesn’t want to do the lesson, he can stay home with a sitter? And that you and Riley will be going for ice cream later.. no? Too much?

Kizz
13 years ago

I mean, I’m no expert but I’m firmly in the “don’t get in” camp and also in the “ask her to nut up” camp. I’m sure there’s a nice way to sort of ease into it like, “He gets a little squirrelly in new situations but, especially after watching last week, I feel he’s ready to just go in with you. I really think he’ll be fine.” Or, you know, something less stilted but equally true.

Good luck!

Michelle
Michelle
13 years ago

It is ABSOLUTELY in her job description to deal with “reluctant whiny-ass kids.” That’s pretty much the EXTENT of the job description for the toddler level. I know, I taught it every summer, all through college. A lot of lifeguards liked the older kids, since you can just tell them what to do and teach them to actually swim, but I loved the little ones. But yes, the job is getting them INTO the water and helping them be SAFE in it. That’s the job. So for her to 1) not get him into the water in any real way and 2) not be WATCHING him and not be PROSTRATE at your feet for letting him slip under is so, so VERY unacceptable to me. Especially since there were only four kids! Really not OK at all.

Whew. I apparently have Lifeguard Opinions on this.

Jessica
Jessica
13 years ago

You pay for these lessons, yes? If so, then she needs to take him in with her! Can you put water wings on him? My kid was afraid of water until he learned to float by himself and now.

Jessica
Jessica
13 years ago

oops, now he is a happy little fish.

Courtney
13 years ago

As a former swim instructor, and one who admittedly was pretty young when I did it, I would have been relieved to be told that I had permission to do everything possible to get the kid into the water, even if it meant tears. For a while, I was afraid a crying kid meant an unhappy parent. Then it dawned on me that a crying kid meant an uncomfortable, scared kid, and if I could get that kid past being scared of the water, I’d accomplished my job as a Level 1 (also known as starfish) instructor.

Heading to the pool for free swim might be fun, but it could also be scary. Lots of splashing, horsing around and loudness. That said, it could help get Dylan into the water without the added drama of a stranger encouraging him to do something he thinks he shouldn’t.

I’m sure they’ll be successful eventually! Maybe tell them about how you had to learn to swim as an adult so you could participate in a triathlon? And that you were scared and uncomfortable but once you TRIED it got better (even if the last part was a lie).

jen (melty)
jen (melty)
13 years ago

I forced it. And I had to force it every day for almost a whole session until it stopped. And then I went back for the next session and he KNEW the teacher and yet.. still had to force it. But he was FINE once he got in. And I totally had to fish my own kid out of the water once, but I don’t blame the instructor, who was busy fishing another kid out of teh water at the time, I blame the 2 lifeguards who were standing at the edge of the pool chatting! I had to push past them to grab him. Good thing I was watching… because I became incapable of speech and had to walk from the bleachers.

I hated it and we dont’ do it anymore and now I”m all nostalgic and weepy. But it was a hassle, a pita, the sweating and the freezing and the dressing and the showering and fighting over the shower and by the end of it I was the cranky one.

If I knew then what I know now? I might have taught them more myself. I had my 2yo almost swimming by himself at one point, all on my own doing.. and then I put him in Y classes and he had a really awesome teacher, who had watched me teaching him and kept up with it, and then he had 3 really wussy teachers where he regressed and the never pushed him.

BTW I DID take my kids in for “fun” swimming and they had a blast, swimming around like little fishies and loving it when I did all the class activities with them, but then they still clammed up. Once they hit 4 it was much easier and they actually kinda know how to swim now.

Super Sarah
13 years ago

Oh I absolutely think it is in her job description! Over here (downunder) when a child starts swimming lessons for the first time, they put another instructor in with the regular instructor who takes the new child one-on-one which means the lesson can continue for the other three children but the newbie still gets to take part. Also, that sounds a lot more, well gentle than it actually is, often the other instructor is dragging round a screaming toddler while the lesson carries on like normal! Persevere though, I find the post swim collapse happens a lot later on swimming days but its fairly satisfactory when it does happen!

