Saturday, 16 January 2010

Swimming Lessons and Levels

For the last three weeks, Anna and Joshua have been attending swimming lessons at a nearby pool complex. We moved Joshua from one school to another after term 1 last year, and he missed swimming lessons at both schools. So Joshua and Anna have been in the same classes, which has been great for developing their camaraderie.

Meanwhile, I have been doing laps. I began with 1km and have swum 1.5km a few times, but in this second fortnight the lessons are shorter so I am working hard to get my 1km done in the limited time. The big improvement has been in my ability to do butterfly. I didn't even dare attempt it the first week, but after struggling through 25m in the short lap pool the second week, I am now confidently swimming 50m of butterfly at a time in the Olympic (50m) pool and 100m total, with hopes to increase that next week.

In the first fortnight of swimming classes, Joshua and Anna did Level 1, which covers very basic water awareness skills. Handily, they both passed (although, to be honest, it would have been hard for them to fail) and they moved on to Level 2 for the second fortnight together. I am not sure they will both pass this level, but they at least are getting their first introduction to swimming strokes. One of the skills they need to demonstrate to pass this level is to "Swim 5m freestyle" and it has been fascinating and hilarious to watch Anna demonstrate what she is learning to me afterward. Her thrashing arms and legs remind me of two windmills on steroids, but then, I imagine I look pretty hilarious as I practice my butterfly.

One of the things I have found interesting is how, even in Summer holidays, conversations between parents seem to find the easiest common ground in a comparison of the achievements of their children. I am not going to pretend that I don't do this as well, but it struck me on Friday just how much we parents seem to fall into this, almost as a habit.

"What level is your child in?"
"Level 1."
"Oh, they'll pass that one easily. Level 3 is the killer. My son is on his third go at it. I hope he passes this summer!"

"My daughter is up to Level 3 this summer already. What level are your lot in?"
"They haven't done swimming lessons before, so they're in Level 1."
"Gasp! Oh, well, my son is only in Level 2 this summer."

"I remember my son was in Level 3 six times. In the end, they let him go on to the next level even though he couldn't float."
"I find floating easy. I could float for half an hour if I wanted."
"But boys' bodies are different and that can make it harder for them to float."

Of course, many of these conversations are not about competing, just comparing. When parents discuss what our children have done or are able to do, it can help us to identify those things we have in common, so we can find other things to converse about, and eventually develop a friendship. But at times this sort of conversation can devolve into one-upmanship, which is pretty sad. Just sayin'.

So what is the alternative? Meredith has some questions to start conversations, or fill those awkward pauses, in this post on hospitality.


Mrs. Edwards said...

I'm sure I am guilty of bragging about my children's accomplishments--and I especially am aware of the risk when I blog. However, I often find myself thinking during conversations like those you relate, "The truth is that we are pretty ordinary people. I love my kids and I'm so proud of them, even though we are ordinary. We don't swim all that well (I can't do the butterfly AT ALL), and don't have showy talents like athletic accomplishments or academic high excellence. We're just ordinary, but I'm glad that being ordinary doesn't diminish our value."

Andrea said...

I am very aware of this because of how it makes me feel when I'm on the receiving end. I am always more comfortable around people that don't brag on their kids but can still manage to show that they are pleased with them. It's a delicate balance, I think.
Btw - have fun swimming - hope they make it through the levels!

argsmommy said...

Wow, I impressed that you can do the butterfly, and for a whole 100! My Anna, who is on swim team, tried to teach me how to do it, and I'm just so glad I couldn't see what I looked like!

Conversations among parent can be nauseating. I'm just amazed at the one-upmanship. You're right, it is pretty sad. I struggled with writing our Christmas card letter this year. I personally love to hear about the activities and accomplishments of others, but I also recognize that some people really hate hearing about it because they consider it boasting. So I try to be sensitive, but as everyone has said, it a delicate balance.