This Is Not the Story of My Swim Lesson

“I am not so into my swim lesson. What I really want is to get a smoothie after,” June told me as we waited on the porch for Beth and Noah to pull into the driveway on Sunday afternoon. Beth needed to drop Noah off at the house and pick June and me up so we could go to the University of Maryland for June’s first swim lesson. Excitement and nervousness had been vying with each other all day and at the moment, I thought June’s nerves were winning. Despite this, she was the one who insisted on waiting outside on a chilly, rainy day.

She had been counting down the days since Tuesday, when we discovered that the Mallard Duck was having her first swim lesson, too. When I told June her lesson was on Sunday, she was surprised. She had not realized it was so close and after that she was constantly telling us how many days it would be until her lesson, never losing count.

On the morning of the lesson she drew a picture of herself in the swimming pool. At first it consisted of just a smiling face floating in a circular pool. “The rest of my body is underwater,” she explained. But eventually she filled in her torso, arms and legs and drew her swim teacher’s legs as well. Beth pointed out that the instructor would be in the pool with her and not standing next to the pool as June had drawn her. I think this was meant to be re-assuring, but at that moment, June seemed quite happy to imagine herself swimming alone in the pool.

We arrived early so we settled ourselves onto the bleachers and watched other lessons in progress. This was good for about ten minutes until June declared she was bored. We started to tell story-games, each of us contributing a few sentences to a story until it was finished. There was a story about a pool that magically emptied itself of water and one about a fish who forgot how to swim and needed to take lessons. One story, June introduced as being about a girl who “didn’t like anything” and was going to take swimming lessons. “This is not the story of my swim lesson,” she clarified. Our grumpy protagonist complained about having to walk from the car to the pool in the rain. She complained about getting undressed and into her suit. She complained about the water being too cold and then too warm. Finally, her mother told her to stop complaining and, miraculously, she did.

June had not complained while walking from the car to the pool in the pouring rain, even though her socks were soaking when we took them off and she had not complained in the locker room either, so it was pretty well established that this was not the story of her swim lesson. Hers would be much better.

The teacher, a college student, came over and introduced herself, complimented June on her suit and asked her to come with her. June had told us ahead of time she might be shy at first, but she climbed down over the bleachers and followed the young woman to the steps that lead into the water willingly enough. They sat on the steps and talked. I wished I could hear what they were saying. Then the teacher got a toy watering can and she and June took turns sprinkling water on each other’s heads. Beth and I speculated that the point of this exercise was to test June’s tolerance for getting her face wet. Then they practiced blowing bubbles in the water and kicking while still seated on the steps.

Next the instructor got out a kickboard and got June onto it. She held the end and walked backwards with it as June kicked. June was grinning as she moved through the water. I’m not sure how hard the teacher was pulling her along, but June was definitely under the impression she was moving herself through the water and she was quite clearly pleased. Next they tried a swimming noodle, threaded under her armpits. Most of the time the instructor was holding onto the noodle to steady June, but at one point she let go. The teacher had a little pink ball she put in front of June. She was supposed to reach for it. I think this prevented her from holding onto the noodle with her own hands and also mimicked the motion your arms make when you swim freestyle.

Every now and then June would glance over at us to make sure we were watching. Once she even flashed us the thumbs-up sign. She did get water up her nose one time and she had her I-am-going-to-cry face on for a few minutes, but she managed to recover. Toward the end of the lesson, the instructor had June practice jumping into the pool, At first she held both of June’s hands as she jumped, but eventually she held just one hand. (June later claimed that she went all the way under the water when that happened, but I was watching the whole time I didn’t see anything like that. I think she might have been so worried this would happen that she convinced herself that it did.)

When the lesson was over the instructor came by, saying June had done well and that she had “a good foundation.” She asked what our goals were for the remaining five lessons. Beth said other than comfort in the water and learning the basics, we didn’t have too many goals, but she added that June wants to be able to swim well enough to be able to be able to dive for pirate treasure. I don’t think this was the answer the teacher was expecting, but it is in fact June’s main motivation for wanting swim lessons in the first place. Every time she mentions this goal, she ends by saying “And then we’ll be rich.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if she does learn to scuba dive someday. She’s an adventurous soul, my June Bug, and I think that wherever her adventures take her, they will make very good stories indeed. Meanwhile, June says she’s “excited to go back there.” And I don’t think it’s just for the smoothies.