It's that time of the season where I run the very serious risk of dehydration due to excessive loss of fluid through sweat and log an insane number of miles traveled between The Hill and D-Town all in the name of giving our daughters the opportunity to learn how not to drown. Monday morning brought violent storms, excessive heat index warnings, and the beginning of another round of swim lessons.
We like to make sure we have a solid handle on things around here before moving on to bigger and better things, thus the girls were enrolled in levels two and three for the second year in a row. Although Shortcake is clearly placed appropriately for her swimming (in)abilities, I believe Punkin could have handled an upgrade in swimming instruction. Since she's not exactly known for her expert listening skills in large group situations, I didn't think it would hurt to give her one more year of small group (or, as it appears to be the case this year, individual) lessons.
Here's the quick rundown. Shortcake, despite her best efforts, still struggles with swimming. I think it's a combination of poor endurance, a lack of understanding of proper breathing technique, and the inability to coordinate her arms and legs in a fluid motion. The fact that she won't stop plugging her nose during a good 80% of water based activity (particularly bobbing, jumping off the side or diving board, front crawl, forward glide, and back float) does not help the cause. Fear and a general lack of confidence is her worst enemy.
It was this same fear that literally paralyzed her atop the high dive at the end of lessons. After jumping off the low dive with complete confidence twice, I suddenly watched her as she strutted over to the high dive. We had a very brief conversation about how the high dive is a completely different beast, but she could not be deterred. She was on a mission and that mission was showing the high dive who was boss. All was good in the hood until she reached the point where the guard rails end. Understandably, that final short walk to the end of the board is intimating and although she made it another two feet or so toward the edge she couldn't make herself go any farther. There were tears (hysterics is probably a more appropriate term), encouraging words from her family and instructors, and finally a mini-rescue from another lifeguard. I was very proud of her for even attempting the task, but she's pretty sure she won't be trying that again any time soon. After a little pep talk last night before bed I definitely saw some progress this morning. She still rocks a mean back crawl, and as demonstrated at the lake over the holiday weekend can navigate her way around a raft like it's her job, so I have high hopes that she'll enjoy a long life of leisure based swimming activities so long as a proficient swimmer is nearby in case of a dire emergency.
Punkin, on the other hand, in just the first half of summer has shown vast improvement in her swimming abilities. That being said, she's a long way from being a proficient swimmer (my definition of proficient being she can be in the water largely unsupervised while I either read a book, nap, or engage in intense conversation regarding the latest reality or court TV drama with fellow moms), but I definitely see progress. Where her sister is saddled by fear, Punkin is approaching life in the water with a fearless attitude. In yet another moment that classically defines Punkin's personality and approach to life, when asked if she knew how to jump off the side she sweetly responded with a quiet "yes". The lifeguard positioned herself no more than two feet out from Punkin's location and then counted down with a very supportive and clueless "One . . . two . . . three . . . " which was followed immediately by a scream of "CANNONBALL" and accompanying giant splash from Punkin. Her instructor looked as though she was significantly less amused by this performance; I found it hilarious.
Going along with the fearless theme, Punkin was not to be deterred from conquering new things despite watching her sister suffer a breakdown of magnificent proportions on the high dive. One trip off the low dive was all she needed to pump her up for glory. She climb the steps, walked to the edge without hesitation, and jumped without pause at the count of three. As she does when she jumps off the dock, she soared through the air with arms extended, legs tucked, and body leaning forward. Having much farther to fall in this formation, the result was that she emerged from the surface of the water with a howl of pain having experienced her first high dive belly flop. Despite loads of praise from all surrounding her, Punkin firmly declared that she was "nevuh doing dat again". Not surprisingly, pencil jump techniques were hit hard during today's lesson.
What I do know is that despite any swimming shortcomings they may possess, I am incredibly grateful that they we are not faced with the panic stricken, don't-you-even-think-about-putting-me-in-this-water moments. That's a rough spot to be in for any parent, that time when you have to balance gentle compassion toward your child's fears with straight out throw-them-in-the-water-and-make-them-learn ruthlessness. Sink or swim, baby!