Olympic size meltdown

Last night marked the beginning of a new round of swim lessons at the Y.  Zoey and I have gotten in to a great rhythm of hitting the Family Fit Circuit Class at 5:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays, followed by swim lessons at 6:20.  My little fish has always loved the water and started swim lessons about a year ago (once it was safely established that she was past the age of parent-child swim class, which would require Mom to get in a bathing suit and join her in the pool).  And even in her first classes, back when she was a wee Pike and Super Pike, she showed little anxiety about following her class and hopping in the pool with her instructor.

For roughly the past three months, Zoey has swam twice a week with Coach Hailey, whom she adores.  We knew Coach Hailey would be on vacation during this session, but I didn’t put much thought in to it until we walked on the pool deck last night and I watched Zoey size up her new instructor, Coach Michael.  She went from giggling and wiggling under the banner where her fellow Starfish classmates were waiting, to inching her way over to Mommy’s side, to grabbing my hand anxiously, to full-on crying and clinging to me as Coach Michael led his class over to the showers.

This?  Has never happened.

What to do?  What to DO?  Force her to get in?  Give her a pass for the night?  I stood sweating on the pool deck as my preschooler clung to my hand and wailed that she did not WANT a boy teacher, she wanted Coach HAILEY, boy teachers are SCARY.  I tried soothing.  I tried pointing out all her familiar friends, who were already in the pool, and their lucky parents who had escaped the sauna-like temperatures of the pool deck and were sitting in the waiting area, watching my drama unfold.  Soothing blended quickly to bribery, as I promised Auntie Cindy would take her for ice cream as soon as swim lessons were over, if she would just get in the pool.  (My aunt watches Zoey every Tuesday evening while I work out.  I was banking on Auntie Cindy being a sucker for anything that would get Zoey to swim with her class.)  I promised that if she would get in the pool, I would stand on the pool deck nearby and watch.  I pulled out all the stops.

It took ten minutes (1/3 of the relatively short swim lesson) just to get my child in the pool.  Which she agreed to reluctantly, and kept a watchful eye for me througout her lesson as I stood sweating and stinking over near the hot tub.  (45 minutes of Family Circuit class followed by 30 minutes of stressful sweating on the overly-warm pool deck?  Fun times.  I’m sure my fellow Target shoppers appreciated my smelly presence an hour later as I ran in for Kleenex and ibuprofen.)

Zoey got out of the pool with her class at 6:50 and immediately informed me she would not be swimming with Coach Michael on Thursday, and that she would prefer to stay firmly attached to my arm rather than go anywhere near a swim lesson with a boy teacher.  She blubbered through her shower and continued to worry about the lesson two days away as we got her dressed.  Finally, I told her we could worry about Thursday’s lesson on Thursday, and maybe for now we could just go out and meet Auntie Cindy, who had been patiently waiting on the pool deck with me the entire time, and was waiting to take Zoey for whatever ice cream treat her little heart desired.  (God bless Auntie Cindy.)

So, needless to say, I’m totally looking forward to Thursday evening!  Anyone out there have similar issues with their five year olds?  If Thursday’s lesson tanks the way yesterday’s went down, I’m tempted to just take her out of lessons for this session.  Good idea?  Sending the wrong message?

Who knows.


5 thoughts on “Olympic size meltdown

  1. Hi Amy, It’s another Lisa (aka Mrs Blum). Boy, that’s a hard one! You want to affirm Zoey’s instincts that maybe there is something about this teacher she is uncomfortable with but at the same time encourage her to be in new and different situations. Maybe find a quiet time to do a list of the ways Michael and Hailey are the same (both swimmers, both like kids, etc) and the ways they are different (girl/boy, tall/short… whatever) Maybe you’ll pick up on what it is about Michael that’s bothering her. Definitley plan to sit on the pool deck for the session. If she loosens up fine, but if not, well, think of it as a whole body facial.

  2. Amy, I used to coach girls age group swimming and taught lessons all through high school and a little in college. I have encounted this before, where kids would simply melt down at the sight of me replacing (gasp) their mother-like female instructor. I would recommend getting there early next time, try to get Zoey to meet the instructor before he’s already in the water and managing 10 children. Then she can meet him, talk, ect. If this doesn’t do the trick, I would have her sit on the edge and simply watch the lesson. Then she can see all the kids, size up the instructor (if you sit with her you can add your own commentary “Wow, they’re having so much fun” “Mr. Micheal really seems to know what he’s doing.”) She’ll appreciate the time with you and maybe then she’ll feel comfortable. Conversly he could give YOU the creeps and you’ll validate why she feels that way. You could try a private lesson (if they offer it) with Mr. Michael where you could get in the pool too. I know this is a lot, but in my experiance kids who quit swim lessons NEVER go back. Life simply removes the time, and the benefits of swimming are huge. It’s a skill that my lead to lifetime of enjoyment, and in the event of a boating or swimming emergency save her life. Plus then when she’s older she can talk swimming with Mrs. Blum and I on Facebook.

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