Today was our 35th swimming lesson. As soon as I stepped into the water with my baby daughter a bad day turned into a good day.
I've not had a good week! We run an Internet business and had a contract to develop a web based game to co-incide with the Rugby World Cup. Not the ideal time for a power surge to blow 2 hard drives and take down our main development computer a day before the deadline.
Then on the way to pick up the parts to build 2 new computers our car broke down. We went back the next day in a courtesy car and they had mixed up our order. I've spent the whole weekend rebuilding our computers and reinstalling all the software.
I was dreading swimming this morning, as I've probably had only 5 hours sleep over the last 3 days. To add to the stress we were running late and the lesson had just started when we arrived.
As I stepped into the pool all the stresses of the past week melted away. We had a temporary instructor who was doing her training. Last week there were only 3 of us but this week there were 6. Everyone was already playing chase the fish.
Before we were allowed to start we had to do 3 'name ready go's. Where you splash water over your child's head and face. This must be considered pretty important as we have done it at the start of the lesson, and the instructor was keen we do it before we begin.
We did a lot of the usual routines, with every new instructor they are slightly different and sometimes referred to by different names. Over the past 35 lessons we have had a handful of different instructors which I think has given us a more rounded experience.
The first new routine started off just like the woggle swim. Baby in front of you resting on the woggle with their arms over the top of it. You bend the woggle around the both of you. You then encourage your baby to paddle with their hands. All the parents and the instructor repeated, 'roar like a Lion ! Raaaar ... ' as we mimed the way a typical cartoon Lion would move it's paws as it roared. This obviously is the same motion as paddling but more fun for the babies.
The next routine was holding onto the side. We have done this week after week and all the other babies manage well. Amélie however never wants to play ball. She can hold on if she wants to, and I can trick her to hold on by putting something interesting on the side of the pool. Today though was a turning point.
I was amazed when I told her to hold on she reached out and held on just like the other babies. I gave it 10 seconds (the usual time she will hold on for before getting bored and letting go) and then prepared to catch her as she let go. But she didn't let go. Even as the goggles were handed out for the glide swim she held on. I even got to put my goggles on with my hands free for the first time, as she held onto the side.
The glide swim went well and it was time for horsey horsey with a woggle. After this we put our babies on our backs for the regular horsey horsey. I felt Amélie grip my shoulders so I took my hands away and she held on all on her own. We were beginning to feel like a team! For so long she has been completely dependent on me, and today I was able to let go and trust her to do her part of the routines.
Next was the holiday swim, and underwater holiday swim. This is where you swim with your baby holding onto your shoulders. Amélie had held on for the first time last week and we had managed almost 2 widths. With this magical improvement I was quite hopeful this was going to go well.
We usually line up at the side of the pool and do 2 widths one by one. This time everyone did it at the same time, and we did it in a big circle. The underwater holiday swim we still did one by one so the instructor could catch the baby if they fell off. Amélie held on well and I managed 3 pretty long swims with her holding onto me.
A small few of the routines and techniques we have learned over the past year have, at one time or another seemed impossible. Every lesson you go through the motions off those particular routines thinking 'What's the point? She's too young to take any of this in, and won't even remember next lesson'. Then one lesson out of the blue and to your astonishment your baby does it. At the moment 'monkey monkey monkey' seems impossible to me, time will tell.
Swimming underwater with your baby held out in front of you (glide swim) seemed impossible at one time, but we have done that many times over the past few months. Swimming underwater with your baby holding onto your shoulders also seemed impossible. We aren't there yet (as you can see in the picture, Amélie has let go and slipped off) but I'm sure in a few weeks we will be there.
Next the instructor took each baby in turn for a little swim around to meet the other babies. When she handed them back she did so by doing the surface swim that was introduced last week in lesson 34. This is where you try to send the baby forward swimming on the surface, after 3 run ups. I think Amélie gets the idea as she kicks her legs and paddles with her arms.
Next was the last new technique. You have your baby hold onto the rail or side of the pool, then you put your arm under their thighs. This brings your baby into a horizontal position on the surface of the water, supported at the front by themselves holding the side and at the back by your arm under their thighs. You then encourage them to start kicking. It's not a great picture but it should give you the basic idea.
Any other week this would have been impossible, but with Amélie's new found ability to hold on on command, and keep holding on this went great. She was on there for over a minute kicking her legs.
Lastly we did some back floating and the lesson was over. Clare asked me how I was feeling as she knew how rough I felt when we arrived. I'd completely forgotten the stress and was in great spirits. It's such a privilege to have the opportunity to have swum with my daughter almost every week since she was 6 weeks old. I'm really looking forward to next weeks lesson as I've a rough week ahead of me. I will duly report back after next weeks lesson.