September 22, 2013

Who is the Parent?

Today was the third day of my son’s second session of swimming lessons. Each session is four days a week for two weeks at 30 minutes per day. A couple weeks ago he completed (and passed) the first session so he has since moved up a class and is doing pretty good so far. The main goal this summer with swimming lessons is to get my son more comfortable in the water. I don’t expect him to be swimming on his own (without a floatie or noodle) by the end of the summer but I want him comfortable in the water.

Last summer, he took swimming lessons at a nearby pool and had a scary experience as he slipped off the ledge that held him above water on the side of the pool. The instructors (2 teenage kids) didn’t see it happen as they were assisting two other kids, but my son was able to grab the swimming trunks of one of the boys next to him and pull himself back up. I don’t like to think about it, but it could have been a really bad deal. Needless to say, after that day, my son has been terrified of swimming lessons.

With that background in mind, you can probably imagine how difficult it was to make my son take swimming lessons again this summer. Although we are at a different pool where the class sizes are MUCH smaller the first day of the first session was still like pulling teeth. My son said everything he could think of to get me to change my mind and not make him go. There were tears and lots of pleading right before it was time for class to start. While I didn’t like being the “mean” mom, I knew that this was in his best interest. Learning how to swim is something EVERYONE needs to learn how to do, so he wasn’t getting out of it.

Fast forward to today. I was waiting for my son to get out of his swimming lesson when another mom came walking down the hall with her son, who was probably 7 years old, and it was clear he didn’t want to go. He was crying and pleading. I heard his mom say, “every day you miss swimming lessons will be a day you don’t do anything…you’ll be grounded.”
I know that I was just an onlooker and don’t know the situation, but when she said that I knew that she was giving her son control of the situation. She then changed her tone from stern to almost pleading, “Come on…let’s go swimming today. It will be fun. I promise you won’t drown.” Well, to make a long story short, she let the little boy persuade her not to make him go.

I don’t claim to be parent of the year by any means, but this situation bothered me because by choosing to let the little boy get out of swimming lessons, she has neglected him of learning a life-saving skill. My son tried all of the same tactics as this little boy did, but my response was always the same, “You have to go whether you want to or not. You have to learn how to swim. You won’t drown and you will have fun.”

I did sweeten the deal for him by promising him a trip to Cherry Berry (the local yogurt bar) if he could do everything without crying on the last day. Anyhow, so here we are in the second session of lessons for the summer and you know what? He isn’t scared and comes out telling me about everything he learned that day. In other words, he’s having fun and has gotten over his fear.

I guess the point of this story is to reinforce the fact that you are the parent and you know what is best for your child. Sometimes it’s really hard to tell them no or make them do something they don’t want to do, but if it’s in their best interest, then stand strong. Just remember that while they may not like you at the moment, in the future they will thank you. (My mom had to pry my hands off the wall when I was 5 for my first swimming lesson while I was screaming and every other parent was watching her. I’m glad she did though, because I love to swim now!)

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