Last week baby boy started infant swimming classes. I was so excited. I’d literally planned going to these lessons since before he was born. I hassled the instructor to offer lessons in our area. I simply love the idea that tiny babies can learn to swim.
Lessons started on Wednesday. The location was beautiful and the instructor was lovely but by Friday evening I’d decided never to take baby boy back.
Warning bells had sounded in my head when we got the class materials. Until then it had completely slipped by me that baby boy would be in the water alone with the instructor. We’ve been to swimming pools before and although baby boy loves the water he does not like being held by strangers. On firm ground he’s happy to go up to people he’s never seen before but in the water it has to be my husband or me.
But I was on a roll. My boy was going to learn to SWIM! It would be AWESOME! MAGICAL! He would totally take to the completely unknown swim instructor and laugh through the whole lesson…
Of course not. Baby boy was desolate in the water. He cried the entire first lesson, reaching out towards me and my husband on the edge of the pool. For the first time in his life, I steeled myself against his cries.I smiled and shouted encouragement. I told myself and my husband that it would get better, that baby boy was okay, that he could see I was there. The next two days he cried less but he seemed shell-shocked by the time he came out of the water. He’d sit on my lap, arms and legs wrapped around me and just look, too confused even to nurse.
Friday evening I finally had a moment to think. I googled other people’s experience with infant swimming. I looked at YouTube videos. I saw that crying was considered normal in infant swimming classes. That it was considered a form of “communication” but that it didn’t harm the child.
And suddenly it hit me. Letting my son cry throughout his swimming lessons was going against everything I believed in as a parent. He was very clearly telling me that he was not okay. He wasn’t making a fuss, or having a tantrum. He was scared and I was basically just telling him to tough it out.
Although we cancelled swim lessons then and there, I felt terrible. My husband had been wary from the start but I’d let my enthusiasm sweep me away. How did I let this happen? How did I stop listening to my baby boy?
The answer is that, just for a moment, I decided to believe the swim instructor instead of my own gut. I bowed down to her authority, her supposed experience with hundreds of children, her training. For a second, I let myself believe that a stranger knew more about handling my son than myself.
Fortunately my gut is stubborn and wouldn’t let up. After three days I finally came to my senses.
We’re still dealing with the after effects of those lessons. Baby boy is nervous, my confidence has been shaken. It’s back to the drawing board with lots of cuddling, lots of carrying and lots of milk. I’m trying to find the silver lining to this experience but, honestly, I’d give anything to go back to that first moment in the pool when he started crying and whip him out of the instructor’s arms.
In the meantime, this is going up on the fridge door:
Always listen to your gut. If it’s whispering, turn up the volume.
Don’t trust the experts. They know the facts – they don’t know your baby.
It’s never to late to admit you made a mistake.
This time last year: Move your DNA with a baby