My love of the water has been passed down to my kids and I’m so grateful because I know many parents struggle with their children’s bath or beach time fears. My mom signed me up for swim classes at our local Y in Queens when I was kid and I’ve been reluctant to get out of the water since. I was on swim teams, was a lifeguard, and went on to coach a kids’ summer swim league throughout college. Growing up a swimmer definitely benefited me as a mom.
While we don’t have the time or proximity to water to swim all year round, we make sure the kids get plenty in during the warmer months. They’re happier after a day of swimming, and wiped out, so bedtime is a breeze when you have water babies.
One of the reasons I must have taken to the water is that I’m a city kid. There are so many stimuli around, constantly, so submerging myself under water gave me peace. It was gentle and quiet and I was buoyant, for a change. So as a mom raising children in an urban environment, I know how important it is to find opportunities for them to get away from it all and de-stress. Swimming has always been a fantastic workout, in a comforting environment, and I feel it’s made me a great mom in a few ways:
I’m happy to go swimming with my kids. There are so many things I force myself to have “fun” doing with them (A sixth game of Sorry? Yay!!!!!). Water tag, racing, underwater tea parties... I love it all. And I don’t judge other parents who watch their kids from the comfort of the beach chair; I’m that mom sometimes too. Because swimming is exhausting.
That muscle memory from swimming as a teen kicked in once I became a parent. Hoisting the kids didn’t really tire me out until they got to be about 4 years old.
Let's be clear: I’m no athlete. I would place consistently fourth or fifth in my swim team races during junior high and high school. But I could do all the strokes, and I never failed to finished a race. I’d get faster, incrementally, beating my best times, though never those of my speed-racer teammates. When you aren’t the best at something, but you’re still earning personal bests, you can feel like somebody. And since parenthood pretty much knocks the confidence out of you at every developmental stage your kid goes through, it’s so rewarding to know there is something I can do decently. It’s pretty cool to have my kids think I’m cool because I can swim butterfly (at least, until they get good enough to beat me).
It’s a look, it’s a time-saver, and, contrary to what my mother would tell me, you cannot get sick from going out with a wet head. I never cut my kids’ pool time short to dry their hair. Waste of time, waste of energy, and not a battle I’m willing to have with a wriggly kindergartner.
We may live in a landlocked part of NYC, but we’re always seeking out opportunities for water play in the summer. I want my kids to know how to be safe, whether in a boat or in someone’s backyard baby pool. Life jackets and keeping vigilant watch on kids while they swim are both important, but for a non-swimmer, it just takes a second for them to go under, to dangerous effects.
My kids loved the thrill of flying over the water's surface as we'd pull them around. And there is nothing more my toddler loved doing in the pool than holding me up with one hand. I would float above his little fingers as he squealed in delight, showing off his prowess.
I was always a walking dichotomy of Speedos and body shame. As a teenager, I hated my chubbiness, but loved swimming, so there was no fighting the fact that I’d be in a bathing suit, publicly, for as along as I wanted to be in the water. I dealt with this by developing stealthy techniques to changing, inside oversized t-shirts or behind beach towels. Now, I can get a kid out of a soaking wet suit and into dry clothes in less than three minutes. (But swim diapers totally kill my game.)
While pool toys, rafts, and snorkel gear are all fun to add in the mix, there is no shortage of games you can come up with just with your human selves in a body of water, big or small. Once my kids could swim, past toddlerhood, we ditched most of the plastic playthings and they were thrilled to just propel themselves through the water, weightless and feeling almost invincible.