a “disrespectful” lesson in the pool

Today was M’s first private lesson in the pool, with an instructor and without me. I thought she might not be thrilled about it at first, but figured it would be fine after a bit because she loves to swim so much.

Not only did she not want to get in the pool, but the entire lesson she cried and said, “I wanna go home.” After a minute or so of that, I came and gave her a hug and tried to encourage her. She was not persuaded. She completed the 30 minute lesson but only under duress.

Why did I let the bullying tactics continue for a whole 30 minutes? I’ve been asking myself this question all day. Most of it was “peer pressure”, both from the instructor, the friend who was with me, and my own cultural conditioning. The instructor kept insisting that if M wanted to go home, she had to kick and float and such first. Then when she finally came out, he insisted she had to “be happy” to get out of the pool. At this point, I think I was frozen mostly in disbelief. Was this really happening? Is this really how people get kids to learn how to swim, by telling them that they can’t leave the pool until they perform certain skills, and smile while doing it?

I can say that this swimming lesson was the perfect testament to how badly the pressures of society and “traditional” parenting/teaching can affect a person. Looking back, I should’ve just taken her from the pool and said, “I do believe she’s not ready today. We will try again another time.” Instead, I put both of us through a torturous half hour for no good reason at all. Instead of beating myself up about it, though, I will try to use the experience to strengthen my resolve to (more quickly) parent by intuition, rather than by societal pressures.

Afterall, I believe that when a 2-year-old says, “I want my mommy”, she should be comforted and if possible given to her mommy. If a child says, “I don’t want to swim right now,” she should not be forced to stay in the water. If a girl says to a grown man, “I don’t want you to hold me, or touch me, or restrain me,” that should be respected immediately. And if a person of any kind says “No,” to being touched, then that should be respected without any objection from anyone at all.

I should be teaching my daughter to say no to what makes her uncomfortable, and to have a say in what happens to her, including which activities she does, and when.

So that she doesn’t hate swimming or dread the pool, I will be cancelling future private lessons. We will do some open swims together, and then sign up for the 3-5 year old class. If she wants to stay on the sidelines and watch from my lap, she can. When she’s ready and comfortable, she will swim.



Author: Mother of All Things

Mother by fostering, adoption, and marriage... wife to my best friend... Bay area critical care nurse... travel in my blood, reading in my bones, clean food on my mind!

2 thoughts on “a “disrespectful” lesson in the pool”

  1. I’m sorry you all went through that. I also find it hard to parent by instinct with the pressure of other people and different views. Everyone always wanted to hold Wallace when he was little, and I honestly needed some time with him not on me, but he hated it. He had this cry that started with sounding like a laugh so people thought it was all fine. I had a more recent experience when I took my mom to the hospital for a procedure. This nurse wanted to hold his hand while we walked back, he seemed cool with that. Then, when we were leaving she picked him up and he looked really uncomfortable. I froze and wasn’t able to rescue him.

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