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February 07, 2004

That Sinking Feeling

Took Ngnat to her last swimming lesson at the YMCA this morning. She is a member of the Pike and Eels class according to the class registration--Pikes and eels being the fish that can't swim a lick, apparently. The next session starts on the 28th--she'll remain a Pike/Eel for that as well. One doesn't get to move up to the next class, which I think is Leviathan Squid, until one can swim.

This may prove to be a problem, as the focus in the freshwater barracuda/slimy snake-like thing class isn't really on teaching kids to swim as much as it is developing the fundamental pieces of swimming; kicking, paddling, jumping into the pool from a very high (from the vantage point of a three-foot person) point, as if pre-K's need to be trained in the finer points of leaping from the side of a sinking cruise liner, and putting one's face in the water. There's no class, at least not to my knowledge, or that of the registration sheets, that concentrates on putting things like stroke and kick together. At some point, according to the Y's thinking, the kids must just naturally put it all together and swim.

I may be wrong in this, as Ngnat's Y experience was a tad off the average. We signed her up for four lessons. A girl who seemed to think it a drown-proofing class taught the first two. She was fired, and her place taken by a Duke football player. I could tell he played for Duke as he was almost of a normal size, especially when compared to the hulking monoliths I knew from my undergrad years at Carolina. The Duke kid was a good teacher, got some decent kicking out of Ngnat and the other girls in the class, but he was nowhere to be seen this morning. The pool director taught today’s class, and while he knew his stuff, there wasn't any continuity from the previous time.

Ngnat has developed something of a pitiful dog-paddle, good for keeping her head above water for a second or two, so some swimming skills have developed, by osmosis as much as anything else, and she's a champ at the sinking-ocean-liner-jump-off, so it's been fifty dollars more or less well spent. Certainly her skills are enough to get us to pony up for the next round, though admittedly it does seem to promise more of the same.

Once upon a time I was a WSI, so maybe this summer I can get her swimming if it hasn't happened by then. I think I'd prefer if she does learn by then. I remember my father trying to teach me how to swim--I never quite forgave him for it.

The lessons always started out with him attempting to teach me how to float on my back; something that, matter how hard I tried,* I always failed to do. I'd lay back in his arms, he'd take them away, and down I would go, gazing up at him as the waters closed over my face. Dad never had any problem floating. I think he took it as a betrayal that I could not, so there were many instances when he would wait for me to come back up, as if all I needed was a good rebound off the bottom.

I eventually learned to swim anyway--well enough that I was a champion of the swim team until puberty hit and I was racing against six and a half foot seventeen-year-olds. I don't think Dad deserves any of the credit, though I suspect he'd dispute that. All those bounces off the bottom toughened the lungs up, or something.

Whatever I teach Ngnat this summer, it won't be "floating on her back." I know that much.

*No matter how hard one tries to float upon one's back, there is a real limit as to how much activity can be attempted before one is no longer floating, but thrashing about in an attempt to avoid drowning.

Posted by Bigwig at February 7, 2004 09:48 PM | TrackBack
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I remember my daughters' swimming lessons - they are 11 and 14 now, and they spend each summer immersed in water whenever possible. So, every summer, a few years back when they were a little older than Ngnat, they would be signed up for lessons, and their progress seemed painfully slow! Lots of games, kicking and holding these gravestone-shaped flotation devices. Lots of being afraid of getting ones face wet or nose full of water. Mortification at winding up in water over one's head, year after year... Of course, I took them to the river, and tried teaching them myself, but to no avail whatsoever. I hid my frustration, smiled, lavished praise and encouragement, because ... well, you're a dad too, you know why! But eventually they both did put it all together, and they swim like fish now, perfectly at home in the water! Don't get discouraged.....

Posted by: clnsmi at February 8, 2004 09:33 AM

My nephew's been swimming since he was four. Just tossed him in the pool with water wings. He wanted to be like Daddy, so he kept flailing and flailing and flailing until he taught himself how to swim. Quite cute.

Swims like a fish, now, but he's 13.

Posted by: Meryl Yourish at February 9, 2004 01:19 PM
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