Saturday, August 13, 2011


For the most part, this has been a pretty good summer for swimming -- hot and muggy, up until the last couple weeks. We have a membership at the pool, and we use it several times a week. Usually Starling takes the older kids for an hour or two in the afternoons during Mudpuppy's nap. Once in a while, though, we will all go down as a family, like we did last Sunday evening. I like going on Sunday evenings, because the place is virtually empty -- and we don't have to sunscreen all the kids at that hour. That knocks half an hour off our prep time.

Jaybird has taught herself to swim, through sheer dint of will, this summer.
She does what we like to call "not drowning," which is to say
 a very basic dogpaddle that will get her to the side of the pool. 

She has also taught herself a few floats, and has been experimenting
with diferent styles of strokes.

Relaxing by the pool.

Mudpuppy very cautiously explores the zero-depth portion of the pool.

Mouse enjoys jumping off the diving board in the deep end.

Playing under the "mushroom."

The evening light on the water is nice for these portraits.

Bear sat out the evening reading a good book -- but he has been enjoying
learning new strokes during his advanced swimming lessons.
All of the children, including Mudpuppy, are in swim lessons this week and next. Swimming lessons are a hassle -- as I say, it takes a good half hour to get everyone slathered in sunscreen -- but in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, we like our children not to drown, so we haul them to the pool every summer for lessons. Of course it's been much hotter than usual all summer -- except for this week. On Friday we actually had lessons under cloudy skies with temps in the 60s.

Which wouldn't matter so much to me if it weren't for my being in the water with Mudpuppy for his lesson. When we signed the kids up back in March, I think my reasoning was that I'd prefer to be "playing" in the water with him over chasing him all around the pool and trying to keep him away from the restricted areas. I had envisioned a very laid-back splashing session, but as it turns out, the young instructor is something of a drill sergeant. She says she has more than six years' experience teaching kids this age, not to mention having taught all her cousins to swim, so she has Mudpuppy not only playing with toys in the zero-depth and playing ring-around-the-rosie, but also going in the deep end for front floats and back floats and jumping off the wall and hanging on the wall to kick and sitting on the wall to kick and putting your face in the water to blow bubbles and jumping off the wall and going all the way under, head and all.... Mind you, this is the kid who previously was known for screaming bloody murder when we washed his hair in the tub. Did I mention that we're the only ones in this class? (The early parent-toddler swim class has six toddlers and their parents.) So Mudpuppy does not get a break.

I have to say, though, that the aggressive approach seems to be working. He started off at the beginning of the week being VERY cautious about everything and doing a lot of head-shaking and whining; he's still doing that, but less and less, and he seems more comfortable and relaxed now. His back float is definitely looking better, and he's more relaxed doing it. He doesn't cry when he gets dunked under water -- partly because I immediately follow up by throwing him in the air, which makes him laugh. I also show him how I go under the water a few times before he does it. Unfortunately, he hasn't learned to close his mouth when he goes under. He might want to work on that.

His favorite activity in class is "motor boat" -- getting swished around the water in a front-down or backwards position by the instructor or me. He smiles and laughs and asks for "more, more."

By the end of the half hour, he is usually visibly shaking from being cold, despite wearing a swim shirt. So I scoop him up, he waves bye-bye, and then I wrap him up in a towel and lay him down on a bench to dry him off and change him into dry clothes. He just lays there, very quietly, with his eyes closed and a slight smile on his lips. And eventually, he stops shivering.

The kids were cold on Friday, too, of course. But, as I told them, outdoor swim lessons in Minnesota are 50% about learning to swim, and 50% about learning to Lower Your Expectations, because, to quote The Princess Bride: "Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who says differently is selling something." Sadly, they don't appreciate my sense of humor.