Two weeks ago, Teddy started swimming lessons. He’s only 7 months, but we decided to enroll him for a couple reasons. For one thing, I love swimming. Well, to be more accurate, I love playing in the water. My form is atrocious; I can’t use swimming as a form of cardio exercise because I can’t breathe properly between strokes. But hanging out in the water, playing in waves, snorkeling? Sign me up. So naturally I want my son to have fun in the water, too. Also, we have a shallow (2′ 8″) pool on the roof of our condo and we are excited to play with Teddy in it this summer. But we knew we’d need lessons because we don’t have the slightest clue about teaching little ones to swim or even how to safely be with an infant in the water.
Oh, and if I’m completely honest, there is one more reason we’ve enrolled Teddy before he’s really even mastered crawling: that pesky parental competitive streak. See, at our parent prep course in March, another family mentioned that their baby had been in swimming lessons since he was 3 months old. We needed to get our act together—Teddy had already missed out on 120 days of water play!
So I went online and found Wilson Aquatic Center. (Classes are offered for children from 6 months, so I felt better that I wasn’t late to the game. Does beg the question where the other family took their then-3-month-old, though….) It’s a really nice municipal pool (although that means no photos allowed), and the infants instructor is a friendly guy in his mid-20s who gets in the pool with us and is great about explaining what each exercise does to build a baby’s understanding of the water.
I learned quickly that swimming lessons for a 7-month-old don’t involve any actual swimming. Sort of obvious, I guess. Teddy’s isn’t even lifting his arms in the classic “pick me up, please” pose. He’s definitely not going to jump in the water, ready to learn the butterfly stroke. (A mom can dream, though, right?)
So what do children 6 months to 2 years (that’s the age range for Teddy’s class) learn in swimming lessons? Quite a bit, actually. The class aims to familiarize babes with the water and help them understand that their bodies are buoyant. So we pull them through the water on their tummies. (Most kids keep their heads up, looking around. Not Teddy. Face plant in the water, every time.) We support their hips and sway them through the water on their backs, singing about a motor boat going slow and fast, and splashing their legs in the water as we go. (Most of the kids are ok with this; Teddy’s getting there, but he generally doesn’t like his head in the water. Well, except his face.) We pull them into the water from the pool’s edge, using a cue (1-2-3-GO!) so they know something’s happening. And we blow in their faces and, during the split second of shock, dunk ’em. Teddy HATES this. Although, as the instructor pointed out when I mentioned this, who doesn’t hate being dunked? But he surfaces with the most hilarious body language: lips pursed like he sucked a lemon, eyes accusing (I trusted you!), and head shaking as if to rid himself of the traumatic event (or just shake the water from his hair…).
Fortunately, babies have a memory of about 2 seconds, so Teddy quickly forgets the betrayal and returns to kicking happily in the water.
And that’s how we spend 30 minutes, twice a week for four weeks.
During our building’s pool opening party this week, we sat Teddy on the pool’s edge, and he happily kicked his feet in the water—and the water was COLD!
Looks like the familiarizing is working!