January 12, 2010

Pop Goes The Weasel

She was literally begging for it while wearing her swimsuit around the house all day, so last week, K2 and I started swimming lessons. We go to the brand new city pool near us in DC, which--hey-ho!--is utterly fantastic. And free. And the lessons are practically free.

Which is too bad, because though we've only had two lessons so far, it's pretty obvious that they're completely unorganized, unplanned, and nearly useless.

Unless you count destroying my kid's faith that her dad will protect her and rapidly instilling fear at the cellular level of the song, "Pop Goes The Weasel."

Nearly the first thing out of the teacher's mouth the first lesson was, "We're going to get the children used to putting their faces in the water. So when we get to 'Pop!' just dunk them."

Uh-huh. Seeing as how getting a barely 2-yo kid comfortable with a wet face was the end goal of the kid's first swimming class [at the YMCA], it was pretty obvious that this woman has no idea what to do. [When she had 2-yos taking turns shooting basketball, all doubt fled.]

Anyway, this week in the second lesson, no sooner did the teacher mention "Pop Goes The Weasel," than K2 starts yelling, "No! No way!" I start to bounce, and she completely freaks out and demands to watch the rest of the lesson from the edge of the pool. Which she does. For these hapless kids--or at least for K2--"Pop Goes The Weasel" is their "Jaws Theme." And at the moment, she does not think it's safe to go back in the water.


I just finished a swim class with my 2-year-old, and I ignored the teachers when they insisted we dunk them. If he didn't want to do it, I told him, "No problem" and we skipped it. This included jumping off the diving board. Sometimes he did it, other times he didn't want to, and I felt bad for the kids whose parents made them do it. I taught swimming lessons in college to water-traumatized adults who were fearful of even putting their faces in the water. I'm guessing the little boy in our class who would scream hysterically every time we started singing "Humpty Dumpty" (the class "dunking" song) will be in one of those adult classes eventually.

Rather controversially we have opted to teach our children to swim ourselves - they might not make it to olympic standard based solely on my teachings, but it does mean that they get a 1 on 1 lesson, we're building wonderful memories and it doesn't have 1/3 of the cost. Win, win, win.

Great story. And I love K2's reaction to hearing the activity being mentioned. Every time I attempt to teach my kids to swim I get similar results, so I end up putting it off for another 6 months.

That is too bad. I'd say get her out. I still have traumatic memories of being dunked by a bad swimming teacher and I STILL don't like to put my head under water.

This is why I have a non-swimming five-year-old -- an aggressive teacher a few years back who completely put her off swimming. This is not ripping off a Band-Aid, people. Some kids need time to get acclimated and move at their own pace.

Of course, on the up-side, we're giving our kids something to talk about in therapy someday!

Yeah, I pulled her today. We went again this morning, had a blast playing and splashing and even putting faces in the water before the class, but as soon as the class started, she freaked again and got out. We'll keep playing, but wait to try lessons again in a few months.

Great story Greg. I must admit our non-attendance is because we have always been to stingy to pay money for something that looks simple enough to do as parents. But the pressure to "do proper swimming lessons" is immense (imagine what its like living in Queensland, Australia!)

My tips would be:
(1) Keep it fun and don't force anything
(2) Put your own head under; kids love to copy
(3) Go swimming more than once a week; familiarity is the key to trying new things

Oh and tell everyone you are doing it the Laurie Lawrence method. he's one of Australia's top Olympic swim coaches and has helpfully produced these DIY lessons on this website:


I can totally sympathize on the DIY principle, especially since I used to be a teenage lifeguard and swim teacher. But I'm also a strong believer in the power of a teacher vs a parent, to get a kid to do something. it can be a very different, and necessary, dynamic.

that said, familiarity and constant/regular swimming might go a long way to just getting the kid proficient. more than the 1-2x/wk or so we do, anyway.

I STILL remember when I was 3 and they forced us to go underwater the first lesson. I have vivid memories of running around the pool and being chased by the teacher so I could be thrown in. Unfortunately, they didn't let parents stay so my mom wasn't there and she still feels awful to this day about it!
I got in other swim lessons, took to the water like the proverbial fish and still love swimming.
Just wanted to reassure you that she'll probably have no lasting memories or effects from this brief bad class!

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