Susan
Susan
13 years ago

Unacceptable that she made little attempt to get Dylan into the water, then shrugged off his falling in the pool. Oooh, this just infuriates me. I taught lessons for years and it was damn well part of my job to get the kids into the water to learn how to swim. Not just leave them sitting on the gutter until they toppled in, only to be ignored by the INSTRUCTOR while the parent leapt in after them! Gah! DAMN! Ahem. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

Kirsty
13 years ago

I don’t want to put a downer on y’all, but my now almost 7-year-old daughter did get forced to go in the water (and I was totally for that) but she NEVER got used to it (stubborn? Nooooooo). She did everything the instructors told her, but screamed THE WHOLE TIME. We tried twice – 2 sessions, a few months apart. Total disaster.
She, of course, LOVES going “swimming” but REFUSES “classes”. And has to wear water wings because of course she can’t actually swim.
I’m just waiting till there’s the obligatory swimming lessons next year at school (2nd grade).
For Dylan, definitely push it with the instructor – she IS supposed to be able to deal with this.
Good luck!

Dana
13 years ago

I was say ‘Tell the teacher to nut up.’ But it looks like you already did. Seriously, this is their problem and your boy isn’t the first she’s going to see in her teaching career who is initially reluctant to get in.
Hope it goes well next time!

sarah
13 years ago

i’d totally expect the teacher to be more aggressive/assertive about this. i mean, you’re not paying money for your kid to sit on the edge of the pool & watch the other kids! and if you’re a swimming instructor for toddlers, dealing with whining & fear of water is EXACTLY your job description.

Kristin
13 years ago

I had a similar experience with my now 6 year old when he was 2. He refused to go near the water. He cried. He screamed. Funny thing is, it was summer, and when we would go back in the afternoons for open swim, he was just fine. No fear at all. He repeated this pattern the following summer when he was three. At our pool, they wouldn’t let parents in the water. They wouldn’t even let you in the fenced-in pool area. It was completely embarrassing. I felt like everyone looking our way was passing judgement on me as a parent. I waited till he was 5 to try again, and now he’s a little fish.

Glad you made the call. Hope things go lots better tomorrow. And this time… wear a tank top! :)

OHmommy
13 years ago

I hate leaving links inside comments but I’m gonna do it anyway. My 8 year old cried bloody murder for 6 months when he was 3. I pulled him out of group lessons and started “survival swimming” private lessons. In the matter of three months he was swimming underwater.

I started my youngest at 2 and now she’s a fish: http://www.classychaos.com/links-topmenu-20/696-best-money-i-ever-spent

It seriously was the best money I ever spent. Swimming is a survival skill. One 15 minute private lesson is like 2 months of group lessons. At least in my opinion.

Anonymous
Anonymous
13 years ago

Probably not helpful here, for many reasons, but I am SURE you have heard about the whole Chinese Tiger Mother book/controversy? Well, here is one area where I think the Tiger Mother has a point (maybe not so much on the rejecting the birthday card thing, but . . . ), anyway, here’s where you ask yourself: What Would Tiger Mother Do? (WWTMD?), and the answer would be: get his crying ass INTO THE POOL and make him swim, dammit. Refusal to try (and succeed!!) is not an option.

So whatever you need to do yourself, as the mother (aside from the inexperienced/wimpy teacher, you’re the mother!), then do it. Get him in the pool and make him take the lesson! I think we all know he will be better off in the end.

robyn
13 years ago

Glad she’s being coached (though slightly alarming that she needs to be). As a secondary measure, does reverse psychology work with Dylan? You know, like at home before you go to the pool: “sweetie, I wonder if you should wait until you’re a big boy like Riley for swim lessons. I know it looks really fun with all the splashing and games and those great pool toys, but do you think you’re too little?” The danger there, of course, is that he’ll call your bluff and agree, but personally (and this is coming from someone who was shy and fairly non-competitive as a child) that kind of talk would have shot me straight into the deep end.

