In my family there is very little agreement about what is fun. Some of us like taking hikes in the mountains. Others like museums. And still others would be happy to spend the rest of their lives virtually annihilating entire civilizations at the touch of a keystroke. Thank goodness there is one activity we all agree is fun, no matter what, and that is swimming. It doesn’t make a difference if it’s the beach or a pool, as long as it’s liquid and slightly warmer than freezing. Then by all means count us in. I also take pride in the fact that I myself, my children’s mother, taught each and every one of them how. In some cases this was no trouble at all. My third oldest daughter learned to swim at the tender age of two, and I have the pictures to prove it. She amazed even me, a former swim team captain who, until this child came along, thought four years old was early for swimming unaided. Our knick-name for her was “Summer Sanders” after the famous Olympic swimmer from California, where we are also from, who won two gold medals the same summer my daughter learned to swim.
All the rest seemed to learn without too much trouble, until I got down to child number eight. This one really broke the mold, to say the least. Where all my other babies would smile and laugh when I held them in my arms in the pool, this one would scream his head off. Terrified of water is not the word for what he was. If I believed in reincarnation I would say he had drowned on the Titanic in his previous life. Don’t even ask about giving this child a bath. Let’s just say I lived every day in fear that a social services worker would take him away from me for being too dirty, or would take him away from me for horribly torturing him, to hear him scream, by washing him.
Taking all the kids to the pool wasn’t as challenging as you might have thought. I never had to worry that this child might accidentally fall in the water. While the rest of his brothers and sisters were happily splashing around in the pool, this one was sitting as far away from the water as you could get and still be able to see us.
But I must say I never gave up, and I never forced him, either. I always asked him if he would like to put his foot in the water, or his hand, or sit next to me by the pool. I never went further than his own personal comfort level, even if it meant just sitting in a chair next to me watching everyone have fun. Summer after summer he got a little more brave, until one summer, without any pressure, he made his own decision that it was time to learn. He was 7 years old, a bit on the old side to learn to swim, but not terrible. I got him floating by the end of that summer, and by the time he was 8, the following summer, he was completely water safe and having a great time in the pool or at the beach. As far as I can tell he has no water phobia whatsoever, and he is as comfortable swimming as any of his other brothers and sisters. This was a great lesson in patience and faith for me. And probably for my son, too.