Monday, July 14, 2014

Developmental Stages of a Little Swimmer

Developmental Stages of a Little Girl and a Swimming Pool

I started this post weeks ago, but yesterday, we had a rare teenager-in-the-pool with family day so I was inspired to finish and post this blog entry.

When we were house hunting 19 years ago, a pool was not on our list of needed features.  However, when my husband looked over the fence at the backyard of the foreclosure house we were thinking about buying and said, "We'll fill that pool in," my response was, "Shouldn't we see what having a pool is like before we fill it in?"  We bought the house and, as the years have passed, we have throughly enjoyed the pool.  Jim has even enjoyed maintaining an old pool.  There were "poor" years, when $100 of chlorine for the summer, food and games made for the only vacation we had.   During the early years, we were in the pool at 75 degrees.  Now, we are more picky.

Then a baby came and we entered the developmental stages of pool and child.  The first step for the adults was a lock, very high on the door.  We were very strict.  She was never allowed to touch the water in the pool unless we were going swimming.  No floating boats, no kicking the water, no leaning over the side unless it was swimming time.  She easily followed those rules.  Visiting children were the ones we had to watch closely.  Her rule of no running was much more difficult.  She was always in motion and, when she succeeded in following the no-running rule, that same amount of energy was displaced into an up-down motion, a very exuberant  walk.

First stage - The Flinging Baby:  The first summer with a baby, we went in everyday, at about 3:00, because that was when the shade appeared over the pool.  She was pulling up, almost walking.  I would sit her on the side of the pool and she would fling her little body forward into the pool.  We had a little boat and she was happy to be in the boat, leaning over the edge to splash.  Once a day, I would let her go completely underwater.  To this day, I have to think "don't breathe" when I go under water and I was determined that she would be more relaxed in the water.  This succeeded.  She was never allowed to wear nose plugs, my own personal downfall.  She eventually became a fish in the water.    

Second Stage - The Slippery Soap Toddler:  This summer was the most difficult.  She was determined not to be in that little boat.  She was too little for arm floats.  It really was like hanging on to a bar of soap most of the summer.  Finally, by the end of the summer, we tried arm floats.  During the first session or two, she had no concept of holding her head upright, but soon, she was moving all around the pool independently.  She even jumped off the diving board a couple of times into her dad's arms.  Of course, it was a full time job watching her.  No relaxing by the pool that year.

Third Stage - The Emerging Swimmer.  I honestly don't remember if she was almost three or almost four during the summer she learned how to swim.  She seemed very tiny.  We went to swim lessons every day for two weeks when she consistently refused to let the male instructor touch her.  And she refused to try to swim during lessons.  She was happily glued to the girl who was his assistant.  But when we went swimming each afternoon at home, and she exclaimed "It's magic!  It's magic!" as she realized she had traveled a couple of feet without me.  I wondered if that's the way babies feel when they realize they are walking.

I can't remember the exact years for the other stages but I do remember the stages.

Fourth Stage - Independent-Swimmer-But-Must-Be-Watched.  My best friend and I, spent much time out by the pool, counting 1-2-3-4, constantly.  Whatever the number of children that were in the pool, that was what we counted, constantly.  They thought didn't need us, but they needed us more than they realized.  When my daughter and I were alone in the pool, we played all the pool games, often until I was worn out from the effort, if not physically, emotionally.

Fifth Stage - Independent-Swimmer-Who-Needs-To-Be-Spotted.  We moms thought we had won the prize when we were able to move to the covered patio.  There was only occasional counting but constant listening.  The children were never without an adult spotter.  This was the summer we played water volleyball, constantly.  We stood on water noodles in the deep end and tried to knock each other off the noodle.

Sixth Stage - Moving-Toward-Separation - At this stage, she was moving toward the preteen years and she frequently said she did not want to go swimming with me, so that was my opportunity to be alone...out by the pool.    But, irritatingly and delightfully, soon after I gathered my relaxing tools together, a hat, a book, a crossword puzzle, sunscreen and parked myself in a chair, within 10 minutes, the back door would slam, and here she would come.  Back into the pool to play we would go.

Seventh Stage - Separation-For-Sure - Finally, the stage came where she did not want to be out by the pool with me.  If I came in, she came out.  If I came out, she came in.  Hard stage for momma.  Probably a necessary stage for daughter.

This summer - Separated-and-Confident - This summer has been a joy.  She has her tanning time, but, this summer, she says, "Come sit by me at the pool.  Tell me stories."  Yesterday, there were some of our old games in the pool.  Lots of laughter.  Lots of yelling.

This all happened so fast.  Where did the time go?

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