Wednesday, June 20, 2007

The Screamer

I joined my first swim team when I was 11. Mom had put me in tennis/swim camp hoping I'd take to tennis and become the next Tracy Austin or Andrea Jaeger (did you know she's a nun now?), but instead, I took to swimming like, well, a fish. She signed me up for the team that fall. I swam all the way through high school. In addition I lifeguarded at two different pools and taught swim camp and private lessons. I also helped out with the little kids on our team every once in a while.

After college I started coaching professionally. I was a graduate assistant coach for the University of Florida women's team and an age-group coach for Florida Aquatics for four years. I had the chance to work with every level of swimmer from five-year-olds to Olympians. I also ran the summer swim lesson program at our pool - hiring and training coaches, overseeing the lessons, etc.

When I moved to Austin, I coached for another three years with Texas Aquatics before finally realizing I just couldn't make a living as a part-time assistant coach. It was very, very hard to give it all up.

I say all this just to show how important swimming is to my life. I loved the years I spent teaching and coaching. I love just being in the water to float around. Given how clumsy I am on land, it should come as no suprise that I feel graceful in the water.

So if you had told me that I'd have a daughter who hates swimming, I'd have laughed at you. When I was teaching swimming in high school, I had one student who screamed through every lesson she had. I'd go home with claw marks on my neck from her clinging to me, and my mom would say, "I see you had the Screamer today."

It turns out, Lily is the Screamer in her class. She cried through lessons last summer but did everything the instructor asked of her - kicking with the board, blowing bubbles, going under water. Rich, her instructor, was great with her, and I felt like she made real progress. This year, she's gone backwards. She started out the lessons just fine - no tears, no screaming, no problems. But then last week the wheels came off and she cried at the start of each lesson. She'd stop by the end, though.

Not so this week. Monday she went from just crying to letting out high-pitched, ear-piercing screams every time her instructor made her go in the water. She even got kicked out of class early one day for all of her screaming. I was mortified.

I'm stumped about what to do. I've offered bribes like cookies from Russell's - didn't work. She came out and said, "I cried. No cookies." I've held the promise of Schlitterbahn out as a carrot. She really didn't care.

We only have two classes left, so that problem is almost over. But what do I do about her dislike of the water? I firmly believe that everyone, everyone has to know how to swim. I'm not sure I can teach her, just because I'd get too impatient with her. So how will she learn? Do I wait until next summer and sign her up for more lessons and hope for the best? Do I just let her figure it out on her own? Mostly I'm just stumped about how Brandon and I could end up with a child who doesn't like the water.

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