Fish Out Of Water
If I remember correctly, I was about 10-years-old when I learnt to swim.
My heroic grandad, not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, took it upon himself to teach my brother and I our strokes down at the local baths, in Bath, Somerset, rather aptly, where we found ourselves living during the mid-1980s.
After initial push-offs from the side into open arms, breast strokes and fledgling front crawls were practised across bustling widths until we were bold enough to be released from his trust, more likely to swim than sink eventually.
To most people, 10 might seem a young enough age to become confident in the water, but what if I told you that my bullish Boy Two could swim a width of his local pool unaided at the tender age of three? You probably wouldn´t believe me – but he could.
Ok, like me back in 1986, it wasn’t quite swimming in the Michael Phelps/Rebecca Adlington scheme of things, but he could get from one side to the other - even if he did look like a gyrating octopus caught up in a perfect storm.
More importantly though, he was confident, at home in the water, and put that aforementioned grandad type trust in me – he was a real happy splasher.
It was a trust that had grown since he was just a few weeks old.
'Ridiculous!', I hear some cry.
'What a complete waste of time taking such a small baby to swimming lessons'.
I can assure you that the only ridiculous thing about baby swimming lessons is some of the Bermuda shorts the dads often parade poolside.
For us, swimming was daddy time. The half hour in each week when I knew we'd have each other's undivided attention.
Where that trust was cemented and renewed and we could have fun together with no interruptions. (Providing goggles were always securely attached).
As the baby lessons ended he transitioned smoothly to the junior 'independent' classes, where there's no room in the water for outrageously cladded dads.
I was firmly banished to poolside with the rest of the iPhone brigade, but you’ll never find me thumbing my timeline – I still count it as precious daddy time.
I'm used to it after all.
My eldest has been 'independently' swimming for a good few years now too, progressing quickly from whirlpool octopus to fledgling dolphin, without question down to his previous baby lessons, which I often now mourn with regret from the dads' bench.
Boy One definitely doesn’t have the same flair as Boy Two in the water though and as soon as he was confident enough to hold his own, decided to opt out of his regular weekly sessions.
Now, Sunday mornings 10am to 11am are solely for our second little dynamo, who continues to come on leaps and bounds, or should that be kicks and strokes, as soon as he hits the water.
So much so that just a few weeks back we watched him triumphantly claim his 1,000 metres swimming badge – at just seven years of age.
A little bit of poolside encouragement was required at the end of a few of the lengths, but he managed it easily and my pride was palpable as I plucked him gasping from the depths with a euphoric towelled hug and wet high five.
I couldn’t help but think back to my own days in the pool with my grandad all those years ago and how important it remains to me for my boys to feel at home and confident in the water.
Much more than a simple life skill, it’s an empowering and liberating asset for any child to boast.
And although these weekly lessons are structured and stroke defining, as of course they should be, it also means our family time poolside is relaxed and completely full of fun - no fear of splashing or jumping in to be found on our summer holidays.
Part of me likes to think it all stems from that trust that was forged in those heady baby-swimming days. Stronger than steel that I had with my granddad and then my boys had with me.
So even though they both now appear to be fully accomplished swimmers, they can push off from the side into my open, trustworthy arms anytime they want.
And we don't need to be within even 10 metres of any swimming pools at all.
Would you like your little one to become more confident in the water? Turn to page 18 to read more about the Vulcans Learn To Swim programme.
Barry Wood is an ex journalist now working for the NHS in Lincolnshire. A father of two boys and husband to one Portuguese wife, he blogs regularly as Desperate Dad. Read more adventures: www.barrylwood.wordpress.com
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