Not last summer, but the summer before, I had one of those very special moments, where you can genuinely be proud of your child – you can gloat and you can feel extremely superior to all the other parents around you. It doesn’t happen that often and frankly you’d probably become unbearable to be around if it did, but when it does, it creates a memorable bubble of happiness that you can remind yourself of at a later date, when your child is behaving like a little monster.
We were at the swimming pool on a very warm summer evening, swimming in the kid’s pool with my then three-year-old daughter. She had been learning how to swim and practicing consistently for about a year. She could quite easily float by herself, as well as short swims and dog paddles. It wasn’t exactly my idea of bliss standing thigh deep in lukewarm indoor pool water, but I could keep watch while she frolicked around happily not needing to intervene to rescue her at all.
A little friend arrived (quite coincidentally) and the two of them were playing together. It started out all right, in very shallow water, but then the moved a little deeper, about chest height on a three year old. And when you haven’t had any swimming lessons, or been practicing weekly with your mum and dad at the pool, it can be very difficult to get your feet back under you if you topple over in the water.
The little friend was following my mermaid daughter around, trying to do everything she was doing and go everywhere she was going, while his father followed after him, hauling him up and keeping him from drowning every thirty seconds. He was safe, his dad was there, I wasn’t worried about him at all, but boy was I glad we had spent all that time on swimming lessons and practice.
Not only was my daughter safe and having a ball, she was swimming by herself, she was independent and she didn’t need me to be one of those helicopter parents. I admit it, I gloated. Just a little bit. I was sitting at the edge of the pool ready to step in if needed, but I wasn’t. She was so independent that she was able to swim by herself, her confidence and her awareness of water safety was such that she didn’t venture out to where she wouldn’t be able to stand, and she gave herself a reasonable boundary for staying near me without being told.
For a while I was just proud, and basked in the praise of the other mothers at mother’s group.
“She’s so clever!”
“What an amazing swimmer.”
“She’s so advanced.”
… were some of the comments that were flung our way. It was tempting to believe them, after all, who else’s children could swim so well at her age? But the simple and in some ways scary answer to that was any child who had had the same exposure, the same lessons, and the same practice could be just a good, if not better.
The pool would be populated with competent three and four year old swimmers, and parents would be able to sit by the side of the pool rather than the lukewarm indoor soup. Teach your children to swim early – they’ll be safer, you’ll be dryer and I promise you, you won’t regret it.
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