SafeSplash Week One: Don’t Forget the Goggles!

Swimming is a Life Skill
Last night was the first lesson in our SafeSplash adventure. Arrive early and realize that the only drawback of attending swim lessons at an LA Fitness gym at 6:30 p.m. is the full parking lot. I’ve never belonged to a big commercial gym, so didn’t consider it would be crowded right after work, d’oh.
I can tell my son is nervous and I’m glad we arrived early so we could look around. We watch a more advanced class finishing up by throwing rings into the swim lane so they can swim out and dive to the pool floor to retrieve them. (This is important later.)
A pleasant surprise: both the life guard and the instructor, a senior on the high school swimming team, turn out to be friends of my oldest daughter. There’s only one other little girl about D’s same age in the lesson and while she hops into the pool eagerly, D- is a little more hesitant and he shivers in the water. 
The lesson begins with the instructor asking the two kids to hold their breath and put their heads in the water. My son only goes about 3/4 of the way – to his eyebrows – but he does put his face in the water. He isn’t quite sure about laying across the seahorse float pad to kick, but he watches the other girl do it and the natural “I can do that too” streak kicks in.
Group Lessons are good for encouraging kids to try something new.
I can tell from his face that he’s scared of falling off and sinking. Next the instructor dribbles water over their head with a little toy cup with holes in the bottom. She takes them out one by one to “swim” – that is kick and move their arms while she holds them. My son clearly is flailing, cheeks puffed up, holding his breath and squinting as the water splashes into his face. 
We didn’t bring any goggles. 
The first measure of success I’ll be watching for as lessons continue will be if he can get in the water and respond to the instructor without making a face or being scared.
Back floating is next and the other student is not cooperating and getting upset, but the instructor doesn’t force or push her, she just gently returns her to the waiting bench. D- is tense, but allows the instructor to gently lay his back, his arm curled round her neck in a choke hold. She is patient and kind.  After a monkey crawl across the pool edge, the two kids get out, hold her hands and jump back in. 
When they return to the PVC bench where they stand in the water, she hands them a ring… and my son’s face goes into total panic. He’s ready to get out, wants nothing to do with the ring, and I can see that he’s thinking they are about to dive deep into the water, but she just asks them to hold it, bend their knees, and place the ring on the bench by their feet  – another activity to get their face and head back in the water. Relief floods over his face and he follows her instructions. 
Note to self: he needs goggles.
When the lesson ends, my son climbs out of the pool saying, “That was fun! Can we come back tomorrow!”  


Shelly Henley Kelly