Dear Lifeguards and Swim Teachers at Max’s Preschool,

Yes, this is another one of those imaginary letters written as a way of letting go of my fears.  No, I am not really going to share this with Max’s swim teachers.  I’d much rather spread my neuroses across the Internet.

My son Max is going to be in your pool once a week, having swim lessons with the other children in his camp class. He is three years old. He is three. Three years old. And because you are probably twenty-something, if not TEEN something, I feel the desperate need to share some very important facts with you.

Three year olds don’t listen. They don’t. They don’t listen to whistles, to commands, to the “clap your hands if your listening ears are on” game, or the very popular “hand goes up mouth goes shut” philosophy. Three year olds also don’t sit still. Ever. I was a little hurt when Max’s preschool teacher told me that “He needs to work on sitting still and paying attention during circle time”. Until I talked to four other mothers, who she had apparently said the exact same thing to. Three year olds can’t really be counted on to do anything. Anything, except for exactly what you don’t want them to do. They’ll always do that.

Which means, dear Abercrombie model in your new bathing suit that you paid for with your babysitting money, I really really really need you to pay very close attention every time a group of three year olds, or a group of ANY age, comes into your pool.  I know. I know that you know this already. You take your job very seriously. You work for one of the most elite pools in the area, and you have taught swim lessons for three many summers.  I know the trainings you’ve had, because I’ve been in them too.  I know how much you love kids, because I know that our own Magnificent Michelle got her start teaching swim lessons and lifeguarding.  And I trust Magnificent Michelle to do absolutely everything with Max, most of which she does better than I do.  Much better.  But you are not Michelle.  I don’t know you.  You haven’t spent the last year becoming part of our family and blending seamlessly into our routine.  I trust you in the way that all moms trust new teachers, which is to say that I hope to grow to trust you. I do. I just need to be really sure that you know about my son Max.  He has sandy blonde hair and red cheeks.  He’s going to be wearing swim trunks with sharks on them.  He’s three. He’s not going to sit on the step. He’s going to want to jump in the water because that’s what he does with Daddy. Except when he’s with Daddy, he’s got a set of eyes and a set of hands that are only responsible for him. Daddy isn’t responsible for five other kids. Daddy isn’t hungover from hanging out at the beach the night before with his highschool buddies who are all home from college for the summer. Daddy isn’t checking out the lifeguard across the pool because she is wearing a super awesome swimsuit and holy shit she’s hot. OK, he might be. He better not be. My point is that I know that there’s a lot running through your mind. I’ve been there.

I was a camp counselor for five amazing summers. I took 30 six year olds to the pool every day, and deposited them in front of lifeguards and swim teachers. The same lifeguards and swim teachers that I went to happy hour with the night before. The same ones that I sang karaoke with. The same ones that I stayed out until 3 am with, went to concerts with, and drove too fast with.  Those were amazing endless summers.  We worked hard, we played hard, and we loved our “kids” with every ounce we had.  I can still remember some of their names, and all of the words to every camp song.  But I also remember how young I was.  And how I paid close attention in our training sessions, but didn’t really understand how HEAVY my responsibility was.  Until you have children, you tend to think that everything will be fine. It will be fine because life is good, and bad things only happen to other people, and you are young and confident and so on it.  Until you’re not.

But if Max, or any of the other children, slips quietly off the step and into the water, you better be watching.  You better be paying very close attention.  It takes 2 seconds.  Two seconds to change everything.  Two seconds to steal from me the very thing that keeps me alive.  The two seconds where you look across the pool to mouth “text me” to your girlfriend, the two seconds when your mind wanders to how funny it was that your buddy made a bong out of an apple last night (don’t ask how I know that)…those two seconds may not mean much to you, but they mean EVERYTHING to me.

Max’s very amazing preschool teachers will be watching tomorrow.  But they will have a lot of children to keep track of.  YOU will have 4, maybe 6.  I’m counting on you.  I’m pleading with you.  I’m a little crazy, and I know it, but I need you to pay attention.  And I also need you to not force any heads under water if they’re not ready, and to speak with kindness, and to remember that all children learn differently, and to make swim FUN.  But first, please, make swim safe.

