On the production line

July 7, 2015

 

When I was at school, I was the fastest in my class in the pool. Swimming was a boost to my self esteem - I always knew there was something I was good at. But I was always horrible at pretty much every other sport: I couldn't throw, catch or kick, I couldn't hit a ball with a bat or a racket. I couldn't run short distances or long distances, and my attempts at hurdles and long jumping ended up with me in a tangled heap. I tried my best at sports other than swimming, but they just weren't for me.

 

I still remember the feeling I used to get, stood in a line, waiting for my turn to show off this lack of sporting prowess in front of the class. The PE teacher would throw the netball for us to catch one by one, moving down the line. Or we would all line up to hit the rounders ball. I remember the nerves I used to feel as it got closer to my turn - I knew, yet again, I would be the one to fumble and drop the ball for everyone to see.

 

I started going to parent and baby swimming lessons when my little girl was four months. After teaching for years it was a new experience to be in the class rather than leading it. After a few short activities, we were put into a line with our wriggling babies, and one by one were shown how to submerge them under the water. It was exactly like it had been at school - that sense of anticipation, the nerves, and the worry about getting it wrong. It was a new experience for me in the swimming pool, which had always been where I was my most comfortable. The other parents felt it too - they were anxious about putting their babies under the water for the first time, and as each person got closer to the front of the line, the butterflies ramped up.

 

As much as the teacher reassured us that we didn't need to submerge the baby unless we were ready, every parent knew that to opt out was to go against the grain - it would have made them stand out in the class.

 

Here was this tiny human, who I had protected inside me for nine long months, then cared for to the best of my ability. I felt guilty about putting her under the water - it just didn't feel like the right thing to do at the time, even as a swimming teacher and a strong swimmer myself. 

 

In the end, I decided that adult led submersion just wasn't for us. Many parents submerged their little ones - most of whom were completely fine and came up grinning! I just knew it wasn't the right choice for me that lesson.

 

It was a worthwhile experience for me. I learnt that I didn't want to create that buzz of nervous energy in my lessons. I didn't want parents to be in a queue, and I didn't want them to feel it would go against the grain if they decided against joining in with any part of my classes. The pressure needs to be firmly off in order for parents to be relaxed enough for swimming to be a truly worthwhile experience for a child.

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