When I began my manternity leave at my daughter’s 8-month mark, I knew we would need to sign up for various classes to occupy ourselves. When I saw that the local pool was offering infant swimming lessons we were quick to sign up.
I’d read somewhere that newborn babies are natural swimmers. That it’s some kind of evolutionarily ingrained behavior that’s leftover from their time displacing liquid in the womb. That during those gestational months little babies are essentially fetal Michael Phelps’s.
Before our first class, I had a lot of questions about how babies swim with those massively-absorbent diapers. Should I put her in a diaper for swimming and risk turning the deep end into the shallow end? Alternatively, do we go diaper-less? And risk murky-ing up the pool water with a poorly timed poop. What’s that euphemism? Dropping the kids off at the pool.
Luckily, I spoke with a parent more well-informed than I. She told me about swim diapers. Diapers designed specifically to make sure that the kids don’t go in the pool. So I picked up some swim diapers and my daughter was ready to learn how to swim.
I was eager for her to learn how to swim, I imagined my daughter looking like the baby on Nirvana’s Nevermind album, floating peacefully in a pool, reaching for that dollar bill on a fishing lure – only without a penis.
I hadn’t realized that at her age she wasn’t learning to swim as much as learning to be carried around the pool by daddy. There was little actual swimming involved. I carried my daughter around the pool in my arms, kept her submerged to shoulder level and sang songs with appropriately altered lyrics. In the pool it wasn’t the Hokey-Pokey it was the Fishy-Wishy.
My daughter was “swimming.” And she didn’t seem to like it. That first class she held onto me in absolute terror. Nearly every aspect of the pool frightened her. The shower before the pool scared her. It was loud. She didn’t want to go near it. So she didn’t shower before going into the pool, despite signage that urged otherwise.
Other babies splashing frightened her. Pool noodles frightened her. Parents in poor-fitting swimwear scared her, understandably. She cried for most of the first lesson and the second. By the third she discovered splashing. She loves splashing.
For 10 weeks my daughter and I splashed our way through swimming class. The class was later in the day and if mommy got off work early enough she would come to the pool to watch us swim from the viewing gallery. Mommy doesn’t really know how to swim. She’d much rather be poolside with a gin-based beverage. Which is fine, that just means that swimming in the pool can be a daddy thing. And drinking by the pool can be a mommy thing.