I was in the water every SINGLE day of my childhood summers. I simply cannot recall a time when I was not swimming (other than one summer when I had a horrid case of tonsillitis and was out for 2 weeks). I woke up and put on my bathing suit, and went to sleep with the next day on my mind.
We were very fortunate and had this ahhhmazing club that was essentially in our backyard. The Swim & Racquet Club truly felt like one big family, and we were treated as such. Our group was mostly comprised of neighborhood kids and other close friends whose parents all played tennis and socialized together. It was a world that used to exist when we all watched out for one another. The lifeguards were as much a part of this circle and we adored them as we would an older sibling.
We all waited until the day we hit that magic age and we were able to take a swimming proficiency test. It was like the Holy Grail for us and would give us the freedom to come and go without a parent. Simply put – it was AWESOME. We were preteens and had a taste of freedom to do something we loved. Each summer day my brother and I would walk down the hill to swim – only returning for dinner. It was the perfect childhood summer. My hair was green from the chlorine and my freckles were prominent from the sun.
Later in my teens I would take my lifeguard training there, work and continue to hang out with this same group of kids. I watched over other young kids who were experiencing that same incredible feel at our pool home. It was only natural I would be on the swim team and continue to spend most of my time in the water – even outside the summer season.
You can imagine my horror when one
of my children developed a tremendous fear of the water! It was a fear caused by an unnecessary event . Let’s just say my youngest experienced some rough-housing in the water and leave it at that. I place no blame, but watched as my daughter began to become more and more fearful. She would ONLY go in water where she could safely stand, and even still insisted on flotation devices. It was one careless act that caused her to fear something I loved greatly.
I knew better than to push her – 1)That is never a smart move for you or the child. 2)There IS NO pushing this child and making her do anything she does not want to do! Call it red-head personality! Instead, I talked with her about all of my memories in the water and the freedom it brought me. I rationalized with her that swimming with friends is one of the most awesome ways to spend her time. Eventually she cracked and chose to do one-on-one swim lessons with an incredibly patient instructor.
She completed two months of lessons, and on the last day she was asked a question by a guy at the Y. “Have you ever thought about swimming on the swim team?” He was impressed with her height and build and saw that she had a heart for the water. Never once had this crossed her mind other than a far off thought we had both shared. As she started lessons for the first time I simply said, ”You never know…you may be on the swim team one day.” It was a fleeting thought merely used for encouragement.
She was not quite ready for the swim team after only six lessons, and began working with the coach one-on-one for two more weeks. Her determination and drive came out in a most impressive way. She wanted this and wanted it badly. My 10 year old went from a child who could not swim and would not swim to a kid who never wanted to leave the water…IN TWO MONTHS TIME!
Fast forward a few weeks and she is working her tail off…on the team! She is swimming hard and long for her age. She is also doing so with great heart and even more determination. Practice was tough yesterday. I’ve never witnessed her working so hard – most importantly I’ve never heard on single complaint from her mouth. She wants to be in the water and wants to be perfecting her strokes. She listens and studies others and wants to be a true swimmer. Apparently she told a cousin just the other day, “You can swim, but you are not a swimmer.” Apparently this is a big distinction in her 10 year old mind. Not only can my child swim, she IS a swimmer.