Monday, 28 June 2010

Summertime.... and the swimming is easy (well, sort of)

The summer holidays are in full swing here - all the schools have finished, the temperatures are soraring into the mid 30s, and the smell of barbecue smoke permeates the evening air. The mommies and kids of Long Island have hit the pools, sprinklers and beaches with a vengeance.

We've become members of the town swimming pool this year, and having proved with a zillion pieces of paper and ID that we are residents (it was just too complicated last year, when I didn't even have a driving licence), we can now pop down for a swim whenever we like. One of the 'rules' in this particular area of New York is that kids can't swim using arm-bands in public pools or at beaches. This is because it creates a false sense of security, apparently - all very well, but when you have two children who can't swim, it makes going in the adult pool impossible. So, we usually head to the baby pool, or occasionally the adult pool if The Doctor is going too. The baby pool is great fun for them, but crazily busy with manic toddlers and their water toys. I spend my time there policing the craziness, retrieving our toys or preventing my children from playing with other people's, and being doused with water by my younger son, who has an obsession with watering cans.

Last week, however, we went swimming at another pool, kindly invited by a friend who belongs to a private yacht club. As we headed out from the changing room I realised two things: that there was only a 'big' pool, and also that at this club you COULD wear arm-bands (which of course I had not brought). In the second that I realised this, (and bear in mind that I was carrying an armful of towels, plus a handbag) both Littleboys managed to charge at full pelt down the steps into the big pool, and immediately get out of their depth.

A lifeguard jumped in immediately to grab Littleboy 2, as I and my friend dropped our stuff and crashed inelegantly into the water (watch, sunglasses and all).

Littleboy 1, however, managed to prove that a year and a half of swimming lessons are finally paying off. He got half away across the pool, doggy-paddling, before he realised that, er, he didn't really know how to swim. Luckily at this point I reached him.

Meanwhile all the glamorous mothers around the pool were staring, no doubt in horror at this crazy British woman pitching with up two manic kids and an armful of grotty towels and immediately requiring lifeguard rescue.

Anyway, aside from the embarrassment, the incident has made me even more determined to teach them to swim ASAP. They already have lessons, but now every time we go to the pool I'm going to be instructing Littleboy 1 myself. If he doesn't swim properly by the end of the summer, it will be mission fail.

So our summer days at the moment smell of chlorine and suncream, and at night I am exhausted from chasing overexcited Littleboys round changing rooms and barking at my firstborn to tread water and kick.

But there is another real plus to pool membership. The pool is open till 9pm, so, at the end of the day, The Doctor and I can take off individually and have a serene evening swim, by ourselves. As I plough up and down the lanes, I can hear the screaming of other people's kids in the distance - and smugly close my mind to it.......

16 comments:

Glummy Mummy said...

That sounds mortifying! I don't think it's very responsible to disallow arm-bands, though.

Potty Mummy said...

That evening swim sounds like bliss though...

conuly said...

GM, it's better to disallow them. The false sense of security is right - it's too easy for a small child to think they're always safe in the water when, in fact, they're NEVER safe.

I learned that when I visited in California. We don't do much swimming in NYC (though I'm signing my nieces up for free lessons this summer through the parks department), and I saw the contrast between my niece (no floaties of any sort) and this other little girl who had a full-body floaty bathing suit on.

My niece learned after a few missed catches that she COULD NOT just jump in the water, she'd get water up her nose and go under.

This other little girl had equally learned that she might as well dive in the deep end - why not? She'd always float!

One of those two children was safer than the other, and it was the one who had learned through experience to think before she acted.

London City Mum said...

I can reassure you that even 'with' armbands little ones are not necessarily safe either.

Especially when mothers (*ahem*) are too busy gassing within metres before they realise that one armband has come off and said child is swimming in most peculiar manner, and oh-would-you-look-at-that-I-think-he-might-be-sinking.

Fortunately two strokes and I was there, but stopped me from being distracted, I can tell you that much.

Swimming lessons - priceless, and best investment you will ever make.

LCM x

PantsWithNames said...

