I’m writing this sitting on the viewing balcony of Dunmanway public swimming pool. The girls are doing swimming lessons, and though Mum usually takes care of business, this week Dad’s on duty!
Now, swimming isn’t exactly what you’d call a spectator sport. Once every four years, when the Olympics roll around, maybe, but any other time forget it! Watching children learning is… well, let’s just say it wouldn’t be too near the top of my list of things to do before you die. Swimming with them is another matter, of course. Getting into the pool, or even better the sea, and playing with the children has to be one of the highlights of any holiday.
The lessons though, are important. We don’t live far from the coast, and are often on the shore, and sometimes even in the sea during the summer months. We also have a small boat that we’ve been threatening to do up and get into the water for the last three summers, but that might actually make it to sea again this year. So swimming lessons are crucial, and the girls are coming on a treat.
The twins are tall and thin, and glide through the water effortlessly – or at least they did until their current teacher started getting them to do an appalling straight-armed version of the front crawl. I’d defy anyone to move gracefully through the water while swinging their arms like demented windmills.
The little one, on the other hand, is possessed of a more robust build. Her natural swimming style? You can only describe it as brick-like!
It doesn’t matter what she tries, she pushes off the side with gusto, kicks her little legs valiantly, does absolutely everything right… and sinks like a stone.
It’s a twist of fate – she’s a natural sinker. The human body is more than 80% water, and is usually neutrally buoyant: with our breath exhaled most of us will float with our heads just below the water’s surface. But as with most things in nature this isn’t a hard and fast rule; some people float, others sink.
The little one sinks.
Luckily, sinking doesn’t seem to phase her too much… she just proceeds under the water, sticking her head up when she runs out of air. Every week she’s loving the water more, and every week the teacher does her level best to coax her to the surface. Meanwhile, down in the deep end the twins have stopped learning how to do the front crawl wrong, and are now treading water while clapping their hands – which of course is a vital skill to have if you’re on a cruise ship and fall overboard whilst applauding the cabaret act.
This is one of the reasons I don’t bring them to swimming lessons more often. My pedantic nature, and the fact that I’m a pretty good swimmer, means that I often spend the car journey home correcting what the swimming teacher has taught them. I shouldn’t, but sometimes I can’t help myself. It confuses the issue and does more harm than good.
Then again, I remember my Dad doing the same thing when I was their age. There was one swimming teacher in particular who’s methods clashed with Dad’s view of how swimming should be taught. Every week he’d tell me not to do it that way, do it this way instead. It was hard at the time, but as I improved and moved on to more advanced classes with other teachers, guess what I found out? Dad had been right all along.
I suspect something similar is happening here… but what to do? Do I let things run their course, or intervene and tell the twins that, actually, you don’t keep your arms straight when you’re doing the front crawl? Or perhaps I should focus on teaching the little one how to float first, and let the twins sort themselves out.