Recently we went swimming at the YMCA pool. They had implemented a major rule change since the last time we swam there: no lifejackets on the waterslide. And since they didn’t allow lifejackets, kids had to pass a swim test before they were allowed to ride the bright blue, tall, shiny, twisty, amazing slide.
So, my kiddos lined up. My 7-year-old passed. Our 6-year-old friend passed. Then it was my 5-year-old’s turn…
This is the kid that won’t put his face in the water for anything. His dog paddle is stronger than a Labrador’s. He treads water like a skipper bug. He goes off the diving board at our neighborhood pool all summer by doing a lifeguard-style jump that keeps his head out. Remarkable, actually. In the bath or shower he still cries when we get water on his face. Nearly every time I’ve signed him up for swimming lessons he just refuses to get in the water. Stubborn is a mild word for this child of mine.
So, when I saw the requirements for the YMCA’s swim test, I knew he wouldn’t pass, and I was annoyed. Two lengths of crawl stroke across the deep end plus 20 seconds of treading water was their requirement. I knew he couldn’t do the stroke, but he is a sturdy swimmer and wasn’t going to drown on their watch – obviously and understandably their biggest concern.
Sure, he swam across the pool in his own style no problem, but it wasn’t the face-down-breathing-on-the-side-arms-high-stroke that the lifeguard had in mind. Let’s call it more the bobbing-frog-style. He was disappointed, but the bearded lifeguard was kind, knelt down to talk to him and told him what to practice.
His face was long when he walked over to me. The other kids received their passing-green wrist bracelets and nearly burned holes in the bottom of their swimming suits from so many slide laps. Up, down, up, down – they were having a great time.
My buddy was stuck in the shallow end playing with the three year olds, a squirting fish and jumping off the wall. BORING.
But the appeal of that bright blue, tall, shiny, twisty, amazing slide was finally too much for him. “I’m ready to practice,” he said to me.
And we did. I quickly pulled out all the tricks I remembered from my college days as a swim instructor. These were lessons I had been trying to share for the last several summers which he had always ignored. And gradually, step by step, he figured out that if he just puts his face down, that swimming is so much easier. We practiced and practiced. Remember that stubborn thing? He had found something he wanted that he would have to work hard for. Finally he said, “I’m ready to try again.”
And he did. And he passed. And he was so proud of himself. It is now two weeks later and he is still wearing his passing-green wrist band with as much pride as an Olympian wears their medal.
So, thank you, bearded YMCA lifeguard, for flunking my son.