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The Seaweed is Always Greener
Posted on 9th June 2015

Splash Daughter is a typical five-year-old. She likes trips to the park, cake, parties, LEGO, playing on computers and, of late, the Disney Channel (she’s quite proud of being too old for CBeebies, to the degree that she denies ever liking it). She’s recently developed a charming habit of answering back, refusing to do what she’s told and emphasising her independence, all which she gets from one of her parents.

Taking the plunge
So yes, I’ve been teaching her to swim. It’s an essential life skill but also a great way to have healthy fun. I used to swim a lot before she came along. My gym had a great pool and I would do length after length before settling down in the Jacuzzi for ten blissful minutes. It’s too much to ask to hope for a return to those times, of course. “Swimming with” Splash Daughter is in reality walking alongside her as she thrashes about in the shallow end, occasionally breaking into a breast stroke (singular). But once she’s swimming with confidence we’ll be able to do some actual lengths together and I can start working on my post-baby belly.

We figured that watching The Little Mermaid, Finding Nemo and H₂O: Just Add Water on a loop would be perfect for getting her excited about venturing into the deep. We gambled on the absence of talking crabs, musical fish and mutant teens being overlooked the moment she experienced the true delights of chlorinated water and municipal efficiency. And amazingly, by some twist of logic, she hardly noticed, and took to it like … oh, I can’t think of a good analogy.

In at the shallow end …
My attempts to teach her the finer points of swimming have been of limited success. We’re a bit of a soft touch, and rather than having a public argument at the baths we tend to let her splash about rather than learn actual swimming.

So after a few visits to the pool and the beach, we decided to “do the right thing” and enrol her on lessons at the local pool. She’s going to start in a few weeks and is very excited about it. The Splash Parents are going to try to get her up to a certain level of confidence, if not ability, before she starts. Hopefully we won’t instil our own bad habits into her (my breathing technique is a joke, demonstrating the same sense of rhythm as I display on the dancefloor).

Our friends across town have lessons where two instructors are on the sides and two are in the water, and the children make great progress. Splash Daughter’s lessons will be a bit more traditional – one very dry instructor on terra firma and the kids in the water. But I think this will suit her – she pays more heed to real authority figures than she does to her pushover parents. When we bump into one of her teachers in Sainsbury’s, she enters a strange subservient trance that we dearly wish we could bottle and feed her at bedtime.

A Cycle of Success
When I was teaching her to ride a bike I was advised by a fellow parent to abandon the stabilisers as soon as possible. They’re just there to teach pedalling, I was told, and hold back the instinct to balance and lean into corners – the real cycling skills.

I took the advice and initiated what proved to be an almost vertical learning curve. Convinced she was going to fall off, Splash Daughter would scream and holler the park down the millisecond I let go of my stabilising hold. And the names she called me! Yes, we fell out a few times. But with support and patience she got the job done, and is now a pretty accomplished cyclist.

So I’m hoping that the “lessons” I’ve been giving her in the pool will be akin to the first nervous, wobbly, shouty rides without stabilisers, and that the proper swimming lessons will mirror her ascent into confidence, balance and respect for her elders. But I’ll settle for two out of three.