Swim Lessons

Already her hair is green and dry as straw. I’m massaging in the shampoo and conditioner–plenty of conditioner–as gently as possible because I want her to still have hair five months from now when fall/winter swim season is over.

Camilla’s first swim lesson went like this:

  • First the instructor assessed whether she could bob her head underwater and blow bubbles.
  • Then she had Camilla push off the side and glide face down.
  • Then hold a kickboard out in front and kick while breathing in with head up, out with head down, to the count of three.
  • Then Camilla and her lesson partner, Sarah, took turns back-floating with the instructor guiding them with a gentle hand on their backs. (Look at that. Straight as a board for the teacher–she’s been very squeamish about back floating for me!)
  • Then both girls swam the length of the pool, 25 yards. Sarah kept her arms going and a flutter kick for most of the way; Camilla mostly frog-kicked underwater, with little or no arm movement, coming straight up for air several times. But she did the 25 yards.
  • Finally she got to jump feet first off the starting block several times, aiming specifically for the “T” marking the end of the lane.

I’ve been taking Camilla to the pool regularly since she was about 2, hoping I could teach her to swim, but with no idea how to break down the various skills and provide the right encouragement. So that systematic, peppy first “real” lesson yesterday was an education.

That said, I had a good laugh the other day reading about some swim lessons circa 1874, in a book my Granddaddy penned (and Grandmother typed on the typewriter), regarding his grandparents, John Henry Robinson and Clyde McWilliams Robinson. John Henry’s 1874 swim lessons were somewhat different from Camilla’s in 2011. Forget about a pool. Or paying for lessons. Rather, being able to swim, in his case, helped the family finances:

John H. enjoyed telling that he and [brother] Will learned to swim by falling into the rather shallow Allegheny on numerous occasions. It seems that he and Will and other youths living along the river would jump up and down, yell and throw rocks at the men on the coal barges that moved slowly up and down the river. The barge men in turn would throw lumps of coal at the boys. This was what the boys wanted. They would then fill their buckets and return home with supplies of coal for coooking and heating. The impression gained by those hearing this story was that there were rafts and small wooden docks along the riverside and that in the acts of attracting attention, or in just playing around, the boys would often fall off these objects into the river and have to splash and paddle their way out again.

Some time ago Camilla drew this picture of herself swimming. Oh, no–look! She’s bald!

child art swimming pool

This was how Camilla swam "back in the day" (note the arm floats)