More swim lessons / by Susie Lubell

Today we tried swim lessons again. Let's just say the universe is conspiring to keep my son from learning to swim. I signed him up for a two week session. It meets Monday through Thursday for two weeks. Today was our first meeting and we talked through some early anxieties. He was concerned about swallowing water. About falling in the water. About drowning basically. Valid concerns. I tried my best to validate his concerns and assuage any fears. I likened his use of swimmies to his use of training wheels. It's unclear if he was able to complete that analogy.

Anyway, the lessons are at a middle school in Palo Alto so we give ourselves 25 minutes to get there which is PLENTY of time. And indeed we get there with ten minutes to spare. Fabulous. We'll get set up...check out the pool area...go pee maybe... do some deep breathing...

Wrong pool. This pool was a swim school that does private lessons and swim team. Any idea where our pool might be? Try Rinconada pool. It's around the corner.

So we walk back to the car and drive around the corner and park and then walk very quickly to the pool. We don't see anyone we know and it becomes clear that this is also not our pool. By now it's 5:45 and we're already ten minutes into our half hour lesson. The lifeguard there tells me it's at JSL - another middle school - ten minutes back in the direction we just came from. So we rush back to the car and of course my son trips and skins his knee and now he is shrieking and trying to walk while holding his knee and I feel kind of bad for dragging him along but I mostly just want him to shut up. It's not even bleeding.

He cries the whole way in the car and FINALLY we get to the right place just as everyone is getting out of the pool. I ask if he can drop in on the next class to which they agree but my son wants nothing to do with the pool and is still hyperventilating about his skinned knee. Meanwhile his friends are all squealing YOU MISSED THE CLASS and I feel like a chump.

So we stick around for the next class just so he can watch and see what it's all about. And of course a girl gets in who is three and maybe a little too enthusiastic because she starts to make heaving coughy noises and then of course she throws up though thankfully not before the swim teacher lifts her out of the water. So my son and I are sitting by the side of the pool looking at the little girl's barf and listening to the woman I presume is her grandmother yelling at her for throwing up in the pool and she's crying because she threw up but also because she wants back in the pool but of course she can't get back in because she's the barfy girl and has to wait til tomorrow. And I'm thinking I'd rather have the barfy girl because at least she wants to get in the pool. But I don't say this out loud which means I'm not as mean as the the nasty grandmother. So I give myself a pat on the back.

Halfway through the lesson my son starts whining to go home and I'm annoyed because I want him to stay for the whole thing but eventually I relent and as we get up I say to him, I'm so disappointed. To which he replies in a very teary small voice, don't be disappointed in me mommy.

I've been using this new method (or trying to at least) of talking to him where I really name the emotions he's experiencing and we talk about them and we've had amazing results. I've been able to completely diffuse tantrums. We go whole days without incident. Sometimes just talking through our frustrations makes them dissolve as quickly as they appeared.

So I tell him, sweetie, I'm not disappointed in you. I'm disappointed in me and everything else. That I took you to the wrong pool. And then another wrong pool. That we missed your lesson and all of your friends. That you didn't get to have fun in the pool. And he agreed. Mommy, I'm disappointed too. And frustrated. Tomorrow will be better though because we'll come to the right pool and I'll go in the water.

Life lessons for the price of a swim lesson. I'll take it.