Christie
Christie
13 years ago

Good for you for making that phone call! I was all worked up just reading your post.

I saw a similar situation last year while my kids were in lessons. Only in that case, the parent had to supermom it over a three foot concrete barrier and dive into the pool fully clothed to pull her own kid out. The instructor was upset, the senior staff were filling out reports, and coupons for free drop-in swims were offered. Also, the next week, that group had two instructors instead of one.

What if you had gone to the bathroom or to get a coffee? Who would have pulled Dylan out? I agree with all the other folks. It is that instructor’s job to be able to deal with kids that age, AND to keep them safe.

With that said, after that session of swimming lessons, where I felt my kids learned exactly NOTHING by being in large groups with different young instructors, I paid extra (like double the price) for semi-private lessons. Just my two kids and an instructor. My kids (5 and 7), who couldn’t so much as back float at the start, could swim almost the entire length of the pool after 8 weeks with an experienced instructor who moved them along at their own pace. I figure this actually saved me money in the long run. Instead of watching them repeat the same levels again (like I did before) they actually both accomplished almost two complete levels. And they were SO SO proud of themselves. The boost in confidence just moved them along even quicker.

Maybe that’s an option for your family, if the kids are close enough in ability to make that work. I will probably never go back to group lessons, at least not until they are a lot older.

corinne
corinne
13 years ago

Technically, it IS their job description to deal with reluctant whiny-ass kids.
Glad you got it sorted. Well done you.

Caryn
13 years ago

Good luck! Hope things go better at the next swim lesson. Glad you called to talk to the director.

jill
jill
13 years ago

ha ha ha, maybe you can appreciate my swimming horror story. My son is Riley’s age and we have taken him for lessons since before he turned one. At 2 he looked at the (very religious) instructor and said” Jesus F@*^ing Christ. That’s when momma stopped talking like a trucker.

Kimberly
13 years ago

Actually, yeah, that is exactly her job when instructing kids D’s age. If he screams wholly terror the whole time, no, not her job. Letting him work through a few minutes or so of angst before acclimating to the water? Yep, totes her job. Toddlers aren’t rational, and swim instructors teaching them have to know that (or you get your damn money back).

jen
jen
13 years ago

I am glad the swimming director was on top of this and it’s great that you called. The teacher probably just didn’t know what to do. Hope it is better next time.

Sorry I have no strategies on keeping the kids occupied and getting kids changed out of wet stuff SUCKS. Mine almost made it to the parking lot this afternoon when we went to open swim time. He was sitting under the dryer and I turned to get his clothes and turned back and he was outta there. SUCKED.

Kelsey
13 years ago

My comment is kind of pointless after YOUR comment, but I was also going to suggest calling the director – hope the next session goes better!!!

Liz
Liz
13 years ago

yep. tell her you want her to try getting him in for at a few minutes. during the remainder of the time, he must at least sit on the edge of the pool where the other kids are bobbing around, i.e. she must keep him in the vicinity of the class.

you could also take him in yourself a couple of times. on another day, obviously. maybe it would help? i remember being at swim lessons and having my little school friend freaking out about having to get in–so foreign. but my parents had been taking me to the pool for years by then. if it’s more familiar, it will be less scary.

Andrea
Andrea
13 years ago

I was going to say, “Um, actually it IS in their job description to deal with reluctant whiny ass kids.”

But I see you’ve figured that out. Good deal!

Heater
Heater
13 years ago

My thoughts are the same as the others on here already. My daughter is 3 and has been the biggest PITA about swim lessons. She met her match with this instructor. (mother of 4 and a prison guard) And after 3 lessons of her throwing a fit, I chumped up the extra $$ for 8 private 30 minute lessons. Huge changes very quick. From a crying snotball floating clutched to the instructors arm, she is jumping off the sides and bobbing up and down now. Actually excited to go to class each time.

