Friday, May 9, 2014

Swim Lessons and Spider Monkeys

This Monday, the kids started taking swim lessons at the YMCA.  I'd had a conversation with the assistant aquatics director prior to them starting, because I wanted to let her know about Anderson and to see what our options were, should it not work out for him. The Y is such a special organization because it supports ALL people--old, young, low SES, high SES, special needs, superb athletes. There really is something for everyone there (insert Village People song here). She assured me that if he wasn't quite up for participating in a group class, we could either switch to a special-needs swim class (which I'm not sure is the answer) or put lessons on hold for a bit.

I prepped them both pretty well, I think. Before our first lesson, I took them to the Y, showed them all of the locker rooms and pools, and talked about exactly what would happen. They were fascinated with the idea of a lifeguard, who would be like a teacher in the pool.  They seemed to be pretty interested and we left feeling good about it all.

The morning of the first lesson, Anderson kept saying, "We're just going to sit on the steps" and "We're just going to put our feet in--we are not going to get in the pool". I made no promises, just said that we'd see what happened.

When we arrived at the Y, it was kind of adorable. Amelia ran in saying, "I"m SOOO excited!"  We couldn't get into the pool area fast enough. Anderson was leery but not upset. We got there early and watched the class before ours--an infant class, so they enjoyed watching the babies splashing around. They were kind of precious.

When it was time for their class, we went right into the warm-water pool area and they waited anxiously for their teacher.  A young guy came over and said he was the teacher--and I have to admit, I was nervous. I was worried that a guy would be a bit...brusque...with the kids and that Anderson wouldn't respond to it very well.  I'm sure you know by now, if you've read this blog at all, that Anderson isn't really a "guy's guy" kind of kid. He's just...well, he's just Anderson...just a unique little man, and typical "boy" talk doesn't really work.  However, when the kids sat down and the lesson started, I was shocked.  This guy was so very calm, quiet, and gentle with the kids. I'm pretty sure Amelia immediately developed a huge crush on him--she told me today that he is "a really cool guy" and "a great guardlife". Anderson was very happy and excited to start out. He willingly got in with him, up to his belly, and even put his face in the water and blew bubbles.

The next part of the lesson involved the kids holding onto the huge fishy kickboard and letting the guard pull them through the pool. A seemingly fun activity, right? Except he LOST. HIS. MIND.  I could see the panic on his face, but couldn't make out what he was saying. I'm sure the guard got an earful of something special.  He didn't immediately cry, he was just terrified.  The guard brought him back, sat him on the side, and took Amelia--who was of course enthralled with Mr. Guardlife taking her for a ride.  She was pretty fearless. 
After the kickboard, he put the floaty belt on them and did the same thing. Anderson looked back at me and mouthed "I'm not going to do it!!", but when the guard reached for him, he allowed him to put the belt on him and take him out.  This time the cries turned into tears, despite the guard's calm demeanor.  When he got back to the side, he was pretty well done.  He kept telling me he didn't want to do it. I stayed strong and told him he needed to try.  The last part of the lesson involved the kids jumping in while holding the guard's hands. I wasn't sure what he would do.
He did it, though, and I was so proud.  We of course made a huge deal out of it and once he got his clothes on and we were out of the pool area, he was proud too.

We returned for lesson 2 on Wednesday, and he was just having none of it. I'd already decided if he was super anxious, I wasn't making him try.  I want him to learn to love the water, not be deathly afraid.  The sweet assistant aquatics director tried to talk him into trying, but it was just not going to happen. So, I talked to Mr. Guardlife and asked if he minded if I took Anderson to the other side of the pool where there were no lessons and got in while Amelia had her lesson.  I wasn't sure he'd go for it, because it took me a good distance from the sis, but he was totally fine, and of course Amelia was more than happy to spend some quality time with Mr. Guardlife. So, as Amelia started, I climbed in and slowly got Anderson in the pool.

You all--he was a literal SPIDER MONKEY! He climbed me and hung onto me with a death grip.  He cried in my ear and shook--he was legit terrified. I kept whispering that I would NOT let go of him. Over and over. We finally got to the center of the pool where we could watch the class. He wouldn't let go enough to watch the class, so I had to turn my body so that he could see over my shoulder.  He finally settled in enough to comment on how Amelia was doing with her lesson, but every single time I moved even a little, he would stiffen up and start over again with the crying.  SO, I did what all great mothers do. I sang some lovely alt-indie songs in his ear.  Songs that I know he loves. And slowly, he loosened the death grip on my neck. Sank into me, relaxed a little. I started swaying with the beat of the music, and he allowed it. By the end of the lesson, he was pretty comfortable. Amelia did fabulous again, and Anderson was sure to congratulate her on her great lesson. He was also very proud of himself. I was proud, too.

He will get there. I am sure of it. I think it's just going to take some time for him to get used to the sensation of being in water. My theory is that his vestibular system is so messed up (hence the elevator phobia) that the sensation of the floating, the bobbing, scares him to death. But as long as he will get in with me, I'll keep scaring the other parents with the sight of me in my bathing suit and keep taking him in. And maybe he will be ready for the next round of lessons that starts this summer.

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