By Jessica Winter
My kids are obsessed with swimming. With the pandemic closing our local swimming pool this year, my husband and I decided to purchase an above ground pool so that our kids could still swim this summer. It wasn’t anything fancy, but it was big enough that the kids could work on their swimming skills. The water was over my four year old daughter’s head, so we required her to wear some sort of floating device if she wanted to get in and swim. My six year old son, however, was tall enough to be able to touch, so he had the choice to wear floaties or not. They swam all summer long, and really started to get good at swimming.
This past week, my whole family traveled out of state to visit some extended family in Arizona, and they have a large in-ground pool in their backyard. The deep end is over 10 feet tall, so we required both my daughter and my son to wear some sort of floating device. I know that many mom’s out there can relate, but I see a swimming pool and I worry about my kids struggling to swim and have visions of them drowning. I turn into one of those helicopter parents that doesn’t let their kids out of their sight, which can be challenging with three little kids.
The life jacket that my son was wearing was rubbing a little rash on the bottom of his neck, and he kept asking me over and over again if he could just swim without it. The helicopter mom in me said no, but I eventually gave in and let him swim in the shallow end of the pool without his life vest. By letting go and giving my son the freedom to do his own thing, he excelled at swimming. By the end of our week-long vacation, he was diving off the diving board in the deep end and swimming the whole length of the pool by himself! And my daughter, who has her father’s extremely competitive nature, did not want to be outdone, so she started swimming without her floaties (with her dad beside her the whole time). And she ended up swimming, by herself, the whole length of the pool. I could not believe the significant improvements that my kids had made in such a short amount of time!
The moral of my story is that sometimes we need to accept the fact that our hovering and our parental (especially maternal) instincts to keep our kids safe can sometimes hold them back. Of course I want my kids to be safe, but I also want them to try things on their own. I want them to make mistakes and learn from them. And I want them to grow to be independent and courageous adults that can try new things without having to have the approval of others. We can all learn a little bit from a couple of little kids learning how to swim!