Lola has been on the waiting list for months to take swimming lessons at La Petite Baleen, the yuppie swimming school of the Bayeria. She did her time in parent-child swimming lessons at a public pool, singing songs and being cajoled to blow bubbles, but she was never going to learn to swim that way. It was time to scoop her out of her mother's arms and put her into a more authoritarian atmosphere, where the children are made to swim in short order.
Today was her first lesson. We talked it up ahead of time, explaining how warm and fabulous the water would be, and how she was big enough now to learn to really swim. She seemed excited and enjoyed getting out her sparkly green bathing suit. She didn't cry during the lesson and could be seen singing along to the alphabet song (which is actually highly commendable; her older sister cried at her lessons until I questioned my sanity and parental judgment and dithered about pulling her out. I didn't, I rode it out, because I figured swimming is a survival skill she needed to learn and that if I had her quit, she'd be left with a fear of swimming and the water. It worked out in the end, and Iris wound up loving her swimming lessons, but it was traumatic getttng there).
Afterward, I asked Lola how it was, expecting her to tell me that some of it was fun. "It was terrible," she said.
"It was scary."
"What was scary?"
"All of it. Especially when we had to move along the side of the pool. I wanted you to help me."
"Did you ask the teacher to help you?" (In fact, there were two teachers with these two children, a ratio of one-to-one, so Lola was never ignored for a second).
"I wanted help from Mommy."
"But honey, mommies aren't allowed in this class." [Note: this is true. La Petite Baleen has formulated strict policies regarding parent control. Parents must remain in the waiting area, away from the swimming pool. Parents may observe the class through the glass wall, but they must not interfere or loiter by the pool edge].
"But they said Mommy could help if she wanted to. Mommy could come in the pool and help."
"Who said that?"
(extra mendaciously) "Everyone knows that Mommy could come in the pool and help. Everyone knows that."
I put her on the phone to her father to report on her first swimming class. "It was terrible. It was all scary. They put things on my feet, and they were weird." After complaining more in this fashion for some time, she abruptly commanded, "Call me back when I'm home" and folded up the phone.
I have the impression that it's not going to be easy getting her back down there next week.
Echoes of my oldest child at the same age..."My mother really should have planned something better for me to do today."
I agree with your attitude about swimming being a life skill and not up for choice.
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