“Daddy, I don’t want to wear this swim vest anymore. I want to learn to swim like a fish.”

When I was younger, my mom would take us to Florida to visit my grandparents. Those were some of the best times of my childhood: I would spend much of the day in the pool, swimming back and forth while telling my mom the same thing Brandon told me about wanting to swim like a fish. So it brought a big smile to my face to hear him say he wanted to do that himself.

Over the summer, Brandon began to love the water with swim time at camp, going next door to swim when he could with us, and treating the bathtub like a mini pool. As he got a bit more daring with his floaties on, we knew it was time to get serious about lessons. Brandon’s face lit up when I asked if he wanted lessons and he said, “When can we start?!”

Even though I was a lifeguard when I was younger and did teach lessons to young children his age, I realized some things might be best left to someone else. So I stayed on the pool deck, cheered Brandon on, and let someone who has taught more recently than over 20 years ago take over.

I signed Brandon up to start a few weeks after camp season ended. As it got closer, Brandon grew more excited. About a week before the first lesson, one night before bed, I walked into his room and he said, “Daddy, I picked out this bathing suit with a fish on it, and my PJ mask towel, can I pack it now?” A few days later, we went on a scavenger hunt around the house looking for his goggles to add to the bag we were going to bring with us to the pool. The night before his first lesson, we made sure to set out his swim shoes because, “Daddy, I can’t walk barefoot around the pool, I don’t want to slip.” Honestly, I was pretty impressed with the amount of thought he had put into it all.

The morning of his first swim lesson, I wasn’t really surprised when Brandon showed up at the side of my bed – before the sun came up – with a huge smile on his face. He was dressed in his bathing suit and swim shirt, and had his goggles on his head. I admired his enthusiasm, but he was about 4 hours early and our drive was going to be about 15 minutes.

When we got to the pool, we were still early, so Brandon and I got in the pool together while we waited. As I pulled him around by his arms while he was kicking, I asked him to put his face in the water and blow bubbles, but he said, “Daddy I’m afraid to do that.” Besides trying to reassure him that everything would be ok, I didn’t really push it. I completely understood his fears and decided to wait for his teacher to try more.

Even though Brandon was hesitant with me in the water, he got much more confident once the instructor took over. They started doing everything we were working on that he said he couldn’t do because he was afraid. His swim teacher was able to help him take on his fears and concerns, and help him realize he could do it. The best part is Brandon would look over at me each time he did something new, with a smile on his face and a sense of accomplishment, which only made my smile bigger as I gave my thumbs up.

We may still need just a few more lessons for Brandon to become the fish he wants to be, but as a proud dad I’m loving watching him figure it all out, overcome his fears and gain more confidence in himself along the way as he learns. And it is even more rewarding for me that we get to do it together, and I get to watch it all happen.

December 2021
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