My children have a love hate relationship with water. It all began in the bathtub. When kids are little, bath time is a reason for them to drop everything and run to the tub. Bubble, no bubbles; it doesn’t matter. Our boys love playing in the bathtub with their toys and their imaginations. They also enjoy getting water all over the floor. Even though she didn’t often have a bath buddy, Reina loved to play in the water too when she was younger.
Baths are fun, but as soon as the water gets poured on their heads for a shampoo, all bets are off. If the kids are preoccupied and enjoying themselves, they might not pay attention to the water cascading over their ears. If, however, they are tired or in a fickle mood, any water on their noggins causes an eruption of complaints and pleading to exit the tub.
Unfortunately, this love-hate relationship with water has transferred to the domain of swimming pools too. I blame myself for this. If I had been more attentive, I would have noticed when all of Reina’s mates were getting swimming lessons a couple of years back – as in 4 years ago. At the time, there were not many pools around our area and the ones we did know about charged exorbitant fees just to join, let alone pay for the swimming instructor. I wanted my kid to learn to swim, but I didn’t want to shell out tens of thousands of dollars for her to get lessons.
Consequently, it took me a few years to discover Dragon Fire Swimmers, a “secret” that every other expat in Beijing apparently already knew about. Even after her first round of lessons, my little swimmer did not like the idea of getting her face wet and certainly did not want any water on her head. I’m no expert in hydrodynamics, but if you are swimming, getting wet is kind of a prerequisite.
All of this put the brakes on our daughter progressing to the next level. It didn’t help that her mom learned to swim late in life and doesn’t always exhibit the most confidence when in the water. Reina would actually bring this up as evidence of why she cannot swim well, all the while ignoring the fact that she flat out refused to stick her face in the water and do a proper stroke.
I began to suspect that if my boys followed her example, my kids would forever be doomed to the shallow end of the pool, practicing “safe swimming” while clinging onto floatation devices. Having grown up practically living in the local swimming pool during the summer months, this aversion to water was foreign to me. Something had to give, but I had no idea how to make it happen.
This past March, Reina and I unexpectedly took a trip to Phuket, Thailand where Savvy had a last minute business trip at the JW Marriot Resort and Spa. My daughter’s sole agenda was to spend as much time in the pool without getting her head wet until she accidentally slipped and went under. When she emerged, she had made a startling discovery – she could see everything underwater. The scientific explorer inside her suddenly could not get enough of plunging her head underwater to see what was going on down there.
Back in Beijing, we immediately signed Reina up for further swimming lessons. Each day she made marked improvements and even overcame her other apprehension in the water – floating on her back. These days, she looks forward to being in the deep end. She is even offering to help her mother keep calm and swim on.
About the Illustrator
Alice Duan (age 11) is in Grade 4 at Keystone Academy. She loves art, and when painting this picture, she thought about the way she swims in the swimming pool and used watercolors to show the flowing water.
This article originally appeared on page 46 of the beijingkids July 2015 issue. Click here (http://issuu.com/beijingkids/docs/2015.07_beijingkids) to read the issue for free on Issuu.com. To find out how you can get your own copy, email firstname.lastname@example.org.