I've just got back from Amélie's 4th swimming lesson, so time to report back. I write these literally minutes after I get home so I don't miss anything out.
If this is the first of my baby swimming articles you have read and you are thinking of taking your baby swimming, then I recomend you check back and read the other articles.
Today I was glad to see another guy was there, changed and ready to go. The last couple of times I was the only Dad which doesn't bother me too much, but I prefer not to stand out too much.
We did everything we had done in all the previous lessons, swim position, back floating,underwater swimming, ready - steady - splash, Humpty Dumpty, splish splash, bouncing, up in the air, twinkle twinkle little star, swim position with side to side, the lot. The stationary underwater swim we did in pairs this time to speed up the lesson to leave time for new things.
As I was waiting in line for the first underwater swim, Amélie wasn't looking at me like she usually does. She was craning her head to watch all the other babies, she must be used to everything now and able to think about other things. I turned her around so she could see better, and she had a really good look at everything that was going on.
I remember thinking that there was another benefit to taking her swimming. Sure, we were teaching her a life skill, there was all the developmental benefits I listed in the first article, and it was a priceless bonding experience for us both. What I'd never noticed until now was the socialisation aspect. She was fascinated by all the other babies, and this is probably the only time she has with other babies her own age. She was fascinated with the girl next to her who was 9 months old and splashing about. I got the feeling she was thinking, take a hike Dad, I want to play with the other children.
You are probably wanting the low down on the new techniques, first came an addition to the moving underwater swim. If you remember we have the stationary underwater swim, when the parent stays still, arms outstreached, baby in swim position, '(baby's name) .. ready .. go ', then pull them towards you, allow them to go underwater, then up and out for a cuddle. Then we have the moving swim, exactly the same but the parent is moving backward and has to be mindful not to pull the baby towards them during the underwater part as the baby will be moving too fast underwater.
This time we did the same as the moving underwater swim, but when the baby came back to the surface we didn't give them a hug. We kept on swimming for a while, then gave them a hug. Amélie got to do this twice, because the instructor used her to demonstrate the move with. When you complete this move it really does feel like progress.
Just a little note on the underwater parts. I give Amélie a long deep dunk, some parents quite understandably are nervous about this and don't submerge them all the way. Today I heard the instructor tell a parent that it was more unpleasant for the baby to be only half submerged than fully submerged.If you half submerge them they just get a splash in the eye which they don't like. I don't know how true that is, but thought it was something worth sharing.
The second new move I found a little scary. The main concept is that you stand up straight (in other moves, say swim position for example, you are up to your neck in the water) baby is on their back in front of you, head just in front of your tummy. You are holding your baby with both hands under their head (palms facing up). To get into that position they told you to use your bent knees to support your baby while you get into position and then stand up. I found it easier to just do it my own way, I guess it doesn't matter so long as you end up in the same position at the end.
We were told to check we were not holding them up by the head, the idea was to really let them float. The girl Amélie was facinated by had some trouble with this, I think it was because she was wriggling about so much, perhaps ready to move on to something more challenging. Eventually she seemed to settle down. Amélie was her usual relaxed self, but I felt uncomfortable for the first time. It just doesn't feel like you are holding them securely enough, you look at their
little nose and mouth and trusting eyes, so calm and happy floating there. Meanwhile your imagination is showing them slipping out of your hands and spluttering in the water, I felt like I was Michael Jackson holding his kid over that balcony.
My worries were unfounded, she didn't slip, she didn't sink, but it still felt precarious,and I never really felt comfortable with it. We walked backwards for a couple of widths in this position and Amélie looked so chilled out. She started wiggling her legs and arms gently just like she'd been having backstroke lessons for months. She was spontantiously swimming before my very eyes. Not random kicks and waves, a real swimming motion.
Before I knew it the lesson was over, so it was into the disabled toilets to get changed. This time I was not alone as there was another Dad there, so we had time to chat. He was telling me he was taking his daughter on holiday on Wednesday, and was hoping she would be able to go in the Hotel pool and perhaps even the sea. She is a few months older than Amélie, but they had been taking her to the public baths for a long time so she was happy in the water.
Just as on the three previous occasions, I felt great when I left the pool. Amélie really seemed to enjoy it, and I'm so glad we enroled. After being a dad for 10 weeks the best moments so far have been 1. Being present during labour and at the birth, and 2. Every swimming lesson. I can't recommend this enough, and will report back on lesson 5 next week.