It takes two seconds to look away and change everything.  Three year olds are slippery.  Three year olds will make your day, love on you forever, and make you laugh when they blow water out of their nose.  Three year olds will remember your name, beg you to “catch me! one more time!” and give you wet hugs around your neck.  You owe them those two seconds.

(Awesome shark swim cover-up, courtesy of Tori!)

Swim on,
Max’s Mommy

p.s Mom, this was not meant to give you an anxiety attack tonight.  Max will be fine tomorrow, I promise.  Just had to get this off my chest.


10 Replies to “Swim Lessons are Scary….For Moms.”

  1. Oh, Kim. Zaid turns 3 in September. I am not ready for the swim lessons. Hell, he isn’t ready, apparently (but they’re scheduled to start in August). He refuses to get in the kiddie pool at daycare but is more open to the full public pool. Weird. I’m sure the lifeguards will be on extra special watch with little ones there. Of course that does nothing to our mama worry gene.

    1. Thank you! It’s good to know I’m not the only one 😉 I was actually pleasantly surprised this morning when his teacher shared with me that they are super paranoid/vigilant on swim days. “Not on my watch” she said…love her! Now I’m just crossing my fingers he has a happy experience! Interesting too about Zaid feeling more comfortable in the big pool?? Is it because you’re with him there, and it’s teachers at daycare?

      1. You are never alone. And I’m not sure with Z. He has one teacher he is attached to and she said she sat right beside the pool with him and he kicked and screamed to not get in. When he finally said OK he sat on the edge with only his feet in the water. I think we may invest in a small one at home for the hell of it, see if that helps. The neighborhood pool is a crowded, ghetto mess so even though it’s convenient, it’s often not worth it.

        I’m glad you got validation of their paranoia/extra watchfulness beforehand.

  2. My guy is swimming at this very second and I am totally freaking out. The end of the half hour can not come soon enough! I’m cruising the internet in a desperate attempt to distract myself and so I thought I’d check in over here. Glad I did! Such a great post and you are SO not alone!!! (P.S. I’m really not a commenter, but felt I should this time in a show of solidarity. :-))

    1. Katy, Have I told you how touched I am that you became a commenter here? 😉 And how bad I feel that in your moment of “swimming freakout” you were trying to decompress with some internet surfing and you read my neurotic rant instead!?? Not that you weren’t aware of it already! BTW…we are SO blessed to have you guys in our lives. Just had to say that 🙂

  3. Ha! I love your description of being a camp counselor yourself. I babysat from the time I was 10! 10?!?!?!! Other people entrusted me with the care of their children – at the age of 10! Even when I was older, you are right, you have this mentality like it will all just be ok. So NOT the way a mother thinks!

    1. Yes!!! Isn’t it crazy to think about how young we were when someone else was paying us to take care of their kids?! I’m in my 30’s, and most days I STILL don’t feel qualified to be the person in charge!

  4. You are not nuerotic- I am the neurotic one! Remember I was the girl that almost drown during swim lessons at the Plunge when I was about 6 or 7. I am the mom that is always at swim lessons – in fact, when my kids were 3, we did the class where parents had to go in the water with them (which is the only way I would do it!)… and actually we’re doing that class again with my now 4 yo because he just isn’t ready to go to swim lessons on his own. And, finally to complete my neurosis, I am always worried sick when my husband has to take them to swim lessons instead of me b/c I think he’s not going to watch carefully enough! So, does that make you feel better??? 🙂

    1. Rachel, the PLUNGE!!! Brings back so many memories of nasty chlorinated water and general summer chaos 🙂 But yes, I am crazy neurotic about Max’s lessons because I have an “almost drowned” story too….I can totally empathize with you! But wait….you grew up on the water!! Did that help or hurt the situation??

  5. I just read this blog and I loved it. I am having similar feeling of anxiety about my son’s swim class and have had a few moments where I felt the need to speak up that I was concerned about him. I feel neurotic about it but I can’t seem to help it. I know how quickly he could slip under the water without anyone noticing. The teacher is great but I wish the school had a life guard on duty in addition to the teacher. I just don’t feel that the teacher is capable of keeping an eye on all 5 children at all times while taking one at a time out in the deep end of the pool to practice. My DS is 5 and very active and impulsive. I hope he learns to swim soon :-). Thanks for writing this blog it’s nice to see someone relates.

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