Followers of this space will not be surprised to learn that Seamus, my eight-year-old, is an accomplished swimmer. Like his old man at the same age, it is nearly impossible to get Seamus out of the water. He jumps off the diving board, starts splash fights, dives after toys and generally acts like a kid (go figure).
Kathryn, being only two, is still in the “must cling to daddy” stage of her swimming development. She does enjoy sitting on the steps and throwing toys at me so I can fetch them, but mostly wants me to carry her around and ensure she doesn’t have to worry about the whole “swimming” thing yet.
Duncan, age 4, is my biggest work in progress in this area.
At the beginning of the summer, Duncan was still basically in the same swimming category as Kathryn – that is, not swimming at all.
Being a water-loving dad, last summer I armed him with floaties/water wings/swimmies/insert-other-local-name-here to help his confidence. At the close of the season he was starting to get the idea that they would actually let him float without help from me.
At pool opening this year, though, all those lessons were forgotten. Duncan was a step-sitter, and that was that. He didn’t want to learn to hang on to the edge of the wall, he didn’t want me to give him rides, he didn’t want to float on his own, he just wanted to sit on the steps and shoot us with the giant water cannons.
Being the fount of wisdom all know me to be, I decided that wouldn’t cut it.
In early June, I laid down the law to Duncan. I told him in no uncertain terms that he was going to learn to hang on to the wall, he was going to learn how to swim with his floaties, and he was darn well going to have a good time doing it.
“You don’t have to do it today,” I said, “but before this summer is over you will do these things. Be ready.”
Of course I expected more fighting and forcing, but Duncan started working at being braver on his own starting that day.
First, he started dunking his face in the water for a few seconds at a time. This was a major step for him, and soon led to better bath time washings as well.
After he mastered the quick facial submersion, Duncan decided he needed to learn how to put his whole head under, and leave it there for as long as he could. Needless to say I was shocked by his increased temerity.
A week after those experiments, Duncan started tossing toys to the steps he didn’t normally venture down to, then going down after them and fishing them out. I was again shocked.
Before much longer, Duncan was indeed taking the step of grabbing the ledge of the pool and using it to circumnavigate our watery playground. He shrieked with glee the whole way, and couldn’t wait to show every member of the family his new skill.
Finally, by the middle of July, Duncan decided it was time to test out the whole “floaties” thing. He got my attention, the leaped off the edge of the steps and started swimming. Just like that.
The floaties of course helped him stay afloat, but with no instruction he was duplicating his brother’s stroke and swimming across the pool as easy as pie.
That day, Duncan came to me and whispered in my ear: “Thanks for making me learn how to swim Daddy! It’s awesome!”
Now his courage is so bolstered that he does running cannonballs off the diving board, and still I haven’t had to actually make him do any of it. I just told him I was going to if he didn’t do it himself.
Come to think of it, that’s almost exactly how I learned to love roller coasters. Maybe my parents weren’t as dumb as I thought!