This Day in History
One Last Time

Sink or Swim


Three months after his dramatically embarrassing pool party rescue, Ike has officially started swim lessons. His skeptical stubbornness has also hit levels unknown, as he is bound and determined to Be Difficult at every class for no reason other than...oh who the hell knows. It's like his dinnertime shenanigans, just soggier.

Now I have witnessed firsthand that this kid can do just fine in the water while supported by one of those backpack floats, and will happily doggy paddle from spot to spot without a wet-hair-care in the world. He'll blow bubbles in the bathtub and float on his back and mimic all the kicking and arm motions of "real swimming." 

He will do zero of those things at his lessons, at least when specifically asked to. He has a friend from school in the same group who is an enthusiastic participant, and he'll mimic that boy's waiting-on-the-steps kicking/splashing/daredevil stunts on the railings, but as soon as it's his turn with the instructor he goes into full-on NOPE mode. He'll kick, then stop kicking, and once he's reminded to kick, he snaps them rigidly in place and stays stiff as a board while his (suppppppper nice) instructor hauls him uselessly around the pool. When asked to move his arms he will pointedly bring his hand up precisely two inches out of the water before putting it back down, like he's playing the piano and adding a fancy wrist flourish.

When they swim past me, he gives me the smuggest, most magnificent side-eye I have ever seen outside of a Rihanna GIF. He knows exactly what he's doing and clearly enjoying every second of this thoroughly pointless power struggle. 


Instructor: Put your chin in the water like this.

Ike: *braces self up to keep chin as far away from the water as possible*

Of course, if you ask him about swimming lessons literally any other time than the 30-minute lesson block, he will tell you he likes them and the pool is fun and blah blah fiveyearoldcakes. Next week there will be consequences for any shenanigans and related malarky. 

His brothers are doing very well at their lessons, as expected -- Noah's a naturally strong swimmer and Ezra's just so happy to be doing literally anything at the YMCA because it's all just so FUN FUN FUN that he completely forgets about the out-of-character, second grade 'tude he's been trying on at home, and reverts back into his sunny ball-of-boundless-optimism self.

(At least until Ike takes his towel no that was myyyyyyy towellll Iiiiiiyyyyyykkkkke why do you evennnnnnnn existtttttt if not to make me sufffffferrrr soooooo)

Although last night I found this note taped to the outside of Ezra's door, which I will put right up there with Ike's side-eye in the "magnificent" category: 


"Mom if you

let me play on

the phone's I will

Lave you. And

give you Lave notes and give 

me 8 boller's

pleses in a Bag."


(Close-up of sad, spiky-haired child begging for 8 bollers in a bag.)

So now I know that my child's Lave for me is entirely conditional on screen time and will cost me exactly 8 bollers. And a bag. 



It possibly doesn't help, but my children have each pretty much had that exact same phase in swim lessons, including most recently our 4 year old. The oldest is 9 and now swimming competitively, so there is hope, but still makes every single one of those "balk"/Standoff swim lessons horrible. I feel you.

The Other Laura

Have you tried sitting somewhere where he can't see you at all during the lesson? He might not work so hard at being uncooperative if he thought you weren't watching?


I taught swim lessons for many moons (is 7 years a lot of moons? It sure felt like it at the time) and I always found that mom sitting somewhere that kiddo couldn't see them helped a ton when kids were being uncooperative as a way to get mommy's attention. Or sit and read a magazine/book where you can see him, but pay him absolutely no mind (while still totally peeking over the top of your chosen reading material to see how he's doing), but give him no indication that you can hear him trying to talk to you, or that you can see him not participating. You are in blissful book zone, yo, and you is not to be disturbed.


I was thinking of you this weekend when my almost-six-year-old-going-on-18 was hell bent on breaking house rules that he very well knows. I started charging him $.25 every time he runs in the house and promised to take every last piggy bank coin until he gets his ever-loving shit together. He's also been testing out a shitty little attitude just to make me reach for the hard liquor.

I'm exhausted. And I just have the one. I don't know how you stop yourself from walking into oncoming traffic with all three of your kids.

I keep telling myself that it will pay off. That my consistency and nagging will result in a good human at the end of it. Meanwhile I'm hating myself for being mean mommy and feel like the only words coming out of my mouth are 'stop', 'come on', 'seriously, for the fourth time put your shoes on'.


Your Ike and my 4-almost 5 yr old are one and the same! We have added another brother mix (5 mo old now), so his negative-attention-seeking antics have gone through the roof. We first tried group YMCA lessons, but after the second lesson, he refused to participate. They were group lessons, so parents had to be .right.there.poolside., and it got to a point where he would just stand there next to me and cry. Fun times saturday mornings! So we gave up on those. Recently discovered Infant Swim Rescue (ISR) and have had great results. I wouldn't call them 'swimming' lessons, more like 'if you fall into a pool no adult in sight you can rescue yourself' lessons. Age 6 mo to yr 6. One on one, 10 min a day, 5 days a week until they master the skills (get into a face-up float from face down, master the swim/float/swim sequence, being able to find the ladder/stairs/etc, holding breath under the water, etc.) It's incredibly time-consuming getting their butts there 5 days a week for 10 min, but it is catered towards their super short attention spans. I will say that after completed ISR, my 4 yr old can essentially 'swim', so we can probably move on to lessons for mastering strokes & endurance. Will start my youngest next year when he's about one. ISR's goal is not one.more.accidental. drowning. Hope this helps.


