Friday, May 07, 2010

Taking the Fear Out of Swimming

Little Philip has always had a fear of water. It is the typical stuff, water in his eyes is frightening, the thought of putting his head under water is terrifying, and so forth. We had him in water babies when he was about 18 months old but by the next summer, all comfort and skill was lost.

And then the unthinkable happened. Last summer, while playing in a hotel pool, Little Philip did what every parent fears. He was crouching on the side of the deep end, reaching for a pool toy that was just out of reach. I was holding Helen (15 months) in the shallow end of the pool watching the entire event unfold. The event, mind you, was all ten seconds at most. It still seems like an eternity now. Little Philip reached, and slipped in, silently, no splashing, no kicking, no screaming, just the nauseating silence as I screamed for Big Philip or any of the other adults in the pool to get him. He simply froze, straight up in the water, head just below the surface. It could not have been more than five second before and adult quickly pulled him up to safety. By then I was traumatized, trying to conceal my tears and fear from Little Philip who, himself, was a basket case. We quietly talked about it after the event with him, consoling him, trying not to seem alarmed but also trying to make him forget the event. We never brought it up again.

Fast forward to this past month. Pool toys are everywhere. Commercials on TV show kids playing in the pools and beaches. Our matching cousin bathing suits arrived for the Moss Beach Week. Little Philip regularly recalls the incident at the hotel pool with a whimper in his voice. It's real fear and I can't blame him. All the more reason that I am bound and determined to help him overcome this fear and see swimming as a fun and safe activity.

As a full-time working mother, there are no swimming lessons offered at a time that is feasible for our family. All of our local swimming pool lessons are offered for a typical two week session, at approximately 9:30 0r 10:30 each morning. As I prepare to re-enter the full-time work force in my return to work at Birmingham-Southern College in June, again, I wonder, how can we bring our son to the point of comfort and safety with water? Individual lessons may be our only hope, but I think the lack of peer pressure he would receive in a group setting may add another obstacle to his swimming training.

I'm on a quest. Since he loves to read anything and everything (seriously, he spent 30 minutes with a book describing the history of flag making), we just returned from the library with about eight non-fiction books about swimming, lifeguards, water safety, and pool games. I am crossing my fingers that these books might entice him to take a few healthy risks, knowing mom and dad are right there beside him as he learns to swim. With any luck, he'll be in the middle of the pool at the condo for Moss Beach Week swimming along with the rest of his cousins. We do not want another repeat of him hugging the concrete pool steps while Helen jumped from the side of the pool into our arms the entire week.

Are there any working moms in the Birmingham area that know of swimming lessons that are offered outside of the typical 8-5 work day?


Clan Hill said...

I know Sue Ellen teaches a class on Thursday night, but I don't know what age group the class is for.

Sarah said...

talk to monica merrill. i hear she's awesome!

Amanda said...

I don't know of any swimming lessons, but am thrilled to see you are coming back to BSC!!!

Shelia said...

Brookwood does Saturday AM classes. One just started last weekend; we were on the waiting list and didn't get in. But there is one starting in July I think.

If you decide you want to do private lessons, let me know. We'll join you -- then maybe the 2 of them could do it together. Callen had a bad experience at the beach a couple of years ago and has been scared ever since too : (.