The Writing Mamas Daily Blog

Each day on the Writing Mamas Daily Blog, a different member will write about mothering.

If you're a mom then you've said these words, you've made these observations and you've lived these situations - 24/7.

And for that, you are a goddess.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008


A Mother Learns How to Swim

I learned a lot about education by not teaching my four-year-old daughter how to swim last summer.

From September to June, I work as a science teacher.  When I took Elena to the pool for the first time last summer, I decided I would teach her to swim since I was a credentialed professional, unlike the teens that staffed the swim school. 

"Come on, kick, kick, kick."

After we were ten feet from the cement pool stairs, Elena began to sob. "Mama, take me back to the steps."

"I'm holding you," I said. Elena stopped swimming and curled her legs around me. She would not budge until we were back at the steps. "Hey Elena, when you were two you let me take you out further than this," I said, more to myself than to her.

I continued the swim lesson near the cement steps to the annoyance of everyone trying to get in and out of the pool.  I had Elena sit on the side. "Come on, you've done a sit jump before. Just slip in. I'll catch you."

"No, I'm scared."

Elena wouldn't budge. The ‘cling to mama routine’ continued day after day.  Desperate, I decided to try bribery.

"Elena, if you jump in three times for me I'll get you a Beanie Baby."

"That's not fair," said Elena’s six-year old brother, Walker, "You don’t give me toys for swimming."

"OK, OK. If Elena jumps in three times I'll get you a Beanie Baby, too, if you encourage her."

As Elena was getting into her swimming suit she said, "I'm going to do it, Mama, so I can get a pink doggie."

I jumped into the icy water and waited for Elena's leap. She didn’t move. I picked her up, but as usual she refused to release her legs or arms from my neck.

"C’mon Elena, you can swim! Be a mermaid," Walker said in saccharine voice.

"Show her how you can do it," I said. "Do you want a Beanie Baby? You've got to support her."

Walker jumped in three times.

Elena approached the side of the pool, but again her feet wouldn't move.

Realizing I was defeated, I signed up for lessons. 

Elena's swim instructor, Sarah, was a curly haired fifteen-year old with a nose ring. She told the three other five-year olds to sit at the pool's edge until class began. While Elena and her class waited, Sarah flirted with the lifeguard. She began the class by asking the kids to hop into the pool and hold onto the side. Everybody, including Elena, jumped in without a whimper. They began to kick furiously. One by one, while the others waited, Sarah took a child out to practice. When Elena's turn came she sat her body on Sarah's arm, blew bubbles and kicked, without a complaint. 

I did notice Elena’s face looked a bit pinched.

Five lessons later, Elena was doing cannon balls and dog paddling across the width of the pool.

I don't think I was a bad swim teacher.

I think my mistake was in not understanding that the relationship between teacher and student is as important as the “curriculum.” Mothers offer security, while instructors encourage risk taking. 

Unfortunately, I could not fill both rolls at the same time. 

By Beth Touchette


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Great blog. It reminds me of a comment someone made long ago that kids will do more for babysitters than their mothers because ultimately babysitters just really don't care all that much.

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