I would offer up the following advice too. I always leave the pool area. Although that sounds like its not such a good idea with the instructor you have. I was amazed at how different the lessons went if I was gone. I now sneak back in and sit on the bleachers about 50-60ft away so I’m not spotted by her. Just keep it up. It will get better. And like others have said its a survival skill. Zombies cant swim.

Kami
13 years ago

I wasted 2 years of time and money on swimming lessons for my older 2, at our local YMCA. Just for the record the same Y has an amazing pre-school–so nothing against them which all 3 of my kids have attended. The swimming part though is exactly what you described. Very young instructors at our Y, I’m talking high schoolers. Hello. I found a wonderful 50ish woman who teaches at her home in the summer, worth every penny. My 2 older went off the diving board and swam to the side the very first lesson. My 5 year old has been doing it since she has had her at 3. This woman is a godsend and let me do say no non-sense, she’s all about your doing it. I idn’t want to pay for someone to “play” with them in the pool. I wanted them to know how to save their life, yanno?

Kami
13 years ago

Oh and I forgot to add it’s always like 100 degrees and humid as fuck during lessons. I seriously hate it, parents crowd under her gazeebo with sweat dripping. Miserable. GAH what we don’t do for our kids.

deanna
deanna
13 years ago

i was going to comment and say that maybe you should speak to the director about the situation. then, i read that you already did that! so instead ill just say “good job!” (we all need a little positive reinforcement every once and a while!) so often these instructors are young kids themselves and this might be their first job. they often need a little coaching themselves.

also, i think its really important that YOU not be anxious about the whole swimming situation either. if theres anything ive learned in my years in pediatrics, its that if you dont make a big deal about it, the kid is also that much less likely to make a big deal about it.

my mom also had the bright idea (back in the way early 80s!) to get my energetic toddler self involved in swimming at a very early age. apparently i was much like dylan in that i was impossible in the beginning. eventually she got fed up and literally threw me into the pool with the instructor. i managed to not drown, learned to LOVE the water and ended up becoming a great swimmer. [i even swam competitively for a while and could have gotten a college scholarship if i kept at it.] there is hope for dylan yet!

Jennifer
Jennifer
13 years ago

I haven’t read all the comments but I see that you spoke to the aquatic director so things should change. I was going to say that I also taught swim lessons all the way through high school and my job was to BE that secondary person who spent time with the reluctant/scared kids. Usually it just took a couple one-on-one sessions to get them past fears or shyness and then they’d join the rest of the class.

It’s tough teaching a group of kids though… they DO fall in, or let go of the side, or decide to do their own thing, don’t follow instructions etc. That’s typical for kids, but dangerous when they’re in water that’s over their heads. The parents DO need to keep an eye out. As a teacher I thoroughly appreciated it once when a kid did let go of the side and I didn’t notice… the parent signaled frantically and I dove under and grabbed her! (And she was laughing and having so much fun when I dragged her up, but it could have been BAD had that parent not noticed right away.)

yaya
yaya
13 years ago

SO glad you talked to the director. I had the exact same teacher you described but he was a teen boy & my kiddo spent 3 lessons sitting on the edge not being engaged in the slightest by the teacher (borderline ignored), it sucked & I was pretty disappointed since I too thought it was part of their job as a toddler swim instructor to know how to engage the kids, all of them, even my pouty sourpuss of a dude. One short chat with the director and the teen instructor got a lot more involved and the rest of the 3 weeks were great. Then of course I haven’t had my dude near a pool since August so I am sure this summer is going to be back to square one. Might do the spring indoor classes like you, thanks for inspiring me!

Donna
Donna
13 years ago

My mother was terrified of the water, so she passed that down to myself and my sister, but she swims really well, and I scuba dive.
This too shall pass.
Having to pull him out though? So not funny.
Good call on calling.
My kids were in the infant classes, my daughter at a month and a half, and my son at 6 months. Really all they teach them at that point is to head for the side, and how to bob, but that’s plenty for a tiny baby….

