Fia Hates Swim Lessons. Any Suggestions?

When we first moved to LA, loads of people suggested I put Fia in swim lessons. I was told everyone has pools and that we’d spend many a day in them. The idea of swimming lessons was both for her comfort in the water and my peace of mind. Not that she’d be in alone, but just knowing the basics of holding your breath, paddling, etc., would make the pool a more enjoyable–and safe—experience for us both.

Fast-forward a year and a half. I have been to exactly one, yes, ONE, pool date. However, I have invested 1400 minutes (5000 minutes if you count the time to the lessons and back) and gobs of money. And guess what? She still can’t swim. She can paddle about 3 strokes on her own with her face in the water. Certainly not enough to be considered “pool safe.”

Here’s the kicker: we both hate it. Every Monday morning as we make the trek to the Valley (we live in Los Feliz for those who know LA), she asks who her teacher will be (we’ve had to switch several times because she didn’t like some of them). Then she starts saying, “I don’t want to put my face in the water.” I try and convince her why water on her face is fun. I don’t mention that I, too, hate water on my face. Even raindrops. I cringe just thinking about it.

I also remember having swim lessons when I was about 8-years old. I remember all the kids jumping into the teacher’s arms and me standing there crying and afraid. I remember the teacher’s frustration with me as I simply refused. Granted, Fi is with an instructor one-on-one. And at this stage, there is no jumping into arms. I should mention it’s the Jim Herrick swim school. It’s a top-notch place and there is no part of me that thinks they aren’t doing the best job possible. There are also phases where Fia seems to enjoy it. So it’s not like I’ve dragged her kicking and screaming for 70 weeks. She does love the water when she’s with us (pictured above).

My question is: do I just cut my losses and consider it a “sunk cost” or do I forge ahead? The teachers keep saying she is really close to “getting it.” But I don’t want her to start hating it so much that the water becomes something fearful.

I was all ready to pull the plug until this past Monday. I took Emmett with me and we sat on the steps of the pool splashing around, getting soaked. He was loving it. We told Fia to show baby brother how to swim. She loves nothing better than being the boss and showing him how it’s done. Swimming was no exception.  It was the most excited I’ve seen her in the pool in a long time. She did amazing too. The instructor suggested I bring him every week. It interrupts his naptime but that is the other option I’m debating.

Do any of you have any experience with this issue or any suggestions for me on how to proceed? If I get in the pool with Fia myself, 1) I have to get on a bathing suit. 2) I have to get water on my face. 3) I have to get Emmett a babysitter. (God forbid, judging from the backlash I received on that issue last week).

If I give up now, has it all been for naught or will some of this experience stay with her until she’s older and we try again?

Suggestions? Thoughts?

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  1. by Wendy Wainwright

    On January 27, 2013 at 6:27 am

    I used to teach swimming in Burbank, where I grew up! For the face in the water I used to cup my hands with just a tiny bit of water (in the pool, in the bathtub) and have the child touch their nose to my palms. And progressively add more and more water inside my hands and then discuss how really it’s the same without my hands and that maybe the child could try using their own hands, and then just sticking her chin in, try just the forehead, maybe now try the whole face but just an inch in – discuss the depth of an inch first, etc.

  2. by Bea

    On January 29, 2013 at 9:17 pm

    We did swimming lessons with our daughter from the time she was 6 months old until the age of 3. We stopped at the age of 3 because she simply didn’t like it anymore, especially putting her head underwater. We decided we didn’t want her to be afraid of the pool so we stopped all swimming lessons. Fast forward one year later… she was 4 years old and we tried a different swimming school. That coupled with the fact that she was older fixed everything. She’s 5 now and loves to swim. Taking a break helped her a lot.

  3. by Gwen

    On January 30, 2013 at 7:04 am

    Is it possible to put her in a small group swim lesson rather than a one-on-one lesson? My son takes swim lessons at our local YMCA. There were a total of 3 kids in his class. The instructor had songs that we would sing with the kids that coordinated with different activities. This helped the kids stay engaged and having a couple other young children in the group made the experience more fun for everyone. Can you get in the water (yes in your bathing suit) with Emmett in a swim diaper? Make it a family swim lesson? I too started my son in swim lessons at about 6 months. The water was very soothing for him and he loved to splash. Then when we would get home he would eat lunch and take a great (2.5 hours) nap.

  4. by Mike

    On February 2, 2013 at 10:36 am

    This is not specifically about swimming, but as your kids get older, you should maintain these activities. You may be interested in exercises for kids.

  5. by Jill Cordes

    On February 2, 2013 at 10:28 pm

    these are all really helpful tips gang. Thank you! I did actually take Emmett in the water in a swim diaper like you suggested and it was the best Fia ever did. Then last week I didn’t bring Em because he was under the weather. But I sat in and dangled my legs and she had another amazing lesson. So I think we are getting there!