Tuesday, August 18, 2009
Scared into action
Complacency is clearly not my friend. Last year we put Ellie in swim lessons knowing that we'd be putting a pool in later that year. The first lesson went great, but after that things fell apart. Ellie decided that it was far more fun to run around the pool (a slippery tiled deck) and peek into the skimmers. When she was in the water with the instructor she wanted to be held so she could stick her hands into the skimmers. So essentially, I paid $100 for my daughter to have one decent private half hour swim lesson. This was hardly enough to teach her how to swim.
Fortunately, the $300 I spent for Madeline to learn to swim (15 weeks of 1/2 hour private lessons) was well worth it. By the end of the first five lessons she could swim. The following two sessions were to make her a more confident swimmer. Because I was able to sit and watch Madeline be taught how to swim, I not only got to see my girl go from scared and unsure to confident and proud, but I also got to pick up on how two very good instructors taught children to swim. During most of the lessons another family had their two boys taking private lessons with another instructor. Since we got there early every week, I got to watch both boys progress week by week. The tips I picked up from both instructors have helped me to coach Madeline to be a better swimmer over the past two summers.
I've tried to teach Ellie the basics since our pool was completed early last August, but I haven't had much success. You see, Ellie is a tough nut. She only wants to do what she wants to do and that's all that she wants to do. Got it? Dealing with a child with such a strong personality can be quite a challenge. If I push her to do something she doesn't want to do, it takes forever for me to convince her that doing it is her idea and not mine. She's a kid who doesn't want to give you the satisfaction of thinking that she did what you wanted her to do. Talk about frustrating! My attempts to teach her how to swim have mostly been in vain. I want her to know how to swim so she can get to the side of the pool in case she ever finds herself in trouble. My biggest fear is finding one of my children dead in our pool. Bryan keeps telling me she's just not ready, but I've had trouble accepting that. I see how she moves in the water with her swimmies. She shows more natural ability in the water than her sister ever did. She's also fearless around the water. That fearlessness is what strikes fear into my heart.
Ellie's lack of caution around the water is the reason why we have a pool alarm on our sliding glass door and a locked child safety fence around our pool. Without them, I'm sure my Ellie would have wound up in the water unattended at least once. And let's be honest, it only takes one time to result in disaster.
This Sunday I had the water scare with Ellie that I have been dreading. Strangely, the gravity of the event didn't hit me until last night when I was trying to fall asleep. On Sunday, our neighbors came over to swim with their three girls. At some point Ellie decided that she was done swimming in the pool (she does this frequently). When she got out of the pool she removed her swimmies (something she does occasionally). She was probably out of the water for a good 30 minutes just playing with her friends. At some point she decided that she wanted to get on my new alligator float that I brought earlier that day. Engulfed in a conversation with the little girls I was watching in the pool, I totally missed the fact that Ellie was not wearing swimmies. So when she told me she was going to get on the alligator, I thought nothing of it. I remember seeing her lean over into the pool to get on Alfonse (the Alligator float). Probably half a minute passed before I noticed that she wasn't on the float. I still thought nothing of it. "She'll climb up on it eventually." I told myself. Seconds later I looked over my shoulder and saw a hot pink swimmie sitting next to a pile of towels. It took a second or two for me to register that Ellie's swimmie sitting on the deck + empty alligator=my baby in the water. I'm so incredibly thankful that when I tossed the float out of the way that my Ellie was treading water and her cute little mouth and nose were out of the water. I'm not sure if Ellie has ever held on so tight to me as she did when I scooped her up.
I think I'm most surprised that Ellie didn't drink any water in the process. Clearly teaching her to hold her breath when she jumps into the pool (and under the water in the process) must have helped her out. Since she was in the shallow end, she had the ability to touch the bottom of the pool and push herself up for air. I doubt that we would have been so fortunate if she had fallen into the deep end. What scares me the most is the entire thing was quiet. No noise was made during any of her struggle, and that alligator float blocked her from my line of sight. If Ellie hadn't announced that she was getting on the alligator I'm not sure what the outcome would have been. While I'm proud of her for doing a good job keeping her head above the water, it's an event that has shaken me to the core.* I can no longer afford to be complacent.
I started to teach Ellie how to swim this morning. We're working on doing all the things Madeline did last year in her swim lessons. She's already doing a good job, and she seems very motivated to learn how to swim now. Perhaps she's been scared into wanting to learn just as I have been scared into needing to teach her.
I commented to Bryan last Summer that I suspect Ellie to be our child who is most likely to drown. Sure it sounds awful, but it's true. Madeline can swim, but she also has a good healthy fear of the water. Ellie doesn't fear the water and that scares me.
*I grew up in a house with a pool. I can vividly remember the handful of times that I found myself under the water and unable to swim at ages 3 and 4. I was tall enough to stand in the water but I apparently didn't understand that I could stand up and help myself. So given my past experiences, I am very proud of Ellie and her survival instincts. If she had been like me she would have been breathing in water or worse.