5 Reasons Swimming lessons are non-negotiable for my children

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I first became a swimming instructor in the UK 12 years ago (!). I fell in love with the job immediately. In honesty; I wasn’t planning on working with children at any point in my life whatsoever, I was just ‘on a gap year from College’ and saw the course advertised at my local pool.

After a couple of months, my first employer (almost literally) pushed me into becoming a parent and baby instructor. For the first day or so of my in-water training I was petrified of the babies, and even more petrified of the parents.

Then I fell in love with it.

I also became a little bit obsessive and possibly a little bit preachy, but I am unapologetic. In my mind, swimming lessons should be compulsory for all kids (and they should be government funded, but that’s for another day). In the meantime:

Here are 5 reasons swimming lessons are non-negotiable for my children:

1. Swimming is the only sport that could literally save my child’s life.

There are an estimated 360 000 annual drowning deaths worldwide, as stated by The World Health Organisation 2018:

‘Drowning is the 3rd leading cause of unintentional injury-death worldwide, accounting for 7% of all injury-related deaths.’

‘Globally, the highest drowning rates are among children 1–4 years, followed by children 5–9 years.’

According to the Royal Lifesaving National Drowning Report 2018 (Aus)There were 249 drowning deaths in aquatic locations across Australia between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018’.

Drowning is quiet, and it can happen to anyone.

It isn’t realistic to expect that you can just avoid water. Even if you chose to avoid beaches, pools, lakes, dams, rivers, streams, oceans and ponds for the entirety of your life, drowning hazards still exist in your home.

‘Young children are especially at risk — they can drown in less than 2 inches (6 centimetres) of water. That means drowning can happen where you’d least expect it — the sink, the toilet bowl, fountains, buckets, inflatable pools, or small bodies of standing water around your home, such as ditches filled with rainwater.’ – Kids Health.org

During swimming lessons, teachers work on numerous safety skills alongside general technique. You may not realise, but every step of a good lesson will be preparing your child for an emergency. I have outlined some below:

  • Breath control aims to reduce the risk of panic, meaning that precious air is not wasted
  • Floating minimises the energy used to keep a face above the water
  • Turning encourages little ones to find the nearest edge or flotation device
  • Holding on to the edge reinforces the habit of patiently waiting whilst remaining safe
  • Jumping in allows littles to experience the way their body feels when they land in different positions in the water, and how to get back to safety
  • Diving for toys encourages them to open their eyes and find what they need (i.e. an edge or an adult).

When my sister was just two years old, the family dog accidentally knocked her into a large pond. Her clothes immediately weighed her down and she sank. My Grandmother and Mother luckily saw it happen, and Mum jumped in and got her. While the likelihood of her swimming to save herself would have been slim (due to the heavy clothing) the fact that she did not scream and waste her oxygen would have given her precious seconds while under the water.

It was also incredibly, incredibly important that she was constantly supervised while close to the water.

2. Swimming is great for lung and heart development.

Swimming trains your body to use oxygen more efficiently and can also help to lower your blood pressure and cholesterol. I liked this article here which goes into more detail. Sorry (not sorry) to harp on about my own experiences again, but I was born with a congenital heart defect which required me to have open heart surgery at around 18 months. Typically, a follow-up operation happens at 17 years, but so far, I have received the all-clear from my Cardiologist each year. I personally believe that my regular swimming has helped me to maintain a reasonable level of Cardiovascular health, and I want the same for my boys.

3. Swimming significantly enhances core strength and muscle development

While my children are growing, their bodies are developing at a rapid pace. Their muscles are going through a lot of changes, and being in the water strengthens them, but also allows them to recover.

‘The significant repetition of strokes improves muscle endurance, and because water creates more resistance against the body than air does in land exercise, the muscles are strengthened and toned. Swimming also significantly enhances core strength which is important to overall health and stability in everyday life.’ – Human Kinetics

A strong core improves flexibility, mobility and strength; which allows children to engage in a wide range of physical activities, from sitting up unassisted, to flipping into a foam-pit.

Swimming is also great for rehabilitation, as it can be low-impact, and the water itself provides support for your muscles, bones and joints. While this point may be more relevant for the older generations, you never know when you may need physiotherapy or some form of physical rehabilitation. If your first experience with a pool and water resistance happens when you are already physically vulnerable, it may be harder to find the confidence to get started.

