After the first swim lesson, I wasn't sure we'd go back. "He cried the whole time," I told Sweet Husband, as we made dinner after. "I don't know if I can do that again."
But I wanted a second opinion. Was I being a softie? Or was the teaching style really not for us? So Sweet Husband went to the next lesson. "I see what you mean," he said when they got home, "But he was only upset for the first few minutes this time and then he settled in. I think we should try one more."
Each lesson got a little better, but it was clear that the Kid was just dreading every one. He would ask me every morning, "Do we have swim lessons today?" and "How many days until the next swim lesson?" And he would be so relieved when I said, "No" and "Don't worry, lots of sleeps."
It was that dread that finally started to wear me down. By lesson five I was ready to let him quit.
With one condition.
Learning to swim isn't like trombone or French or soccer--it's a non-negotiable life skill. So Sweet Husband and I came up with an alternative.
"You can quit lessons, bub," I told the Kid one morning in the car, "But if you do, I'm going to teach you to swim. We're going to go to the pool twice a week and we'll do pop-ups and back floats and bubbles. You'll have to put your face in the water and work hard, but if you can agree to that, you can quit lessons."
"You know," the Kid said, after a thoughtful pause, "I think I want to keep going to swim lessons after all."
"You terrified him into swim lessons!" Sweet Husband teased me later.
I don't think I was that scary, but whatever I did, that conversation seemed to turn the corner. The Kid's whole attitude changed. "I like swim lessons!" he even told me a few times.
Today was our last lesson for the summer. He still had some mild tears over putting his face in, but overall he's much more comfortable. I think, with more work next summer, he'll get this swimming thing yet. Making him stick with it certainly wasn't the easy choice, but I think it was the right one.
I don't know if this story will be of use to others, but--I'll confess--I'm writing it down mostly for me and for the next time he has to do something hard or scary. Because, as tempting as it is to hug him and protect him, learning to do those hard and scary things is a pretty big life skill, too.