Lessons of Drowning and Swimming

A couple of weeks ago when it became painfully obvious that I wouldn’t be able to get the boys into the city swim lessons (because at $2 a session, they’re not hiring a lot of lifeguards) and my cousin mentioned that I should teach the boys, I was skeptical, but I thought, “what the hell, I’ll give it a try.”  Then I started taking the boys to my parents every day to swim.  My dad joined us every day, and my mom and brother joined us when they could.  I looked online for teaching resources, and I dug back into my memory for other techniques I learned with the boys.  Evan can now swim three yards.

Evan wasn’t big on putting his face in the water when we started.  Or kicking.  Or reaching.  Or floating.  Or basically anything to do with swimming.  He felt fully confident to enjoy the water by climbing around, holding the side of the pool.  That would do in a pinch, but that isn’t swimming. 

Every day I held Evan, encouraging him to kick, kick, kick.  He made little puny kicks that barely moved the water.  “I’m done now.”  I’m going to just let you go now.  Then Uncle M dared Evan to make enough of a kick splash to spray me.  That did it.

When my mom was in the water, she and my dad taught Evan the way they were taught to teach me when I was just a babe in arms.  My mom would blow into Evan’s face, shove him underwater, and push him to my dad.  This worked much better on Sean as Evan had already lost the gasping ability.

One day I brought out diving toys for Evan to play with.  I would drop them on the stairs, and he had to put his face in the water and blow bubbles to get them.  This worked amazingly well.  After the fifteen minutes of lessons, I let Evan free play.  My brother and I were messing around when my mom said to look.  Evan was dropping the toys in the shallow end near the steps and getting them himself. 

My parents bought Evan a kick board.  While Evan loves his alligator board, he refused to use it in swimming instruction.  He wouldn’t hold it to kick, and he wouldn’t keep it under himself to swim.  He preferred to “surf” with it, trying to stand, trying to drown.

Another failed technique was to pull Evan through the water, holding his hands, supposedly forcing him to have the need to kick.  Instead of throwing his legs back to kick, Evan put his feet on my legs, trying to water ski on them.  Sean did the same.  Right.

Then I pulled out the noodles.  I shoved two under Evan’s chest and made him try to tag me.  KICK.  REACH.  REACH. KICK. KICK.  REACH.  REACH.  The kid swam the length of the pool and back.  Holy cow. 

Then one day after our lessons, my dad and I were talking in the shallow end as Evan jumped off the stairs into the shallow waters, trying to do back-flips, and Sean lounging in his inflatable ring, waiting for a beer and tunes.  Then all of a sudden Evan was pulling himself up on my dad.  We were a yard out.  My dad in surprised, teasing way said, “What are you doing?  Go see your mom!”  With that he threw Evan towards me.  Evan landed two yards away.  He pushed from the bottom and kicked and reached until he reached me, when I pulled him up for a breath.

This went on for a week until he figured out he could jump in from the shallow end and swim to the steps.  Then he wanted to be thrown in the middle of the pool where he had to swim to the top.  When someone launches him towards me, I walk backwards away from him, making him swim. 

The next lesson is to teach Evan how to turn and breathe.

That and teach Sean that just because Evan can swim DOES NOT mean he can too.

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6 Responses to “Lessons of Drowning and Swimming”

  1. ck Says:

    You’re such a great teacher, Fae. And one I’d like to steal from, if you don’t mind. We’re just starting to teach my daughter how to swim. And by “we” I mean my husband. And he probably doesn’t need any advice, but I’ll just borrow your techniques in case I need to flex a little “oh, please. I know how to each this stuff,” while in the pool.

  2. KathyB! Says:

    This is some great advice. Mine grew up witha pool in the backyard, and swimming is NOT optional in our house. I think you really nailed it.

  3. Court Says:

    That’s a good idea, we can’t afford lessons yet and Kaiya really seems to be enjoying learning (or attempting at least) to swim but it’s been sort of haphazard and not purposeful.

  4. faemom Says:

    ck~ I highly recommend paying someone else to teach the lessons. But of course, you’re always welcome to steal ideas.
    KathyB!~ Thanks. We practically lived in my grandparents’ pool, so swimming was not optional there either.
    Court~ Blend the haphazard with the purposeful. It’ll help.

  5. bluecottonmemory Says:

    What great advice. Someone asked me once if I wanted any more children (I have 5 sons). I said, “I’d taught all my sons to swim and read. If I had one more, they’d be illiterate and drown.” I always started my swimming with “Tiggers”–they bounce of their feet in the shallow end, arms and hands positioned to push the water behind them, as they bounce to the other side. They end up bouncing and kicking their feet until they are swimming, using their hands and arms to propel them.

    What a triumph for you! Congratulations!

  6. faemom Says:

    That is some great advice! I’m going to try it on my boys.


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