It is that time of year again. I am talking about using water torture on the kids.
In my family, water torture is a time honored tradition, passed from parent to child as certainly as our knobby knees. I am talking about the most dreaded of summertime activities, swimming lessons.
Not all familial swimming lessons were in a pool with a certified Red Cross instructor, but all were tortuous and endured as long as said child refused to learn. My mother was tossed out of a rowboat into the middle of a pond and instructed to save herself. Happily, she did. It wasn’t pretty, and she always hated the water, but my mom could dog paddle like crazy.
When I was little, I was subjected to swim lessons at Westlake. The only nice thing about those lessons was that when they were over, we got to stay and play in the water for the rest of the day. Even with added play time, though, I loathed swimming lessons. Since I seemed unable to get the whole swimming thing down, my torture endured for many years.
Taken at face value, swimming is a simple proposition. Kick your feet, move your arms in an overhead crawl motion, and roll your head to the side to breathe. Sounds simple, and now that I have some body fat to help with buoyancy, it actually is.
The problem I had when I was a kid is that I had no measurable body fat and therefore sank like a stone. When I rolled my head to the side expecting fresh air, I saw about a foot of water over me instead. So swimming for me was more of a poorly choreographed survival dance that went like this. Gasp, crawl, crawl, push down hard, raise head, spit, gasp, repeat. The whole time I was trying to propel myself through the water fast and far enough to pass the test, in my head I was screaming, “ohmygodohmygodohmygod,” push, spit, gasp, “I’m gonna ddddiiiiiieeeeee!”
Finally, when I was about 10, I passed my swimming test. In an odd twist of fate, I chose to take lessons when Middlest was in lessons. It was called stroke development and was aimed at adults who could swim, but not well. Happily, I had gained enough weight that I finally was able to float and gain a semi-normal looking swim stroke. And I quit believing I was about to die at every moment.
Both Eldest and Middlest mastered the whole swimming thing pretty quickly. Middlest learned the summer of our divorce when we were living in an apartment while waiting for our house to be built. Her sister taught her. It was pretty painless.
This year I dutifully subjected Youngest yet again to swimming lessons. Sadly, she also has the buoyancy of a rock and hates the lessons. I think we are in for an extended time of summer water torture with this one. Honestly, I can’t blame her for being a wall hugger. Last week her instructor promised to not let go, then promptly did so. We aren’t going back to that instructor, but It is getting harder to convince myself that these lessons are more humane than tossing her into a pond. I wonder what a good mother would do.
Amy is a writer living in Hendricks County. You can read more of her work at rubymay1029.blogspot.com.