Jenn
Jenn
13 years ago

I’ve taught swimming lessons for close to 20 years and the instructor should DEFINITELY have gotten him in the water, tears and all. I don’t think having you in the water with him is most beneficial, but if you really feel as though the situation is unsafe you should stay near the pool’s edge.

Nik-Nak
13 years ago

Dude, screw that crap until he’s ready. This can go two ways. He can be thrown into it and do just fine or he can be thrown into it and develope a permanent fear of water.

Hopefully number 1 happens who knows?

Give him awhile.

Olivia
Olivia
13 years ago

Make her take the kid. Anybody who voluntarily works with children is going to have to deal with the whiny assed variety sometimes.

wealhtheow
13 years ago

We did 3 months of swimming lessons with our three year old–with him screaming the whole time. We decided to back off for the time being and keep taking him to the pool for fun time, and maybe try again this summer. But eventually he is going to have to nut up and learn to swim, because that is just not optional in our family. (I look at it as a safety issue).

The instructor didn’t let him off the hook, either. It was a parent and me class (my husband got to handle most of it, because hello, I already spend all day forcing the child to do things he doesn’t want to do, like eat lunch or wear a shirt).

MRW
MRW
13 years ago

Oh this post speaks to me. We took my son to group swim lessons two years in a row and they NEVER insisted he put his face in the water or swim even though I told them it was fine, he would be fine, please do this, etc. We got nowhere in our quest to have him at least get comfortable in the pool. Finally, two summers ago we paid for private lessons once a week for a month. It was incredible. In one lesson he got more comfortable and safer in the water than he had in two damned years of group lessons. We should have saved the money we spent on group lessons and paid for the private lessons way back when. When it’s time for my daughter to take lessons we’ve already decided to just pay for the private lessons for a month until she gets comfortable enough that group lessons will actually accomplish something.

Susan
Susan
13 years ago

I live in Canada. Just want to share an interesting comparison: When my daughter started school at age 4, swimming classes were included in the PE class..ie: they had swimming twice a week, then gym class twice a week for the first 3 years of school. It was a public school. Free of charge, and free of worry. The Olympic sized pool is in a building next door to the school. When I was in elementary school, we also had free swim lessons, we all piled on a bus and drove to the local public pool, we had lessons two times a week. Of course in Canada a person can purchase private swim lessons, but the basics are taught in elementary school. It’s a great idea. We also have Universal health care.

Na Na na na na!

Rachel
Rachel
13 years ago

Good for you for calling the director and good for the director and the other staff for being on it.

Double good for you for getting your boys swimming now, like many skills, it doesn’t get easier to learn as you get older.

I hated water from infancy (says my mother) and I couldn’t even stay afloat dog paddling until I was 10. That resulted in 4 near drownings between the ages of 5 and 18. I’m almost 30 now and back in swimming lessons – college lap swim, because I can’t do any impact excercize so swimming is the only option I have if I want to be any shape but round.

R
R
13 years ago

Yeah, I’ve been a swim instructor for years. It’s her job, especially when working with the preschool age group to deal with a few tears and a little (or a lot of) screaming. Let her know that it’s okay to push Dylan past his comfort zone a little. As was mentioned above, instructors appreciate parents who give feedback on how to deal with their child. There is a point that a child shouldn’t be pushed, but usually it’s just an initial fear of being in a new environment.

Eric's Mommy
Eric's Mommy
13 years ago

I’m a little bit late to comment but the instructor should have totally pulled Dylan out of the water. Aren’t there lifeguards there too? At the YMCA where my Son swims there is at least 1 lifeguard on duty at all times.
I would get in the pool with him. My Son started swim lessons when he was 4, my in-laws took him and one of them got in the water with him because he was petrified. That didn’t last long, soon he wasn’t afraid at all and now he is competing on a swim team.