We're on mission swim too, but it isn't going well. Despite being down the road from the most lovely open air pool in the hottest summer we've had in ages.

The boys did well in Tuzla, but the lakes there were salt water and they do think they can float rather better than they actually can...

TheMadHouse said...

Firstly I am so pleased that everyone is OK, mortified yes, but safe, which is great.

I am not sure about the armband thing. I have to say with two close together armbands became a godsend, Maxi learned not to use then, but he did go into them again and now at 5 swims well (he has weekly lessons) Mini has just started lessons and is nearly there without them.

I am a firm believer that one size doesnt fit all and that vigilance is required all the time

Tanya (Bump2Basics) said...

Oh poor you and poor Littleboys - your heart must have jumped out of your chest! Glad everyone was alright. Was your watch a victim?

I didn't realize about the swim arm bands but it's been a long time since I learned to swim on LI!

Expat mum said...

I've just spent the past season making sure the little guy can swim for that reason. He looks like he's drowning but apparently he's proficient.
What really gets up my nose however, are the beaches here where they won't let you get in the water unless there are a certain number of life guards on duty - even when the adults out number the kids. Come labour Day, there are no life guards and you can do whatever you want though.

nmaha said...

What a horrible experience. The individual swim time sounds relaxing, though.

I started my daughter off at a private pool at 6 months without armbands, since my dad did the same for me. I was swimming independently before 3, however my daughter fell sick (due to other reasons) quite a few times and we haven't properly gotten back into the swing.

Nota Bene said...

On the one hand how awful...it must have made your heart miss a beat...on the other, hopefully they've learnt a lesson...and learning to swim will come next....and on the other - I have a cartoon image in my head which is quite funny!

nappy valley girl said...

GM - fortunately we have so many mortifying incidents that I am pretty immune.....

PM - believe me, it is.

Conuly - I can see the point in principle (although I learned to swim with arm bands; I guess things were different then). However, my only gripe is that it makes things very difficult if you have more than one child, and want to take them swimming....

LCM - Oh dear....yes, well, that's probably what the lifeguards here are thinking. You do have to watch them like hawks, arm bands or not.

Pants with Names - I think eventually it just comes. But lessons definitely help - plus seeing 'big boys' swimming and diving in the big pool to spur them on....

The Madhouse - thanks, and yes all are fine. I agree, vigilance at all times is the key.

Tanya - the watch mysteriously survived, despite not being waterproof. Although the battery did need replacing 2 days later...

Expat Mum - here there are fierce signs saying no swimming when no lifeguards - all year. But the sea is very rough here. The other day a 12 year old drowned at a beach on Long Island on a school trip - no lifeguards were there. A terrible tragedy.

Nmaha - that is probably the way to do it if you have access to a pool regularly. Not really possible in the UK, though....

NB - I didn't even really have time to be scared, it happened so fast. (And actually, it wasn't as bad as the time LB2 fell into the duckpond...although that is another story.)

Mud in the City said...

nmaha seems to have had a similar experience to me. As a baby in South Africa pools were everywhere, and children regularly drowned as a result. So all babies were 'pool proofed' - basically dropped in without arms bands at a few months old when they still have the automatic response to hold their breath underwater and swim. Amazing what they can do, and it does save lives.

But not really feasible in chilly England!

From Mum to Mom- my year of being Canadian housewife said...

Ah - the summer holidays in North America are so very very long, aren't they! I am glad I found your blog as I am here in Canada under very similar circumstances.

Mwa said...

Just glad you got them both out safely. Mine's not swimming properly yet either - must also get going on that. His lessons are going too slowly too.

nappy valley girl said...

Mud - I heard of that being done in Hong Kong too. I'd be interested to know if it works for every child - don't they forget the reflex as they get older?

Mum to Mom - they are indeed long. Now I understand why eveyrone does summer camp.

Mwa - thanks. Since the 'incident', LB1 has shown quite an improvement at swim lessons!

Anonymous said...

Not sure if this is similar to the false sence of security thing but when I was 12 my dad took my armbands inflated them and poped them infront of me saying something about being too old and being dependent on them.