I made the mistake of signing my 2-yr old up for parent-child lessons at the same time as my 4-yr old's lesson. Not only did they have a great time discovering that they can fit into the lockers and shut the door on themselves (it was a real struggle not to leave them in there until I was dressed) but the 4-yr old wouldn't always participate in lessons. There wasn't much I could other than send death glares across the pool and occasionally float over to whisper-hiss that he needs to participate or he will lose _____ privilege.


My kids both hated swim lessons but figured out swimming just fine on their own around age 5, just from going to the pool every day in summer. The following summer they turned into fishes. If you don't need him to be in lessons right now, maybe take a break?

I have only just now figured out what boller's peeses are. And there was a perfectly clear illustration right there.

Heather Laura Clarke

What are "bollers"? I need to know! Aughh!


I wish I was a little bit taller, I wish I was a baller....

Sorry, couldn't help myself.


This is gonna sound awful, but I'm always relieved when both my kids participated in the same thing, since their personalities are so felt like proof that the one acting a fool was a fool of their own volition rather than bad parenting!!


Kelsey is right. He knows you are watching. Same concept as preschool drop off tears that are turned off before you are even out of earshot.


Thank your for this. I am currently in a spiral of strong-willed defiance (my 3.5 yr old) and am feeling alone and angry and have started thinking all these internet memes promising wonderful humans if we "don't tame the spirit out them" are just parents hoping for the best and we're in for many more years of this mess. While I'm not convinced this is temporary, I wanted to say, thank for reminding me that I'm not alone.


My second grader has also been acting a little off every now and then. He's usually so positive and sweet. Occasionally, he starts acting up a little and making weird choices. He didn't want to go to the park yesterday for goodness sakes! He'd been inside basically all weekend watching TV or playing video games so we made him go. And he had a blast. I want him to be my sweet boy forever!


I am a terrible person and threatened my daughter with the "mean" swim instructor who was next to us in the pool who literally just throws small children in the water. The lady's son puked next to us which closed the pool. My daughter was totally on board with her nice instructor the next day.


Swim instructor for more than 9 years here. I specialized in small children (under 6) and severely physically impaired children. I also had special classes for children who has water trauma (near drowning experiences).

I know it's not what you want to hear, because I'm a parent now too, but he will be COMPLETELY different if you do another set of lessons and leave him at the pool on the first lesson w his instructor.
Where I worked we had a two way mirror where parents could watch, but children whose parents insisted on sitting by the pool always performed much more poorly.

Think satter method but with the pool. Here's the pool, here's your teacher, you must be respectful but I don't care what you do. Swim or don't.

and then walk away.

If you can watch from somewhere else it will BLOW YOUR MIND how different it is.


Stay out of sight during lessons. Or drop them off and leave if possible. I am a hair stylist and I can guarantee you when a child is acting up in my chair it's when mom is hovering. Once mom is out of sight suddenly their behavior improves 😊


Too funny! I do agree with the people who said leave the poolside area. My stubborn child behaves perfectly in swim lessons when she can't see me!


I think it is more than not watching. You need to leave the area and he needs to know it in advance so he is not looking for you. Phone calls outside or paperwork in the car are two good ones. You are still on the property but totally occupied (plus you can get a lot done in uninterrupted windows of time).

Celeste L

@Heather Laura Clarke They are DOLLARS! $$ The kid wants mullah in a bag, ransom-style XD


Ugh. Yes to all of this. My almost 5 year old has been through the second level lessons no less than 7 times. 7! We took 3 sessions off this summer - decided to let him have a break and mature a bit. We just started him back up (yes...pike level for the 8th time now) and hopefully he puts his damn face in the water this time. Literally, that's all he needs to do to move up! Seriously child.


(Wait...what happened to my comment from last night on this post?? Email me if there was something wrong with it, please! I hope there wasn't....)

Jen C

Yes!! This was my 4 year old this summer for swim lessons! He was even "demoted" to the 3 year old class. He would sit on the steps with his head down the entire time and when it was his turn he acted like a floppy dead fish. However every damn day at our pool he was happily doing all of the required skills and frustrating. Now we are in the same boat with gymnastics IS actually getting better though. Stubborn boys!!


Being that he's getting lessons after this summer's incident, I'd make it very clear: you don't learn how to swim, you don't get to go swimming. Obviously, if he's trying and just not getting it, that's one thing. But if he doesn't want to put in the work, he doesn't get to play.

I also support the idea of you watching secretly from afar. I taught music lessons for years and the parent being in the room makes everyone feel awkward.

The comments to this entry are closed.