Monday, April 23, 2012

Swimming lessons

Kabir's swimming classes started two weeks ago. There are a total of 20 classes over 4 weeks, one hour every weekday. The kids have already come such a long way in these past two weeks, that I decided I must make a note of the little steps they took along the way to get this far. Especially so because the beginning was really challenging for Kabir and for me. Every day in the first week of the swim camp I wondered if he was really ready for it and whether I was right in pushing him so hard.

Day 1 (Monday): Kabir went into the baby pool happily but within 10 mins he was sobbing and asking for me. He was upset as it was his first time in the pool without me or Saurabh. I stood next to the pool encouraging him and promising him treats. The kids (about 20 of them) were taught how to hold on to the wall and kick their legs. They also took turns to hold the coach's hand and paddle from one end of the baby pool to the other. At the end of the class Kabir seemed to be relieved and happy. I bought him an icecream and took him to the viewing gallery of the new Olympic size pool with the hope that he would see how much fun it is to be able to swim.

Day 2 (Tuesday): Kabir woke up next morning saying that he did not want to go back to the camp. He explained to me that he liked swimming but only with me. And that he did not like the coaches. In fact, he pointed out, he didn't even know the names of the coaches and where they lived so how could he swim with them? I tried a lot to persuade him by telling him that its easiest to learn as a kid, then tried bribing him and when that didn't work even threatened him that I would never take him swimming again if he didn't go back to the camp that day. He still refused to go. On one hand I wondered if I was pushing him too hard but on the other hand I believed that he would enjoy himself as soon as he got over the initial hesitation. So I persisted and tested him by saying that he might as well throw away his swimming trunks and get rid of his swimming card if he didn't want to go to the camp. He went right ahead and threw his trunks in the garbage and began tearing his swimming card into little pieces. Then I almost gave up and told him that I was going to the pool alone, just to watch the other kids. When I started to leave, he asked if he too could go just to watch and I agreed. Once we got there, we found the kids in the big (25m) pool and all of them had floats tied around their waist. I nudged Kabir many times but he didn't show any inclination to join them. Exhausted, I told him that there was no point hanging out there any more and that he should bid farewell to the pools and that we were going to go back home. We returned home and miraculously, after 5 mins Kabir asked if we could go back because he wanted to join the other kids. After he had promised that he wasn't going to change his mind, I took him back to the pool where he got his own float and joined the other kids in the shallow side of the big pool. Once he was in the water, he did well. At first the coach held the kids in water but soon they were all paddling on their own with their floats on. Kabir was in the water for about 10 mins when the class got over.After class, I got him a treat of fresh orange juice and some icecream. I was relieved that he had decided to go back to the pool. I think that he really did want to be in the class with other kids but at the same time wanted to feel in control of the decision.

Day 3 (Wednesday): Kabir was excited about his new float (which the coaches had asked the kids to take home with them) and though he still hesitated to go to swim class, getting him ready was comparatively easier. He got into the pool without much fuss but I could hear him asking the coach a few times that he wanted to go back to mama. The kids were made to swim a few breadths of the pool on the shallow side (with their floats on) and then they were taken to the deep side of the pool where they swam 2 breadths. Kabir was exhausted by the end of class but felt very proud for having swum in the deep end of the pool. More treats followed after class :)

Day 4 (Thursday): Kabir went back to having anxieties about the class and refused to go into the pool. He sat in the changing room with me trying to reason why he didn't want to go. I promised him that if he gave me a good reason, I would agree to take him back home (of course I was the one judging if the reason was good). He mostly repeated that he liked swimming only with me. My sense was that the class was turning out to be a lot of hard work (while swimming with me was more slow paced and fun). I told him that the only way to learn was to work hard but also asked him to take breaks and tell the coach if he felt too tired. Even after much discussion, I finally had to drag him to the pool. Once he got in the water, he did just fine. There was a lot of paddling back-and-forth with the floats first in the shallow side and then a few breadths in the deep side.

Day 5 (Friday): Class started with more resistance from Kabir. But fortunately by now, he had started bonding with one of the coaches - Zuber. When we got to the pool Kabir refused to get into the water yet again. This time Zuber came over, held Kabir's hand and took him away for a walk and chat along the pool. A few minutes later I saw Kabir getting into the water himself and that too in the deep side of the pool! He did great for the rest of the class. He swam breadths on the deep side and whenever Zuber found him getting too tired he would go over to him and ask him to go piggyback with him. After class, Kabir announced that since Zuber rhymed with Kabir, we should rename Anu to Zuber :-)

Weekend followed.

Day 6 (Monday): Class 6 started no differently with more protests from Kabir. This time I tried to do the talk with him myself and he said he had 3 complaints. 1- He got too tired, 2- he only wanted to swim in the deep side and 3- he only want to be with Zuber and not the other coach. Once I promised him that I would convey these to the coaches, he came along and joined the other kids on the deep end of the pool. This day turned out to be exciting. There was more paddling on the deep side and then the kids were taken to the shallow side and their floats were taken off. They were each given some time to paddle in the water without the floats. Zuber gave special attention to Kabir and I was amazed to see Kabir float about a meter or two without his floats on. More reasons to cheer and so the class was followed by special treats!

Day 7 (Tuesday): For the first time Kabir said that he actually wanted to go to the pool for swim lessons. As luck would have it, class got cancelled that day.

Day 8 (Wednesday): No protests from Kabir on day 8. He changed and went directly into the deep side of the pool. Swam a whole lot of breadths. But the highlight of the day was this - the kids jumped from the first level of diving board (~3 meter high) into the pool (with their floats on)!. Zuber asked the kids to whisper into his ear "I want to jump" after which he would drop the kids down. There was some hesitation from Kabir when his turn came, but before we knew it, he was down into the water! He was SO thrilled with himself, he just couldn't get over it. After class was over, he refused to come out of water and kept swimming on his own until all other kids had left. This was just the beginning of the turn around.

Day 9 (Thursday): Saurabh took Kabir swimming. There was no resistance at all. Kids started swimming lengths (25m) that day and were each given a few minutes without float in water.

Day 10 (Friday): Kabir swam 6 lengths of the pool (a total of 150 metres) and jumped again from the first diving board (with floats on). Saurabh managed to get a good picture (will post later).

Weekend followed.
Day 11 (Monday): Kids jumped into the pool from the floor level and swam a few breadths after which everyone got their float off. And then the most amazing thing happened. Kabir started swimming on his own without float or any other support. He swam 2 full breadths on the shallow side of the pool on his own. He looked visibly tired by the end of it but was absolutely delighted by his own feat - he could swim!! After class he said he wanted to swim some more and refused to come out until he managed to get a finger cut (minor) and bleed due to one of the broken tiles in the pool. We went to the campus hub for more treats in the evening where Kabir announced that when he grows up he wants to be a swimming coach. He even thought he would name himself Zuber.

What a journey this has been! I can't wait to see how this will unfold in the next ten days (stay tuned!).

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