Tuesday, July 25, 2006

First Waves

My son, Eli, had his first swimming lesson last night, which is something we have anticipated with bated breath - and not in a good way. He has always been a little timid in the water, and for some reason has been growing more fearful. I think he gets this from his dad, since both of them refuse to put their heads in the water.

I thought his fear would subside because whenever we go anywhere in which there is a pool, Eli always becomes extremely excited. A couple of months ago, we traveled to western Kansas for a family reunion, and we stayed at a hotel. From the second we checked in, Eli was begging us to go to the pool. When we finally took him down to the hotel pool, he started to go down the stairs into the shallow end. When he got in, the water reached his chin. As soon as he realized the water was touching his face, he began screeching like a wild banshee.

Georgia and I were right outside the pool area when this happened in the hotel lobby on a desperate search for coffee. I think everyone in the hotel heard Eli's scream. I raced in the pool area to see what was wrong. Did Eli fall? Was he attacked by wild dogs? What? Eric, looking very embarrassed, said, "His face touched the water."

That is when I decided we needed to enroll him in swimming lessons. I thought, if nothing else, he could hopefully get into the water without a scream of utter terror. So, I signed him up, and for the last two months, we have been dreading that decision, particularly Eric because I already informed him that he was going to be the one taking Eli to swimming lessons.

Well, last night was the first class. I spent all day trying to gear Eli up about how fun it was going to be and what a great time he was going to have. It was not going well. He just kept saying, "I won't like it! The water is scary, and it's going to be cold." I said, "Well, it might not be cold because the sun has been warming the pool up all day." He just looked at me and rolled his eyes. You know it's bad when a 4-year-old rolls his eyes at you.

His anxiety only increased throughout the day, with frequent shouts of "I'm NOT going!" Then his imagination started running away with him. He tried to reason with me by telling me that he was afraid of scarecrows, and there are scarecrows surrounding the pool. I told him I had driven by the pool just yesterday and there was not a scarecrow in sight. That only made him angry. "YES, THERE ARE SCARECROWS, AND I'M NOT GOING!!!" Oh boy.

When Eric got home from work, he informed me that Georgia and I would be accompanying him to that first lesson. I told him that I really didn't think it was necessary for the whole family to go, and I think Georgia and I should just stay home. His response was something like, "Oh, hell no. You're going! This was your bright idea, and I'm not going to be the only one embarrassed when he runs away from the pool screaming that he's afraid of the water and scarecrows." *sigh*

We packed up the kids and headed off to the pool, which was packed with all ages of children ready for swimming lessons. Eli was in the First Waves class, so they were right by the stairs on the shallow end. The parents were banished to the concession area, which was right inside a fence a few yards away from the pool. So, we were close enough if there was an emergency, but far enough away that we weren't readily visible. This inspired some confidence because I really thought Eli would do better if he couldn't see us. However, my confidence was dashed as soon as they called role and got to "Elly." Grrrrrrr.

Eric walked him out to the pool, or should I say, he guided Eli out by the shoulders. When he let go, Eli took off running, but Eric has fast reflexes and caught him. It took the "teacher" and the lifeguard, but they did manage to get Eli in the pool. Eric came back behind the fence with Georgia and I so we could watch the situation unfold.

Luckily it wasn't as bad as I had anticipated because I really was expecting the worst. There were only four children in the First Waves class - Eli, two other boys and a girl named Piper. The two other boys were raring to go. Eli was hanging onto the rope for dear life, bouncing up and down, and Piper looked like she was ready to run. That made me feel better.

They got Eli to blow bubbles in the water, and he practiced the front float and back float. He did those while hanging on to the "teacher" for dear life, but hey - baby steps. When they tried to get Piper to do these things, she vehemently shook her head with a look that said, "I don't f***ing think so!" You go, Piper!

I could not have been more proud of my son! He got so comfortable that he even started splashing the other boys. Yes, that is my child - the only one to be disciplined during swimming lessons. "Eli, no splashing," yelled the 15-year-old "teacher" with the big metal smile. That's about the time Eli spotted us. He looked at Georgia and screamed, "Sissy! Look at me!" Oh crap. We all ducked.

Just a side note - does anyone remember our swimming lesson teachers being that young? Looking back, I guess they were high school kids who taught swimming lessons when I was little, but they all just look so young now!

Anyway, everything was just moving along swimmingly until it came time to put your head in the water. Now, I find it interesting the different way in which they treat boys and girls. If Piper didn't want to do something, the teacher asked her a couple of times, but moved on when she said no. When Eli said no, it was more of, "Come on, Eli, buddy. I know you can do it!" Hmm . . .

Well, when it came to putting your head underwater, no amount of coaxing could get Eli to do it. All I saw was him shaking his head vigorously and saying something to the instructor. I don't know what it was, but I hope it wasn't anything about scarecrows.

After that, class was over, and the kids popped out of the pool, or rather they climbed out with the help of two instructors. I wrapped Eli up in his Scooby Doo towel and told him I was so proud of him and what a wonderful job he did. When we were getting in the car, we asked him if he enjoyed the lesson. With righteous indignation, he responded, "Yes, but they tried to make me put my head in the water!"

It should be a fun two weeks.


Justin said...

When I started swimming, my mom enrolled my brother and me for a course at the YMCA. The instructor had no idea how to work with kids, and insisted that we not be permitted to use floating devices of any kind and that we start with swimming strokes (the idea was to get us used to the water, not make us sport swimmers).

Neither of us made any progress until one day, when he called in sick and another instructor was in charge. She made swimming fun, and by the end of the day we were doing laps back and forth with paddle boards. The next day, we both insisted on Diane instructing us for the day, and had more fun, and were not afraid to swim without floating devices.

Sometimes it is just in the delivery, I guess.

Kris said...

How funny. I just took my 5yr old daughter to her real first swim lesson yesterday. A big beginners class and she looked the oldest. The crying started up the minute they told her it was her time to be dunked. They dunked her and two minutes later, after crying some, she was having fun - but no more dunkings. I'm hoping she does better today. I don't really like the class size or the way they are teaching and will probably look and see if we can afford private lessons. Since the class is so big she spends most of the time sitting on the edge of the pool.

I have my fingers crossed for both of us that our children will become little fishes!