For those of you that have been following, you might recall that 2 summers ago, I made the worst parenting decision of my life. I signed up Jonah for a swim boot camp… A week -long intensive taught by a “I swear-by-him… he’s a miracle worker… it’s so worth the money” guy in Los Angeles. Known for his controversial, sort of,“get in the pool and swim, kid” methodology, I wasn’t 100% convinced that this was the right thing for Jonah. HOWEVER, everyone I knew flocked to him and I was guaranteed that by the end of the week, Jonah would be swimming.
And he did.
For the rest of the summer he swam. Not confidently, but enough to where I did think, (despite the fact that he cried for 1 hour straight/ 5 days in a row), that it was worth it and that least he was “water safe.”
Cut to last summer.
The very first moment that it was hot enough to swim and I so much as uttered the word “pool,” Jonah flipped out. He wanted nothing to do with water or swimming; Even though I promised him he did not need to take lessons, and I’d never force him to do something that he wasn’t comfortable or ready for (again. Gulp), Jonah cried, “Please mommy, don’t send me to (insert guy’s name that will make him need therapy)!!!”
So as you can well imagine, last summer was spent with me, P, and any/ all willing adults holdingJonah in the pool… reminding him (every 7 seconds) that we wouldn’t let him go, and that he was okay and that although he DID/DOES know how to swim, we will hold on to him as long as he needed….
Then… Welcome, Summer 2013.  At the first mention of school out, summer, and swim time, you probably can guess what he asked nervously. I assured him (again), I would never ever send him there for lessons, but that this summer, I think in some way, it would be great to try… to learn… to somehow swim… Maybe… Please?? With like, lots of new cool Lego sets and games on my iPad, and milkshakes on Thursdays, would you consider a little, kinda, sorta like a swim class at the golf club… Because, also, remember, all of your friends are swimming. Freely.
I hardly wanted to shame him…. But with the awareness that camp was starting and they would swim everyday, I felt like it was time to light a little fire again. Gently. And with a flame that won’t cause post-traumatic stress.
Guess what? I didn’t even need to get the match. (Wow, I’m cheesy). At camp, there’s a big pool and a little pool. In order to go into the big pool (with a deep end), the children must take a swim test. Though he was scared, he took the test (and proved he wasn’t ready for the big pool). Relieved, he went into the smaller pool. For two days, I think he doggy paddled and waded his way through it. BUT something else happened, the kids that COULD swim- his buddies- also opted for the pee infested, sunscreen-drenched, Pacific Ocean, dirty looking, small pool too. AND one day, (day 5, I think,) Jonah decided he could swim.
Of course, because he’s a boy (and I’m discovering certain inherent male traits really DO start young), he didn’t tell me about this victory that first week. (That first week, I really only heard about the fact that he touched a Piranha shark, NO a leopard shark! at the aquarium and that I need to stop sending cucumbers because HE. DOESN’T. LIKE. CUCUMBERS).
But I digress…
Cut to this past weekend. Swim time with the family. P and I suit up ready for the clutch/don’t worry fest. Before we could even get in the water though, Jonah was all the way in and said, “Watch what I can do.”
And he swam. ACROSS THE POOL. Head in the water. Feet kicking. SWAM.
He even threw in some arm strokes.
Our mouths dropped….
We screamed. We cheered. I even cried.
He just decided to do it, he said.
“I just… I taught myself.”
For the next two hours, I watched my fish of a boy ENJOYsomething that he hated and feared for almost half his life…. With each and every jump, kick, and plunge, I finally forgave myself for something that I thought could not be undone.
He just taught himself.
“Sweetheart,” I said, “I still have you signed up for lessons at the club. You obviously know how to swim, but I still think—“
“I know, Mommy. I’m very good OF swimming. But I need to get better with my arms. Like the, um, stokes. I mean, strokes. I’m not good OF that yet. She can just show me that.”
Yes, she can.

FILED UNDER: A Little Life

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  1. Thursday, June 27th, 2013
    Love it. Ugh how did you handle the guilt after the lessons?? I've had little things like that and I want to hide in a dark hole...forever...when I see my daughters fear/reaction and I know I did it! But you totally rocked it!
  2. Anonymous
    Friday, June 28th, 2013
    Same with my now 8y.o. I had him taking classes since he was maybe 6months old and there was some fun times and some harder times but he never took part in the pool games, just the time with me in the pool. Categorically refused to swim or put his head under water. Then 2 summers ago, he suprised me just like your son did to you by swimming head under water across our pool. He's still not comfortable in the deep end but at least, he doesn't panic when he slips under water! He's one kid that needs to convince himself that he can do something... we can try, but it'll never work... when he considers himself ready, he just goes and does it as if he'd done it his whole life... They are sooo amazing!
  3. Monday, July 29th, 2013
    This brings me back to my traumatic childhood swimming lesson. I distinctly remember screaming into the pool swim instructor's face, as only a 3-year-old can do, and refusing to be dunked into the water.

    Fast-forward 2 years later when I was the only kid with floaties and I decided it was time to learn to swim. With a much gentler and happier swim instructor :) Fun read. Congratulations to your son!! Many fun summers ahead of him!