Everybody into the pool!
Yes, in August we decided to take Norah to lessons. She has always loved going in our pool, and I may have mentioned that early in last year's pool season (June, probably), she suddenly became scared of it. This was all part of her "I'm Scared Of Everything" Phase that she finally seems to be coming out of, and it extended to the pool, where she wouldn't even get in the water for quite some time (actually, she would put her feet in, but that was it). When we finally got her in the pool, she wouldn't leave the steps. Finally, we coaxed her out into the pool (with our help, of course), but she wouldn't jump in the pool, something she used to do. We want her to enjoy the pool (the only fun thing to do around here during the summer), so we thought it was about time, at the age of three, to give her some lessons!
I took her to lessons in August, when Mia went back to school. She claimed to be interested in it, but the first day was kind of a disaster. She cried the entire time and had no fun whatsoever. One problem was her distaste at getting water in her ears. That really bothered her, and it's kind of difficult to learn how to swim if you don't like getting water in your ears. So whenever she lay on her back and tried to float, she would scream bloody murder. In was an inauspicious beginning, to say the least.
She got a new teacher after the first week (for no reason other than a scheduling change, it seems - she didn't drive the first one off), but the screaming continued. I noticed something else, too, after a few lessons. She was in a class with two other kids, so she didn't spend all the time in the water with the teacher. When she sat on the steps by the side of the pool, she shivered uncontrollably. I tried to tell her to stay on the second step so that everything except her head was in the water, but she kept coming up onto the top step, which would make her cold all over again. She's a bit scrawny, so she couldn't stay warm. This was a problem because she would come over from her part of the lesson screaming but couldn't calm down on the steps, because she was shivering so much it would upset her. So she never stopped crying, and then it was time to go back out, which would cause her consternation once again.
This went on for four weeks, during which time I wondered if maybe I should take her out of the class until she was a bit older. I didn't want her to hate it, and maybe she just needed to grow up a bit before taking lessons. I stuck with it for two reasons, however. First, Norah is an odd kid - or at least I think she's odd, although all kids might be this way. She rarely throws herself with abandon into something new without knowing what she's doing. She prefers to sit around and scope out the landscape before getting into something. She makes sure she can do something well before trying it. This is frustrating because it looks like she doesn't want to try anything, but it's also somewhat neat, because she's very deliberative. So I didn't want to abandon swimming until I was sure she wasn't going to get it, and four classes didn't seem like enough. We also looked around for a swim cap, which we hoped would at least lessen the amount of water going into her ears. We didn't look that hard, but it was still tough to find one. That was weird. Krys finally got one, however, and we thought that would help. It didn't help as much as the other reason she finally broke through, though. One morning I took her to class and tried her with a wet suit on. I had seen them hanging by the pool and I had seem some other kids wearing them, but I didn't think to put Norah in one. The teacher said it might help her chilliness, so I put one on her. The transformation was rather amazing. She still shivered a bit when she got to the steps, but only a fraction of the way she did before the suit, and that calmed her down. At this time, it seemed like she had reached the point where she decided to learn, and suddenly, the water in her ears didn't bother her. I didn't even need to use the swim cap!
So, all of a sudden, she was fine in the pool. She started doing her "airplane" float well, and she started listening to the teacher more. After a few more weeks, she was going underwater much more to pick stuff off the steps. She learned how to pull herself out of the pool, although that's still a bit of a challenge. In December she moved up a level because she could float on her own. Yay, Norah! She discovered a new problem as she got her head into the water more - her hair in her eyes. It annoys her a lot, and when she rolls into her "airplane," she tries to get it out of her eyes, which messes up her float. I've toyed with the idea of pinning it back, but I keep forgetting. She's now working on rolling over on her own, which she's getting good at, and she puts her head underwater for longer stretches each time.
One thing still bothers her, though: jumping into the pool. Her teacher gets her on the side of the pool, makes her jump in, and then makes her turn around quickly and grab the side. She also makes her jump in and go into an "airplane" float. Norah, however, gets on the edge and just stands there, whining. She does not want to jump. I have a feeling it's because she just doesn't want to feel out of control, even for a second or two. She jumps off the balance beam in Little Gym, however, so it's also, I think, the fact that there's no solid ground for her to land on. Her teacher tried everything to get her to jump in, but Norah refused. Before every lesson, I would ask her if she was going to jump in, and she would say "yes." Then, she wouldn't jump. Oh well.
Then, last week, success! For some reason, she decided to jump in. We're not quite sure why, unless it was another one of those times where she had observed for long enough and then, just like that, decided that it was okay to jump. She jumped in and turned around in the water, grabbing the side like a pro! Yay, Norah! Then we encountered a different problem. She still wasn't totally confident about jumping in, so she would turn in mid-air and try to grab the side before she was actually in the pool. This led, inevitably, to her bonking her chin on the side. It wasn't too bad (no bruising, no blood), and it might have helped, as the next time her teacher wanted her to jump, she actually leaped out a bit and stayed facing front. It was quite the breakthrough!
The next level is jumping off the bottom step of the pool, going under briefly, and then rolling into an "airplane" with no assistance. She tried that last time and was pretty good at it (so much that she got a ribbon for it), but she's still not doing it consistently, so she couldn't "graduate." But at least she's enjoying the pool, moving forward, and won't (we hope) be too scared to swim this summer. That would be unfortunate!
Norah got a medal for floating. She doesn't look happy about it, does she????