I'm not the greatest swimmer out there, but I can keep afloat. In fact, when I was 12, I actually became a PADI certified SCUBA diver. I never gave much thought to how I learned to swim. We were always around it. And in the summer, for more than a couple years, my brother and I went to the aquatic center nearby for swim lessons. I guess I assumed my kids would learn to be comfortable and wary of the water the same way I had. Spend time at the ocean, the rivers, the lakes, and whatever pool we are lucky enough to find ourselves at.
Now we're inching closer to another summer, and I'm finding I have more than a little anxiety about the water. Last summer, G had a couple traumatic experiences, and I'm not being over dramatic with my words here.
While camping at a lake in July, he fell backwards off a float tube. It's a long story with some irritation directed at my husband for how it happened with no adults close enough to grab him right away, but he was fine. He had his life jacket on, and his older cousin grabbed him & held on until an adult could get close enough to hold him. To be clear, the water where he was playing was shallow enough for the adults to walk around in. It just really unsettled G to fall head first into the water and so unexpectedly. (Not so unexpectedly to helpless onlookers such as myself who was holding a baby and unable to go out to him.)
After that at some point, I came across an article (shared by a friend on Facebook) called "Drowning Doesn't Look Like Drowning." You have to read it, seriously. Basically, it explains how drowning is nothing like we see in the movies. It happens silently & quickly. You can't scream - your body is too busy trying to breathe. You can't flail or reach for help - your body is pressing your arms out and against the water in an attempt to leverage your body. And this only lasts about a minute before you sink.
I told my husband about this article in casual conversation. I demonstrated the arm position and the tilt of the head, not knowing if either of us would ever need to recognize this in real life.
You may remember the business trip my husband had last summer that the kids and I went along for. Remember - the trip where I was sick in bed the entire time with Hand Foot and Mouth Disease? Yeah. I pretty much didn't leave the bed except to change diapers and use the bathroom. The kids watched A LOT of TV and basically ran amok in the hotel room. For breakfast, lunch (if he was back at the hotel), and dinner, my husband would take G out of the room with him. One night, they went to the pool while I got N to sleep.
Getting out of the pool, my husband got out first with G behind him on the steps and headed over to the shower to rinse off. That's when he heard the splash. G was in the pool, head tilted back, mouth open for air not making a sound, eyes wide with fear, arms straight out, legs straight down and not kicking. My husband jumped in immediately and took him out of the pool. Poor G cried hysterically for a solid 20 minutes, I was told. By the time they returned to our room, he was much calmer.
As you can imagine, G is no longer the least bit interested in swimming now. In fact, when we told him a few weeks ago we'd be staying at a hotel with a pool for the weekend, he flat out said he didn't want to go on the trip at all. This is a kid who took swim lessons from 6-12 months old and loved the water.
I've decided it would be worth the investment to hire a private swim instructor now. I'm hoping to find someone with some experience dealing with people who have a similar fear of the water. How do I find someone like that? And how do I convince G to get in the water with them?
Have you had to help your kids overcome anything like this? What has your experience been? Any helpful suggestions?