Monday, June 15, 2009

Jump Right In!

So we got to Jabber's first swimming lesson early. Too early, I guess. The lessons themselves were running late, so when we got there, apparently the older, bigger, more experienced swimmers were still in the pool. Which caused us some drama, but I'll get to that.

First, we arrive and check in, and we are told that adults of the opposite gender cannot accompany children into the locker rooms and that kids over four (actually it says kids who "look four or older" as though if you have an uncommonly tall toddler, he is automatically a pervert or something) can't be in the opposite gender locker room. Okay. So this means I have to drop Jabber off at the door to some weird, labyrinthian locker room, clutching his little bag of stuff, and have him enter alone, get himself changed into his swimming suit alone, take a shower alone, and find his own way to the pool.

"Oh, but there's a locker room attendant, don't worry," she says, beckoning to a boy who might be sixteen. I restrain myself from asking for a copy of his background check. I mean, I'm trying not to be a helicopter parent, but there's also the fact that he's only five years old. He doesn't go into men's rooms alone, and he can't really find his way out of a paper bag by himself, much less find his way through a crowded locker room. (At the restaurant where we ate breakfast, I sent him back to put the tip on the table, and he couldn't find it. It was three tables away from where we were standing at the time.)

Anyway, so I get him dressed in the bathroom instead (in the girls' bathroom, omg I'm such a rebel), and it was a good thing, since he didn't remember that underwear need to be removed first. Then I bring him to the door of the locker room and luckily, a kind grandfather with a small boy of his own offers to help Jabber to the door of the pool. I figure to hell with a shower; do they understand that the child has to be bribed to let us pour water over his head to wash his hair like twice a month?

Then I have to walk all the way around to the other side of the pool and in through the girls' locker room. I find my way through my own labyrinth and emerge in the pool room, only to see my son being taken by the hand toward the water, where those aforementioned bigger kids are splashing away.

"This is Jabber," I hear her say. "Go ahead, Jabber. Jump right in!"

So my son, who is cautious and hesitant about everything in life, jumps right in. And goes right under. And has no clue that he could just stand up, because he has never been alone in that much water before in his life.

(edited to clarify: she did help him to the ladder, and she didn't mean this literally...but he didn't understand how to use the ladder and jumped off the ladder. The pool lady was very sincerely sorry and said that Jabber just seemed so confident, but still. It was scary for everyone.)

At this point, people who have seen me take Jabber swimming (Mary? Ellie? Remember that?) might recall that even when I walked into the water with him, he scrabbled at me like a barnacle and nearly strangled me with his frightened grip and screamed in a way that made me nervous the spectators would call Child Protective Services when I tried to get him to enjoy the water.

Yeah, I was actually pretty proud of him for doing little more than blinking back some tears when the pool lady hauled him back out of the water and set his shivering little self back up on the edge. But in the next fifteen minutes, while we waited for his real beginner lesson, he began to cry and told me he didn't want lessons after all.

In the picture up there, you can see the way he was *supposed* to be introduced to the water, surrounded by two licensed adults who are being careful and supportive. Even so, once his toes hit the water, he latched onto the side and clung to it, shaking and crying, for much of the first lesson. They were really good with him, and got him relaxed and talking, but he still would only go in the water attached to one of the trainers (like a barnacle, with a stranglehold). Now he says he doesn't want to go tomorrow.

I don't know what to do, really. It seems awfully callous to say, "Too bad. I paid forty bucks for this, and you're going." We talked and talked about how he can touch the bottom of the pool (he can), but he doesn't believe me. I asked him one thing he was proud of about today and one thing he wants to try tomorrow, and then I told him six or eight things I am proud of about today and one thing I'd like him to try tomorrow. Right now I'm not even sure he will get in.

On the positive side, he did manage to get himself dried, dressed, and out of the locker room, unlike the other little boy with an opposite-gendered adult; he got lost for a little while. (His mom, carrying a toddler and an infant in a car seat, handled it much better than I would have, I'm sure.)



bethany said...

well, that totally sucks. They should give you your money back and stop being so stupid. Ezra is 6 and I don't send him into unfamiliar bathrooms by himself. Whoever told him to jump in should be slapped a few times.

CDP said...

Oh, that sucks. And four is too young for the bathroom should be five or six.

Does your pool offer a parent-assisted class? Our indoor pool had a series of six parent-assisted classes, where we actually got in the water with the kids. After my four year old developed some skills in that class, he reluctantly agreed to take the next series of six lessons with just the instructor. After that ended, he took one more series of six...and only when there were about 3 left did he finally start to like going to swimming lessons. So it takes a while for some kids, and I think you should just keep taking him and see what happens.

elissa said...

yes! I'm taking Monkey to a mom and tots or somesuch class next month, but they only go up to 36 months? then there was one class that goes up to 5 years, but it was at a weird time I think.

but yeah, I'll keep taking him...and just hope he eventually peels himself off the instructor/the side of the pool and gets a tiny bit more comfortable with the whole idea. at least now he's got the locker room figured out, though he still claims he can't/won't take a shower. yeesh.

Shana said...

That is such a bummer. Poor Elliot. At the Y here in Superior they have a family locker room, which is so nice. I would not feel comfortable at all sending one of my kiddos into the locker room by themselves.

Anonymous said...

Even though it might seem callous, help him learn to face his anxieties by continuing to go. Act like its no big deal and he'll have fun once he's comfortable. From experience with an anxious child (not Zoe. lol), the more I tried to make her comfortable the more it seemed to feed the anxiety.

cowpops said...

I was similar to Jabber's reaction to the pool. I ended up enjoying it though, because my mom was TOTALLY the type to go, "screw it, I paid forty bucks, you're going". It got me tough and now I can swim. Unfortunately, my lessons had to be canceled when it was discovered that the reason my skin was peeling rapidly when I left the pool was because of a severe allergic reaction to chlorine. :)

good story, eh? :)

But yeah. My mom's a little "callous" but it's the only way I would've been able to face any fear of life, really.