Splish, Splash

We started my son in swimming lessons as soon as he was eligible. We thought we would be proactive getting him in the water and a head start at what both my husband and I believe to be a life skill and a necessity.  He was not a happy camper most of the time, clinging to me and screamed if extended anymore than half an arm length away. We pressed on and finished Starfish (note these animal divisions mentioned are lessons prior to the numbered Red Cross lessons for ages 6 & up). We then did Starfish a few more times. He was not enjoying it though, and as early as one year of age, a new found anxiety developed. We continued in Starfish until it was time  to switch to Duck, and then Sea Otter.
Started young.

Every lesson as he aged was a struggle. Tears & anxiety. It eventually came to throwing up prior to entry in the pool, and gagging to hold it down once in even knee deep open water. Everyone kept saying, it will get better, keep exposing him. We did again and again, but then we stopped. We couldn’t push him through it anymore as it was not getting better. Next up was non-parented lessons, and he definitely was not ready. We even had trouble with him in the bath tub as he would not submerge his face or lie on his back, showers were out of the question.

We took a year off from lessons and regrouped. We tried public swims a few times but it was not a pleasant family swim.  His nerves grew, so did his anxiety. The public pools, whether for fun or structure, were not for him.
We researched out private lessons in smaller pools as we thought the size of the pool might also be a factor, along with the number of people. We desperately wanted him to learn to swim, and at the least have a normal kid bath! We found Pegasus Swimming through a review, and signed up immediately for the summer. He was 5.

To say the first summer of weekly lessons was easy for his instructor, well that certainly was not the case, she had to work to get him in the pool, and to do pretty much everything. But, by the end of that summer he could swim the length of the pool several times with two noodles (one wrapped around his waist, the other under his arms) and with a smile. This was huge. He wouldn’t yet jump in the pool, nor was he comfortable with any floats, but he made more progress with swimming & comfortableness in the water, than he had in the prior years worth of city run lessons.
With his instructor, Kaitlin.
We ended that summer on a good note. We didn’t dare return to the public pool that winter for fear of undoing the summer of progress. I wouldn’t say he was ready for swimming and that prompted progress as to this day we still have some water anxiety, but I definitely give credit to a smaller pool, and less people around, and most of all his instructor. I am pretty sure he developed a wee crush on her and although he tried hard to negotiate his way out of everything, she compromised with play and developing skills with water familiarity. She had to make him want to be in the water first to get to learn anything while in it.

Summer of age 6 we again enrolled with Pegasus Swimming. It took probably the first month to get over the anxieties again of just getting into the water and back in the swing of things. Soon he was swimming again with the noodles back and forth confidently. She then edged him into the water without noodles and standing in the shallow end. This is when he learned a deep end existed – as prior to that he’d never really touched bottom – but rather clung to whomever he was water with or his device keeping him afloat. A few new hurdles and fears developed, but she confidently had him playing and jumping in the shallow end from the side that summer. For the first time he also played in the bath and would roll like an otter and practice his back floats with ears in the water. Bath time became fun for the first time, at age 6! The summer ended pretty much with this progress, but something else also changed, as he realized swimming and playing in the water could be fun.
Swimming at a family members pool this past summer. 
This past fall and winter we went back public swimming. We chose a pool with less bustle and a large shallow play area (up to neck deep for him) to continue with water familiarity and fun. We invited friends and tried to swim biweekly. Although he doesn’t really “swim” when we go, he plays, has fun, and has crossed some major fears hopefully setting him up for a summer of further progress with lessons. His confidence has grown that he ventures several feet away to play with confidence, and usually we sneak a few floats of practice in each session. He will also now take a shower!

We highly recommend Pegasus Swimming and give them a Mom Cafe stamp of approval. I do not believe my son would be where he is without them. If you desire a good swimming instructor who displays patience and can work with children at any level or with special circumstances, and has proper Red Cross certified skills to teach, it would be worth exploring private lessons. They screen their instructors and find the best.  If they can make progress with my son of very high anxiety – and kept him in the pool for an hour each week – I imagine the progress is limitless for a child with no fear. Registration opens April 1st (they will hear from us April 1st!) and we presume lessons spots fill quickly. We are looking forward to watching our son progress this summer and hope to say we’ve lost the noodle as security and are soon swimming without it! We’ll keep you posted.


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