When I first ventured out of the house with Rosalie to a ‘mummy group’, probably about two years ago to this day, I found a lot of the other new mums talking about swimming lessons and Water Babies classes. I remember feeling quite terrified at the thought of dunking my scrawny little baby girl into a chilly public swimming pool. Then I found out the price of these lessons (ouch!) and thought, with some relief, that perhaps swimming was something we’d leave until she was a bit bigger (when she would hopefully have a bit more fat on her) and we could just take her ourselves. After all, she had plenty of opportunity to splash around in the bath every night, who needs expensive swimming lessons when they’re two months old?
So, fast forward three months, and at five months old we decided to take her to a special family swimming session at a local pool – one where they raise the floor so that the whole pool is shallow. Brilliant, we got her a little swimming costume and some swim nappies and headed off with great excitement. Jim loves swimming, going at least once a week in his lunch break, so I think for him taking his baby girl to the pool was a big deal. I’m not that into swimming really, it is such an effort with the changing and then my hair gets wet and because it’s so thick and I have such a lot of it, it takes an age to dry.
Anyway, so we took her to the pool at five months old and she seemed to love it. We didn’t stay in too long as we were conscious of her getting chilly, but all in all we called it a success. So we decided to do it again a few months later; this time she didn’t like it at all – crying from the minute we walked into reception. We went home and stuck her in the paddling pool (it was July) and she had a whale of a time. So it was definitely an aversion to swimming pools. The noise perhaps? Or maybe the smell?
We left it several months, then tried to take her swimming again, to a different pool; this time we got as far as getting her into her happy nappy swimming costume before she screamed the place down. It was making me really stressed and I hated the judgement from other pool users. So we left it more than a year before trying again.
In January this year we took her to a different pool again, so that she would have no bad memories of the other failed attempts. This pool has a separate baby pool which is literally as warm as a bath. The changing rooms have heated floors and are lovely and warm too. So we made it from getting her changed and into the pool with no tears and no tantrums. The only whiff of a tantrum was when I told her we had to get out after being in the water for over half an hour!
She had such a lot of fun, mostly holding onto the side and jumping up and down, but also splashing and trying to kick, and floating on her back.
It was so important to me that Rosalie didn’t have a fear of swimming because I feel being able to swim is such an important life skill. I know she’s still small, at two years old there is plenty of time for her to learn to swim, but I always had in the back of mind that we had somehow failed her because we couldn’t afford the expensive swimming classes.
We went back to the same pool for Jim’s birthday at the end of January and it was an incredibly enjoyable family morning. Rosalie gained some confidence and was walking around by herself and got quite good at kicking at her legs whilst we moved her through the water, but still above all preferring to hold onto the side and jump.
I’m so pleased to be able to add swimming to our list of relatively inexpensive indoor winter activities. I think winter could end up being quite expensive with a toddler, as the short days and miserable weather often make outdoor places (like National Trust sites that we love to visit during the other seasons) unappealing, and put picnics pretty much out of the question. I am not a big fan of soft play but I think the swimming pool will become a monthly family outing for us.