The scene in the locker room was all too familiar. Mothers with a variation of determined, frazzled, happy or ‘I’m just about to blow’ looks on their face wrestling pudgy toddler arms into winter coats and trying to maneuver feet into boots while the same oblivious child is determined to explore the lockers, the inside of their nose, or those tantalizing crumbs left by another child. Yet another fun morning in the annals of good parenting.
It would be easier to avoid swimming lessons all together. No screaming during the shampoo torture or, conversely, the child who refuses to leave the shower. No combing wet, tangled hair. No debating whether to blow-dry the hair or just plop a hat over the wet locks (I’m the only one who seems to choose the latter consistently, but my kids are healthy as horses so maybe frozen hair is the new vaccine). No embarrassing scenes involving wandering off and staring at the naked person in the next aisle. No adventurous explorers getting stuck in lockers. No ‘me do’ when you really just need to be in the car in the next 2 minutes to pick up your older child from gymnastics. It would be so much easier to just stay home and catch up on really exciting things like the laundry or bills instead of heading to swim lessons on a weekend morning or just before dinner after a long day. So why make the effort to put young children in swimming lessons? Why not just wait until they are old enough to drop them off at the entrance and grab a cup of coffee or catch up on errands until they return and hop back into the car?
For the same reason we brave the sand pit with our adorable little biter/sand-thrower, subject ourself to dinner at a restaurant with 2-year olds whose table manners are derived from Animal House, arrange play dates so we can watch our child absolutely, positively, refuse to share, and attack potty-training with an unnatural enthusiasm backed by an arsenal of enticing big-kid underwear. Our job as parents is to teach our children the skills they need to navigate the world successfully. Most of it we do unconsciously. Given the brain-dead level that most parents of young children are operating under the ‘say please’ and ‘share’ and ‘don’t hit’ is as much reflex as is the ability to dress a whirling dervish of a toddler and keep sharp objects out of reach.
We don’t always think of teaching our kids how to be safe in the water the way we instinctively teach them to be polite, play with others, and master other life skills, but we should. Water is everywhere. It is part of our daily existence and can be the source of enormous joy. Add ‘swimming’ and ‘knowing your limits in the water’ to your internal ‘to do’ list for raising happy, safe and successful kids and get them in the pool!