Some kids take to water like fish and the girls are no exception. They can stay in the pool for hours. I never learned how to swim properly as a kid, so I’m not a strong swimmer (I can swim, but not really well). I really wanted the girls to take swim lessons early on because I do have a fear of drowning and swimming is such an important life skill to have (btw, have you read this article on what drowning really looks like? If you haven’t yet, you should). Mia took swimming lessons a few years ago and she did learn how to swim, but I think she needs at least another round of classes to properly learn the strokes and get better at swimming longer distances and in deeper water. We’ve been stalling on Claudine’s swim lessons until we knew for sure she would be comfortable in a swim class, but to our surprise she figured out how to float on our last day at a pool last summer. When we went swimming for the first time this season last Saturday, she picked right up where she left off and figured out how to swim on her own within 20 minutes of being in the water. I watched her for the 2 hours she was in the pool and I’ve never seen as much determination on her face and in her little body as I did that day. She didn’t even want to play with Mia in the water; all she wanted to do was swim laps across the pool the whole time.
NYC initiated a program called “Swim For Life” about 2 years ago and the program was made available in our school this year. It partners local YMCAs with public schools and offers swim classes to second graders for 10 weeks as part of the normal school curriculum, partly to give disadvantaged minority children in the city an opportunity to learn how to swim (let’s be frank here; swim lessons cost money and it’s unfortunate that money is a factor in learning a skill that can be life saving. I know I’ve been lackadaisical myself about enrolling the kids in swim classes because of it). I had heard rumors throughout the school year that the second graders were going swimming, but I just couldn’t believe how the logistics worked. I mean, how do you walk 24 second graders 8 blocks to the local YMCA, swim for an hour, get changed out of wet bathing suits and into regular clothes and walk back the 8 blocks to school every single week? But apparently it works! I’m really pleased that Claudine will be able to take advantage of the program as she goes into second grade next year, provided that our school will be offering it again after this pilot year (and I really hope it does). Drowning is scary and while I’m glad I no longer have to go in the water with the girls every time we go swimming now that they are older, I still hover near the edge of the pool with my eyes on them the whole time. It’s probably the one time where I act like a helicopter parent. So do yourself and your kids a favor – teach them how to swim. Statistics say that accidental drowning is the second leading cause of death to young children. With the way these girls love the water, it’s enough of a reason to revisit putting swim classes as top priority above other extracurricular activities.