Summer Swimming

From the Farm:


 Published in the Casper Journal July 28, 2010

 Summer swimming lessons are highly overrated—at least if your child is under four years old.  Our older children learned to swim by default in Las Vegas.  We simply lived in the pool during those hot months, and soon they sprouted fins and were at home in the water.  However, since our sixth child still can’t swim, I decided to sign everyone up for city swimming lessons this summer.  Much to my delight, I found a session where all six levels were taught at the same time. 
‘How easy!’ I thought.  Forty minutes, six children, one pool.  This will be a breeze…  Little did I know that my preschooler had other plans.
            The first morning of swimming lessons, everyone was eager to begin.  We ate an early breakfast, dressed in swim suits, and loaded a huge bag of towels into the back of the van.  The children were all bursting with excitement as we drove to the pool.  Glancing at the car temperature, I caught my breath…69 degrees!  I was horrified!  In Las Vegas we wouldn’t have set even a toenail near a swimming pool with such cool outside temperatures.  Remembering the Vegas heat, I recalled one time when the summer weather dropped down to 105 and my friend “turned up” the heat in her pool so our poor children wouldn’t be cold!
            “Please let the Casper city pools be heated,” I prayed silently, hoping my children wouldn’t notice the slight chill in the air.
            We arrived at the pool to find it crowded with other excited children and parents.  Finding a spot on the pool deck, my crew unloaded their towels, took off their sandals, and began lathering up with sun screen.  Putting sun screen on six children is not an easy task, and soon everyone had oily hands, white faces, and greasy arms.  I’m sure the people around us were duly entertained.
            “Time to start!” shouted a lifeguard.  After a short safety lesson, he divided the children into ability groups.  “Advanced swimmers over there, beginners here, preschoolers to the left,” he called.  The children scattered to meet their teachers.  Contentedly I sat back on a pool chair. 
‘Ahhhhh,’ I thought.  ‘Forty minutes with nothing to do but watch my children swim.’  Some parents around me were already reading books and talking on their cell phones. 
Just then I heard a terrific scream.  Looking over to the preschool group, I was surprised to see my youngest son standing rigid at the edge of the pool!  I couldn’t imagine what was wrong. 
“Just put your toes in,” coaxed a nice, lady teacher. 
“I don’t want to get in the water!” he wailed.  I watched, perplexed.  Finally I walked over to the class. 
“You love swimming!” I reminded him. 
“I don’t want to go swimming,” he screamed. 
“You’ll be fine,” I reassured him, and with all the love I could muster, picked him up, and set him in the water next to his teacher. 
He clung to the side of the pool, screaming louder.  By now I knew that every eye of every parent was on us.  What to do?  Even though he was child number six, I’d never had such an encounter.  The other preschoolers were splashing around happily, kicking their feet and blowing bubbles as their teacher directed.  Finally, I extended my hand to him, holding it until he calmed down. 
‘So much for my quiet time,’ I thought.  It was a long forty minutes.
The next day I was sure would be better.  Smiling, he lathered up with sunscreen and sat through the first aid lesson.  Then it was time for class. 
“I don’t like swimming lessons!” he suddenly wailed as his teacher set him in the water.  Single-handedly, he pulled himself out of the pool and ran, dripping wet, over to me. 
“We’ll try again tomorrow,” I said.  But the next day wasn’t much better.  Nor the next, or the next.  On the last day of class, I finally convinced him to get into the water again. 
“Let’s take a trip to the middle of the pool!” said the teacher, gathering the preschoolers in a group and slowly swimming them into deeper water.  The further they went, the louder my son screamed.  Soon, all of the other classes stopped to watch my ballistic son.  Sitting on the deck, I tried to pretend I didn’t exist. 
“Did I actually pay money for this?”  I wondered.  When they finally came back to the edge of the pool, my son jumped out and came running to me. 
Wrapping him up in a warm towel, I held him on my lap. 
“You did it!” I smiled.  He stopped crying. 
“I went into the deep end!” His voice suddenly sounded victorious.  “I like swimming,” he smiled, and I breathed a sigh.  Maybe it was all worth it. Besides, there are more summers to come.  He held my hand as we left the pool.  “I want to take swimming lessons again!”

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