Today was Violet’s first swimming lesson. It was a “water babies” class at a community pool, and I was so eager to get there, it might as well have been my first swimming lesson. We both had our new bathing suits on, and it was a beautiful day. I couldn’t wait to get in the water with her, to see what she would do. While we stood by the pool, waiting for the class to start, I noticed some things I hadn’t expected: Violet was one of the youngest kids there. The class was for 6 months to two years, but out of the dozen or so kids, she was one of only three who looked less than a year old. And all of the other parents, save one, were moms. I also expected the pool to be surrounded by a phlanax of parents aiming cameras, but I think Linda and her mom were the only ones taking pictures (one taking pictures, one taking video). But none of that registered as they called for the class to begin and I walked Violet down the steps into the shallow end with the rest of the parents and kids. She looked at the water with fascination, at the other children, too. Some parents dunked their kids right in, others walked with them slowly into the deeper water, allowing the cool water to creep slowly up their bodies. I thought Violet need a gentler approach, so I dipped her feet into the water. She looked at her toes, distorted by the water’s surface. And she started yelling – not yet crying, but the fact that she was the only kid getting upset made her yells seem that much louder. I pulled her feet out and she settled down. I tried again, and she cried again. The instructor asked us all to stand by the edge of the pool, holding our children out of the water. We would all sing “Humpty Dumpty” and when we got to “had a great fall”, we were to pull our children into the water with us. We repeated this several times. Violet protested every time, and each time she got louder, asking in not so many words, “Dad, what’s wrong with you? I’m telling you I don’t like this! Why aren’t you listening to me?” When the tears started flowing, I thought it might be better to leave the group and try to acclimate on our own. We went and sat on the steps in the water where Linda and her mom could be nearby. We all encouraged Violet in our own way, and although she went back and forth, she spent more time staring quietly at the water and her surroundings than crying. As we sat, I felt my expectations shift. She is only seven months old – still a baby, and as the instructor pointed out at the beginning of the class, the whole point of this experience was to get her used to being in the water. For much of our time in the pool today, she was okay with it. Maybe next class, we’ll have slightly less crying. Maybe not. But we’ll keep trying.
221 days old