To Swim or Not to Swim

So of course you remember that Pudding did not pass his Level 1 swim class and is currently in Level 1 again.

The Tech Guru has been taking him in for family swim time on weekends in the hopes of helping him to improve.

Yesterday they came in, and as Pudding happily went to divest himself of his Speedo backpack, the Tech Guru whispered to me, “I don’t think he’s going to pass.”

What?” I answered, crestfallen. “Why not?

He’s just not picking up his head. He can swim, sort of – he gets around in the water – but he’s not picking his head up to get air. It’s like his head is too heavy or he’s just not getting it or something.”

I sighed. “Did you try getting him to turn his head to the side for air instead of lifting it UP out of the water?

Yes. He’s just…he’s just not doing it. He tries, he gets frustrated and then he just goes back to what’s working for him.

What’s working for him is just keeping his head underwater for a REALLY long time. He seems to be able to hold his breath forever, which is great, but…is NOT what the teacher is looking for right now.

I was quiet for a moment. He’s been doing well in this round of Level 1, but the one thing the teacher has been concerned about has been his inability/refusal to lift his head up for air. The thing is, when he does manage to raise his head it’s not like he’s gasping for air or has taken in any water, but it just seems as though he is unable to lift his head. It could be that he’s still small enough for his head to be disproportionately large in relation to his body, as with babies and toddlers, but…I don’t know.

Did you tell him he might not pass?”


How did he handle it?” I asked, afraid of the answer.

He started to cry. I told him he has to try harder, but…he gets frustrated the minute it doesn’t work.”

His last session is this coming Thursday. The idea that I might be faced with yet another deluge of tears from my son made me tense and upset and protective. I am his mother. I do not want my son to cry.

Well, he is signed up for Level 2 already, sooo… maybe, if he doesn’t pass this time either, we should just ask for private lessons?” I said.

The Tech Guru thought about it.

Maybe,” he said, “maybe we should just ditch the lessons for a little bit and just…let him have fun in the water. Build his confidence and have a good time, and also get bigger and stronger.

That actually sounds like an excellent idea. I know he looks up to his sister and seeing her sailing through her levels and now on the swim team while he flounders in Level 1, isn’t exactly a confidence booster. Of course, she was about a good year or so older than he is now when she started serious lessons – but telling him that, or that she did have to repeat a level in the very beginning, doesn’t help in the least. He’s 4. He doesn’t give a shit about that. All he knows is what he sees now.

Pudding came into the kitchen.

How was swimming with Daddy?” I asked.

Good,” he said.

Um, I hear you’re still having a little trouble lifting your head up, huh?

He looked down and shuffled his feet.

Maybe I shouldn’t go to Level 1,” he said slowly.

What do you mean? You are in Level 1 already.”

I know. I mean, maybe I should go back to Guppies because I’m not good enough for Level 1.

My heart wrenched a little…no, a lot…when he said that.

No, baby, you’re in Level 1 because the teachers thought you had the skill to be there. There’s no need to go back. The only trouble is that if you don’t or can’t lift your head up, they think you’re having trouble getting air. That’s a really important part of swimming and they’re not going to let you pass to Level 2 if they think you can’t lift your head.”

He didn’t say anything.

Just…try your best, sweetie. Do what the teacher tells you to and try your best. Don’t give up. Like everything else, reading, whatever, you have to practice and stick with it. One day it will just happen, but you have to keep trying. That’s all I want you to do: keep trying.” I ruffled his hair, pulling his head close to my hip for a second, really wanting to scoop him up and hug him but also not wanting to make it into a bigger deal for him.

Okay,” he said, and then he meandered out of the kitchen and off to play.

The Tech Guru says he gives up easily and it’s true, he does, especially with us. That aspect makes me wonder if private lessons might actually BE a good thing, where he would have one-on-one time with someone who is NOT us, someone who might inspire him to try harder. But the idea of just being a kid in the water having fun, and maybe going back in the fall when an inch or two of height and a little more strength in his neck might make all the difference, is also very appealing.

I’m not sure which way we’ll go. I guess the first step is seeing if he does indeed need to repeat the class or not, which we’ll find out on Thursday. But even if he DOES move up to Level 2, I’m thinking that the summer off will be a good thing, some time to regroup, grow and just take a break from this whole thing, which is stressing BOTH of us out.

My Munchkin

I’m sort of glad the Tech Guru prepared me, but of course a part of me hopes he’s wrong. Not for me, but for Pudding. I guess it’s good that he prepared Pudding too, but somehow I think that having talked about it ahead of time is not going to prevent him from crying when the time comes.

And if he cries…

Sigh. I’ll cry too.



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