Sunday, August 28, 2011

Swim Lesson Fiasco

This summer we signed the girls up for their second round of swim lessons. Kenzie has become pretty confident in the water so I signed her up for a Level 2 class where she could start to learn some strokes and get better at swimming.

All summer long the girls asked me when swim lessons would start. Finally at the end of July, we put on our swim suits, grabbed our towels and headed to the Roy Complex for our lessons. They were so excited. Hannah even headed off to class (even though the teacher was a boy!) without any trouble at all.

I was playing with Ellie in the bleachers, watching the action and thinking how wonderful swim lessons would be and the next thing I know, a sobbing, screeching Kenzie is next to me crying about how she doesn't like swim lessons. I am puzzled. Kenzie won't tell me what happened and I didn't see anything. I try giving her a hug (drenching my clothes) and sending her back. "You like swimming. Look you can do what your class is doing. You can do it. You've floated on your back before. Go on."

I try gently directing her back to her class. She refuses, crying and crying.

"Here I'll walk you back out there. Come on." I take her hand and we walk over to her class. Her teacher spends some valuable class time trying to convince Kenzie back to the water. She starts to get back in. I am walking away when the crying Kenzie comes back to my side again.

My patience, which I did not think would be tried by my children refusing to do things I paid for that are supposed to be fun, runs thin. I try the reward mode.

"Look Kenz. If you go back to swim lessons I have an ice cream cone with your name on it that you can have when we get home. But you have to go swim and stay in your class."

She sits next to me and cries harder.

"Come on don't you want an ice cream cone? Mmm. You love ice cream." (Just like she loves swimming, I thought)

The forty-five minutes of class are ticking away as her class members practice floating and swimming to the teacher, things that Kenzie can do. Things she needs to practice. I give her a five minute time limit to get back to her class, or no ice cream!  The five minutes tick away. My patience ticks away.

"Fine. Kenz, these lessons cost $45. Do you understand how many chores that is?  That's 180 chores. You're going to swim lessons or you're doing chores for the rest of your life to pay for them. Do you like chores? Because you're going to have to do four a day. Remember how you hate doing two a day? Well it's going to be worse. Four a day. It's going to take you all day. And they'll be chores I chose."

"I don't want to go to swim lessons," Kenzie sobs. "And I won't do chores! I won't!"

"Well how are you going to pay me?" I'm getting angrier by the minute. "Just go out there and swim! You like swimming! Don't be a quitter." (resorting to name calling always works with children)

At this point, my sister-in-law, steps in. "Hey Kenz, we're going to Uncle Josh's work to swim after lessons today. Do you want to go?"

A tear-streaked Kenzie nods.

"Well, you have to go and finish your lessons."

"Did you hear that Kenz? Go on. Go!"  Kenzie finally (with ten minutes left in the class), goes back to class.

After class we had a great time swimming with Josh and Sherrie and their kids and Kenzie showed her prowess at swimming underwater and back floating. I know the class isn't too advanced for her.

"Next time I'll go to class," says Kenzie.

But it was the same pattern at the next lesson. What the heck? She even started acting the same way at tumbling lessons, coming out of class crying at me. Finally, when she refused to put her swimsuit on for the third lesson, I gave up. Luckily I was still able to get a refund, or she really would have been doing 180 chores.

I never thought I would have to teach my children everything. When they are babies it's things like teaching a child not to throw themselves off of surfaces taller than they are, how to get food to their mouth instead of their ear, and how to go to sleep and stay asleep, that surprise me. I thought survival skills were somewhat innate.

Now that my kids are getting a little older it's lessons like "don't give up at the first sign of hard work," or "throwing fits makes people want to run away from you," and "if you're not nice no one will want to be around you," that surprise me. And the fact that we have to learn these lessons OVER AND OVER AND OVER.

It's hard to teach them how to be happy.


Em Russ said...

oh my gosh... I am SOOOOOO there for you on this one. I sent my 3 "big" kids to swimming lessons (which cost way more than 180 chores here in the stupid east coast) and on the second day zack refused to go in. the next day abby refused. I finally talked abby back in, but zack was done for the season. NO refunds. I was so fuming mad. fuming. Seriously... I thought that swimming would be fun. super hard, that happiness thing!

Anonymous said...

I'm so sorry. I can literally feel your frustration in this blog post. Maybe next year she'll be ready for swim lessons.