I don’t remember not being able to swim. This doesn’t mean that I could swim in deep water. It only means that I didn’t drown in a kiddy pool. My Aunt Judy claims that this is because she (a swim instructor) taught me to swim before I could even walk. Judy says this was called “drown proofing”. But, of course, this doesn’t mean I can remember that–but it might explain my natural confidence in the water.
As far as remembering the learning process, I do remember taking lessons at the local YMCA. I started in level 1-Polliwogs. I thought it was silly that some kids had to practice putting their faces in the water and blowing bubbles. Jumping up and down in the shallow water was fun. We called this “doing bobs” And I was seriously motivated to make it all the way through the levels… Polliwogs, Guppies, Minnows, Fish, Flying Fish, Sharks.
The only glitch in the process was diving. We all know that diving is NOT swimming. I believe that I got stuck somewhere in the level progression because I could not, would not do a back dive. I also remember the trauma associated with doing my first front dive into the water off the blocks on the pool’s edge. But unlike the front dive from a height, the back dive was off the diving board.
To train me to accomplish this feat, the instructor would stand at the end of the diving board with me. I would do a backbend over her arm. Then, when I was bent enough, she would remove her arm and I would smoothly, gracefully–and without pain–back dive into the water.
But I could not, would not do this feat solo–the fear of the flop was too great.
Finally, Dad bribed me with the promise of a new swimsuit. I remember him in attendance to witness my bravery. To tell you the truth, once I was up on the board, it wasn’t so much that I was earning a new suit that finally gave me the necessary courage. But it was Dad’s presence that motivated me.
It probably could have been my mom or aunt or grandma who came to view my first backdive. But it was my dad who sat me down, told me how important this skill was, and offered motivation.
I still love having a cheerleader in my corner. (And my family is awesome at this.) I love having someone who pushes me to succeed in a challenge that seems too big to accomplish on my own.
But now, really, I am my own best cheerleader. There is nothing that I could not, would not… can not, will not… accomplish once I set my mind to it.
Oh, yeah… (in case you were wondering) I did accomplish my childhood goal of making it through all the swim levels 🙂
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