Last week, one of the morning shows ran a story about teaching your baby to swim. Everything about this idea sounds right, if I don't think about it too deeply.
Video showed an instructor with a very small baby, like a year old or younger, at the poolside. Plop! The baby dropped into the water and promptly turned himself over and floated. Within a minute, he flipped himself over again and swam to the edge and crawled out.
What could possibly be wrong with this plan? Let me share a few thoughts on the subject. If you could get an honorary doctorate in worrying, I'd have one. I know accidents will happen.
My first thought is that a false sense of security floated like a cloud over the participants, quickly followed by the thought that parents who go to this length to protect their children don't let them wander around pools unattended.
The next thing that came to mind was that no one mentioned the shock factor of being a baby who finds themselves unexpectedly plunged in cold water. Working with a baby playfully in a nice pool, surrounded by helpful adults, is not the same as the specter of the unattended pool that caused the initial parental fears. In fact, it would be more realistic to think that the baby might accidentally fall into a pool and take a big gulp of water right into their lungs - not exactly calming for a child. Then you have a very, very (did you hear me say "very") immature child attempting to form a rational, mature plan of attack: "What do I do now?"
History has an impact on my way of thinking. Fire safety was a biggie with me, and I drilled a protocol into the brains of Juggernaut (then 7 years old) and Magoo (5 years old). In the event of a fire, they both knew that they were to leave the house immediately and go to a certain spot in the yard where we would all meet. It seemed so clear to them until a broiler pan caught fire and the flames shot out of the oven. As I tried to grab flour to put it out, I shouted for them to go outside, but they froze in their tracks at the door. A second time, I yelled for them to get outside, as smoke filled my kitchen and living room. Thankfully, the fire was contained.
"Why didn't you go outside?" I questioned.
Juggernaut summed it in simple terms: "I didn't know it would be so hard to leave you behind."
I'd missed a big part of the instruction. When the time came, everything about the plan seemed wrong to a seven year old. Forget about safety. Why would you leave your Mom in a fire? Every other life lesson had been geared to the needs of others: say please, thank you, turn the other cheek, lend a hand. I'd never said the words, "Save yourself." Perhaps that was a very revealing slip; subconsciously, I believe it is always the job of the adult to look out for the child, too.
It's summertime. If drowning is responsible for 1 in 4 childhood deaths, keep them away from water. We're the tall people who lock the doors and carry the babies around. It's not the babies responsibility to save themselves. If babies were capable of rational, calm, responsibly mature thought they wouldn't be babies, right? No one seems to talk about that aspect of baby skills - the lack of thinking skills, like cognition.
Following that line of thinking, why don't we teach babies how to type before they can spell words? They would have this awesome comfort level with the keyboard, and it would come in handy. Actually, I can't think of any danger factor - with the exception of keyboard drool and I've learned to deal with that (all my family members drool over something they see online).
Thinking skills proceed appropriate choice of actions. Why focus on a physical skill before the thinking skills are present?
For further research, I asked a friend's baby to participate in a trial of Baby Keyboarding 101. After six lessons, I interviewed the child prior to this blog, via email.
Question #1: Do you think that swim lessons, at the age of one, will guarantee your safety around water?
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