One of my earliest pool memories is of when my uncle threw me into the deep end of an in-ground pool during a family vacation.
This was the 80’s and I think he thought he was being funny. I was around 6 years old, didn’t know how to swim, and even though I was probably only under water for a few seconds before my dad (who was in the pool close by) pulled me up, I remember feeling terrified.
I was born in Brooklyn NY, in the early 80’s, so my only exposure to a pool back then, was during our annual family vacation to Wildwood, where I spent my days floating in the motel pool while wearing a giant inner tube. Swimming lessons just weren’t a thing on my parents radar. Fast forward a few years to when we moved to suburban Morris County NJ, where every one of my neighbors had a pool….and, I still couldn’t swim. There I was in the shallow end, while my friends jumped off the diving board.
When I was in 5th grade, my mom enrolled me, my sister and my brother (7 and 4 years my junior) into swim lessons at a local program. I was immediately put in the highest level “shark” program, only because I was about 6 years older than most of the kids in the program. My memory of my first lesson is of the teacher corralling the 10 or so kids in my class over to the diving board on the first day and telling us to jump off. I wouldn’t do it, and I spent my swim lessons holding on to the side of the pool.
To put it mildly, I didn’t have any fantastic experiences in my childhood related to water…
Thankfully, throughout my teenage years and adulthood, I was able to pick up swimming enough that I can save myself from drowning in a calm, pool situation (ahem, basically a glorified doggy paddle)…but, it was after I had my own children, and after my boys had been swimming with NJAC for years that I realized- I really don’t know how to properly swim! If I had to save them, or someone else from a dangerous drowning situation, I don’t know if I could get to the bottom of the deep end of the pool and pull them up to safety. I mean (…and here is the ridiculously embarrassing kicker…) I still have to hold my nose when going under water, for goodness sake!
Just recently, I came across an article on the Scary Mommy site about how singer John Legend never learned to swim, and how he is now learning with his young daughter at her swim lessons. It inspired me to share my experience and also to vow to learn how to properly swim this year! The NJAC adult program offers a drop-in schedule, so you can register for whatever classes meet your scheduling needs. The pool is shallow at 5 ft, so all abilities and levels are welcomed….no judgement and no embarrassment at all.
As a mom, I realize now and preach constantly how incredibly important it is to start your kids in the pool young! NJAC parent/child classes begin at 3 MONTHS OLD! Is your child going to become a champion swimmer by they time they turn one if you start them that young? Nope. You are starting them young so they are comfortable in the water, and start to gain confidence and trust, and so that confidence and trust in the water is all that they know.
And, knowing how to swim as a parent…even if you are learning a little bit later than most…will help to create a sense of trust around the pool for your children and give you the confidence YOU need, now knowing that you can properly help your child in an aquatic setting.
So, if you’re like me…36 years old and still doggy paddling around the pool while holding your nose when your kid asks you to do a cannon ball? Make the call to register, put on your suit, get to the pool, and learn how to swim!