Bella is 6 now, and Logan is 4 that means I have been putting off swimming lessons for them for way too long.
I used to take them swimming sporadically but honestly if there is one time you don’t want to be wearing basically underwear and feeling very post 2 children self conscious it’s taking Bella to a swimming pool. You need to be fully on your game, at any moment she will claw her way out of the pool and bolt…which in turn means you need to do something similar. I say similar as when I run along a busy poolside I look nothing like the spritely 6 year old streaking ahead of me with absolutely of fear of slipping on the hard floor or the fact that she actually can’t swim at all and is running straight for the deep end and could fall in. No I look more like…exactly how I feel petrified. Petrified she’ll do any of the the above or that I will because you know what, I’m living somewhere in between fight or flight mode (fight being me fighting my instincts not to run around a slippery swimming pool!)
At last I’ve found a 1 to 1 class which means I don’t even need to wear a swimming cossy (but I did under my clothes just in case.) Logan was very, very excited at the whole idea of swimming lessons that was until 8am this morning when he realized there is no baby pool and that was the end of that for quite a while. I have no idea when or why his fear started but it is real and for him going in the big (only) pool was a deal breaker. I then had to spend the whole morning before nursery acting as excited as I could about the idea of swimming in a “really cool pool with something called a noodle!” I was channeling my best Cbeebies presenter voice and expressions. Eventually he relaxed a little and went off to nursery where his key worker picked up the enthusiasm baton where I left off. Someone asked me if Bella was excited as she loves water, in fact loves isn’t strong enough a word. If there is liquid in a room she will find it, she will pour it and she will splash it. It doesn’t matter if that liquid is your cold coffee or a toilet bowl if it’s wet she’ll go for it.
All that aside it feels to me almost impossible to prepare Bella for anything which is beyond now and next and something which she doesn’t yet know is even harder explain to her. So no, she wasn’t looking forward to it but that wasn’t exactly the correct answer. If there was one person who was going to love their trial session it was her yet it was her I was having palpitations about sending.
As soon as we arrived at the pool and she caught sight of the water she was transfixed so I knew there wouldn’t be a problem with her probably quite the opposite. “Are you coming in with me” her instructor asked her as I carried her on the poolside clinging on to me with excitement whilst simultaneously trying to get loose and explore the gallons of water before her. “She’ll go with anyone but you need to be forceful and don’t let her get loose.” I responded in place of Bella’s shrieks. I put her down and she let her hold her hand and walk to the water, in a moment she was loose of her hand off. Luckily I was hovering, doing my best helicopter parent impressions and stopped her in her tracks. ” Be firm.” I reiterated as her instructor gripped her hand tighter this time a little tighter while looking a little sheepish (and probably thinking “bugger why did I get the energetic one”)
Meanwhile Logan was poolside and when I say poolside I mean standing back against the wall refusing to have any part of this big pool nonsense. I took my shoes and socks off and went and sat by the waters edge where he joined me, now with two instructors (boys not girls as per his instructions!) The three of us then spent the next 20 minutes bribing him in with no success. He loved the water, he loved splashing it, especially when one instructor said to splash him…I’ll point out he said to splash him not drown him but Logan doesn’t really do half measures. Although he was pretty much freaking out he was laughing and having fun because nobody was actually pushing him past his limits. After about what felt like the 80th time I told him to look at me, properly, right in my face (it sounds aggressive but sometimes it’s what he actually needs to hear people.) “Let the man hold you in the water, he will carry you. You will be safe.” I think the last four words struck a chord and he said OK and put his arms out to be carried into the water. I’m not sure who was more shocked him or all of us as as soon as he entered the water he panicked “Mama, mama.” Then 5 seconds later he calmed down and actually broke a smile. He maintained his death grip around the teachers neck but he loved it and was gutted to have to get out ten minutes later.
On the other side of the pool I think Bella’s teacher was flagging, 30 minutes of pool-time with the whirlwind that is Bella will do that to you (well not me, I can manage about 15 tops!) Bella is similar to a fish out of water but in water! She flails and kicks and splashes about, non of which is conducive to learning but as it was a trial session I guess them getting to know her and her getting to know them and the pool is the prime aim. Without getting too morbid water and Autism are generally a bad mix, one report stated that accidental drowning made up 90% of deaths in children with autism in America (2014.) This explains my need to teach them and also my fear. I’m pretty sure whether she learns to swim or not living with Bella will mean having a slightly soggy flat for the foreseeable future but who knows maybe 30 minutes swimming a week with give her all the
water torture I can cope with water therapy she needs!