4. Swimming is inclusive

Swimming as a sport is incredibly inclusive. The water will provide support, the intensity is variable, and lessons can be held as groups, or as private 1-1 sessions. I have been privileged enough to have taught children and adults with diverse physical, mental and psychological needs; some as complete beginners and some working on techniques for triathlons. I love the diversity with which my job provides me, and I love that there is a sport that can change along with the needs of myself and my kids.

5. Swimming compliments a wide range of other physical activities

Knowing how to swim will enable my kids to participate in a wide range of sports (which would hopefully keep them out of trouble).

They are already showing an interest in surfing, kayaking and snorkelling, and as they grow older I expect that they will also enjoy diving, scuba diving, water polo and of course competing in swimming carnivals. I mean honestly, just look at this list of water sports.

I understand that I am in a position to ensure that my kids always have access to swimming lessons, and I am thankful for that. As I mentioned above, the dream would be for all children to have access to swimming lessons, but I hope that if you have a choice to enrol your child in any sporting activity, you choose the one that may save their lives.

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Can you ever just be ‘whelmed’?

(How I squashed my ‘overwhelm’ and started the best day with a stolen avocado)

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Last week I hit a wall.. and then I fell down, hit the ground and rolled until I reached the edge and free-fell off that, too.

Basically there was a lot of feeling low and out of control.

It was shit.

Baby was getting 5 teeth at once (because why not), he was also in ‘leap 8’ (aka a clingy AF phase in his development aka some sort of baby-life crisis), I had a court application to produce against our old real estate managers, and daycare was closed on my one kid-free day.

I was done.

I said: ‘I’m done’.

I said ‘I’m done’ a lot. So obvs my partner went out twice that week and left me alone with the offspring, and I broke.

There was a lot of yelling and some tears.. then a lot of stone-cold silence, before, finally, a decision was made:

I’m going to have to claim some life back.

On Monday I went to the gym and then we had a huge playdate with a friend (read: nate had a playdate while I offloaded all my anger to a friend).

On Tuesday we had swimming, gym, and then I went to the cinema (like a grown up) with the same friend, and with no children. Also cake.

On wednesday I swam, and then had yet another huge playdate (talk) with another friend.

On Thursday kid 1 had daycare, kid 2 went to creche while I swam, and then we shopped. Babykid even slept while I spent about 40 minutes in a glorious shop filled with stationery, browsing and taking my time with their sale.

And then there was today. Lovely, lovely today.

Ryan took the kids to daycare while I made smashed avo on toast.

The avo used may or may not have been procured by my 3 year old while we visited Australia Zoo.

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There’s a baby in that avo tree

The kangaroo-petting area  of Aussie Zoo may or may not be home to many great avocado trees.

I may or may not have had one of Steve Irwin’s avos for breakfast today.

Then a friend came over for a coffee and she completely convinced Ryan I needed some money for a new swimming costume. (Okay but I really did, because mine did NOT keep things in place while I swam backstroke).

After a lot of discussion and browsing, we found the most beautiful costume in a moment that genuinely resembled finding ‘the’ dress.

‘You guys, I think we’ve got it’
‘Really? Can we see?!’
‘What do you think?’
‘Yes! That’s it! That’s the one!’ (Cue tears and dancing etc etc)*

 

After our swim I went and got my nails done with a friend from work. (Also got a bit laughed at by the lady doing my nails because I haven’t had them done before and I was being socially awkward but whatever.)

Then I picked the babiest one up and we had the cutest baby playdate with cute baby cuddles and baby hide and seek..

And then it was now and I am so chilled and content that I feel like I am completely in the middle of being ‘whelmed’.

It is so bloody hard to accept that we need to take some time for ourselves. It is so hard to accept that we can’t actually always do it all and put everyone else first and not stop and breathe and replenish.

I’ve really just had 5 beautiful, indulgent days.. but my kids haven’t suffered for it at all. I’m happy and so are they.. Ryan is happy cos I’m not a raging stresshead. The boys have had big plays, and are pretty oblivious to anything else..

But I know it’s not just me that feels too guilty to ask for this stuff. I mean, I  definitely don’t need all this indulgence every week; I certainly don’t need weekly nail appointments, and I definitely need to study, rather than go to the cinema; but I also need a break every now and then before I spontaneously combust, explode and freefall, taking everyone around me along for the ride.

I’m off to eat some coconut icecream now. Hope you get some time for you.

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*reaction may be slightly exaggerated