"Look, Mommy!" she called, pausing to drain the water from her goggles. "Watch me!"
I looked over in shock as my child, the same child who at the beginning of summer refused to even attempt a dog paddle, the same child we've tirelessly attempted to get to swim for the past four years to no avail, dove for princess diving rings and orca dive sticks at the bottom of a friend's pool.
She surfaced, a ring and a stick in her hands. "Doubles!" she called.
We were at this pool maybe a month ago, and my girl didn't remove her life jacket once. Somewhere in the last few weeks, a switch has flipped, and she is well on her way to being a swimmer, a child who can take care of herself in the water. Soon I will be able to convince the part of my brain prone to anxious obsessions that she is just fine, stop worrying -- another recurring nightmare can be at least logically put to rest.
People will try to tell you that if you give your baby enough repeat exposure to water, she will grow up without fear. This is complete and utter bullshit. Love for water, confidence in water = personality trait.
Our experience went like this:
- Zero years old -- hates the bath. Hates the pool. Scream, scream.
- One year old -- screams while being bathed. Spends time in multiple baby pools but screams if we get anywhere near the big pool. Tubes in ears.
- Two years old -- will tolerate baby pool, screams when water gets anywhere near face at swimming lessons in the big pool. Like, trying to choke me screaming while the kids a year younger than her laugh and laugh.
- Three years old -- baby pool city. Huge success when she will immerse entire body and allow part of hair to get wet. At this point we've moved to Chateau Travolta and are taking her swimming every weekend during the summer.
- Four years old -- group swimming lessons, screams and cries while my heart breaks into a million pieces. Never puts face in. Swimming pool every weekend. She goes in wearing a life jacket AND an inner tube.
- Five years old -- private swimming lessons, allows face to go under water, comes up spitting and crying Every.Single.Time. Swimming every weekend. Major success when she will allow us to let go of her while wearing life jacket. (end of summer last year)
- Six years old -- camp swimming lessons, swimming in a friend's pool surrounded by same-age encouragement, extended swim time with friend in swim team, bit of peer pressure. Starts off summer only in life jacket, has yet to jump off side of pool and immerse. (May) Proceeds to floaty with no life jacket (June), proceeds to water slide on flotation device with no life jacket (June), proceeds to willingly submersing for a second (June), proceeds to going down tube water slide with life jacket (July), proceeds to dog paddle (July), proceeds to front float with kicks (July), proceeds to dive stick thing (July).
If your kid won't swim, keep trying. But don't let anyone tell you that you can train your baby to be a fish. It can take, um, six years of repeat expsoure to get her to put her head in the water.