I've been writing this post in my head since Monday morning when K started swimming lessons. I've written it & rewritten it several times in my head as the events of the week have progressed. It started out as a much different story & although there were times this week when I was very frustrated, the week improved dramatically & I have to say that I am content with the final version that I am able to write.................... & very proud of my little girl!
Last year K passed her preschool swim lessons last year so on Monday morning K started swimming lessons in Level One. She was in a group with 8 other kids. One little boy is a few months younger (but a lot taller) than her & the rest of the class ranged between 6 & 8 years. The lessons took place in an outdoor pool. Unfortunately, K can't stand up even in the shallow end because it is still too deep. There are 2 separate swimming lessons each day. The first was in the shallow end & the second was in the deep end with life jackets on.
Within about 10 minutes of the class starting, K pulled herself up on the edge of the pool & took off from the instructor. With 8 other kids to worry about the instructor couldn't very well be running after K all the time.The pool is fenced off so I ended up leaving the spectator area where all the other moms were to watch from the edge of the pool so that I could return K to the pool when needed. K wasn't upset about going back in & paid attention for a few minutes but then would get out & run away again.
The 2nd thing K was doing was acting very helpless. The girl who has jumped off the side of the pool & bobbed up to the surface with a grin since she was barely 2 years old was waiting for the instructor to hold her hand & gently help her pop into the water without letting her head go below the surface. K is very comfortable in the water, Here is some photographic evidence of her swimming in case you are interested - she looks so little & cute here! When she was supposed to be jumping into the pool K would wait until the instructor held out her hand & gently helped her jump in without even getting her head wet. When the kids were supposed to do a front float, the instructor helped her again & didn't let her head go into the water. K wasn't the only kid that she was being careful with but it was understandable with the kids who were nervous about the water - K is not.
My little fish wouldn't even put her head in the water when asked to! She passed the previous level with flying colors & only a week before her old instructor insisted she was very prepared for level one.
I was a little surprised at K`s behavior & tried to figure out why it was going so badly. When she took swimming lessons in a different indoor pool back in October she behaved so much better & rarely needed a reminder to behave or stay with the group. K has always had a mind of her own but lately has been testing the limits even more. My husband & I try to be firm about the rules however K knows that she can get away with a lot with people who don't know her so perhaps this was the problem.
Next I wondered if it was just a lack of maturity but then again, she did so much better 8 months earlier.
I was sure from the start that part of the problem was that there were 8 other kids in K's group. By the time the instructor worked with each of the kids, K had stopped paying attention - some of the other kids were finding it a little too long to wait too.
I think the fact that K could not touch the bottom & had to hold onto the edge of the pool for most of the lesson was a factor too. I am very proud of her for being able to do this for a full 40 minute lesson.
I have to be honest here & say that it bothered me to have to sit inside the pool area & not be out with the other moms in the spectator area for a couple of reasons. First - because I know K can behave better than she was. 2nd - Some of the moms know her but many do not. I don`t often feel like people are judging K but when she is behaving badly but I know they sometimes think that it is because she has Trisomy 21. Any other kid could behave badly & they wouldn't bat an eye but with her they blame her extra chromosome or assume she doesn't understand.
Day 3 - I finally had a breakthrough. I realized that the life jackets they were using for the deep water session were quite different than K`s usual floaty & probably much more awkward for K`s short arms. Although K has been to this pool in previous years I realized that she was still a little nervous about not being able to touch the bottom. It has been 11 months since she has been to this pool & the one we swim in all winter is a zero entry pool. I couldn't do much about the pool depth of course but I did talk to the instructor on Wednesday morning about allowing K to use her usual floaty. Thankfully, she agreed that this was a good idea.
Suddenly, I had a new child. No more getting out of the pool & running away & she had much more confidence in everything she was doing. Most importantly, she starting paying attention & responding much better. I think the floaty made a big difference but I think the biggest problem was just the unfamiliar pool. By Wednesday K was getting used to the pool.
Within 10 minutes, I realized I was no longer needed & went back to find a seat in the spectators areas. It was good to be back & it was good to see K behaving appropriately like I knew she could.
K continued to improve dramatically during the next few days & by the end of the lessons she was one of the better swimmers in the group. She passed all the areas except for the back float but again I think this is still just an issue with the pool depth as she does it at home. I think she is nervous about jumping backwards of the edge of the pool & worried that the instructor won`t catch her.
Next summer I plan to let K swim in the pool a few times before she starts swimming lessons. I'm confident that it will help her swimming lessons to go a lot smoother.