Sarah Christianson is a wife, mother, RN, model and water safety advocate. The views expressed in this article are entirely her own and do not represent the opinions of the National Drowning Prevention Alliance.
The smile on her face quickly faded and soon tears started to surface with a look of fear accompanied by the silent plead for me to come save her. This is what no parent wants to watch unfold. Being torn from wanting to jump into full mommy mode and whisk your daughter away from her fear or the side of making her stick with the swim class that she has quickly grown to hate.
My daughter Aubrey, 5 years old, had just started weekly swim lessons at one of our local gyms. We happen to luck out with her being the only kiddo to sign up for her time slot. Hello private lessons without the price tag (mom win)! She loved every moment of them, the 1:1 attention, the constant praise and reinforcement from her instructor. Each end to the lesson she would have the biggest smile on her face and ask how many days until next week’s lesson. I couldn’t be happier! I mean, how could I not be jumping for joy to see my daughter be excited to learn one of the most important skills in life?! Little did I know that the joy would be short lived.
On week three the instructor informed me that a set of siblings would be joining the class. They had been signed up in the wrong class and now moved to Aubrey’s class. She let Aubrey and myself know that they were “deathly afraid of water” and would need lots of help . I remember her smiling at Aubrey, saying “but I know you can help me and show them how brave we can be in the water.” The mommy red flag was starting to wave like the flag at the beginning of a Nascar race. It wasn’t my daughter’s job to show them the ropes, and if they needed that much attention what would happen to Aubrey during the class? So many questions swirled, but only time would tell.
The following week we headed into swim lessons and quickly spotted the new additions to her class. Both were crying, one more than the other, and neither wanting to go anywhere near the pool. As I sat and watched the instructor try to get them into the water I glanced over at Aubrey who was standing in the water wide eyed with a look of “what is happening?” written clearly across her face. The majority of the class was spent trying to help the new kiddos stop crying and Aubrey looking back at me with a look of confusion as her turns were shortened. I wondered how long this would continue. After class I praised Aubrey for trying her hardest and for showing the kiddos how fun being in swim lessons could be. She was a little quieter than usual, but I didn’t want any extra focus or conversation on the fear of the others or how she didn’t get as much attention.
Before we knew it the week had passed and we were back for the next lesson. This is when everything fully flipped. We not only were told we had a new instructor, but the new kiddos were almost double the tears and fears then last week. Aubrey’s smiles faded before the whole group even got into the water. This is when the facial pleads for help surfaced and the tears started to arise. Aubrey would motion that she needed to go to the bathroom and once in the bathroom she would stall, fully knowing she was missing out in class. The class would eventually end and she cried and cried, begging me not to make her go back, that she never wanted to go in the water again.
I’m a strong believer that every child, no matter the age, needs to learn to float and swim! It’s essential in life! So what was I supposed to do for my daughter? There were other swim facilities in town, but I had heard similar stories of large kid to instructor ratios and stories of moms that had to jump into the class to grab their child because the instructor wasn’t watching and the child was treading water. I didn’t feel qualified to teach my daughter to float and swim, because what did I know of all the proper techniques? I came from the days of your parents throwing you in the local pool and just telling you to paddle like a dog and figure it out. I wanted something different, something better for my daughter.
It truly was a miracle that the same day as the last swim lesson someone told me about the Float 4 Life National Training Center right here in Lincoln. I immediately jumped on social media and stalked their page and then their website. From the 1:1 ratios and the fact that they have the Josh the Otter Water Safety and Awareness Program had me ready to make an appointment. After meeting with staff at Float 4 Life I realized within minutes this is were Aubrey needed to be! This is where we would reverse the fear and see joy again!
There’s something to be said about watching your child overcome fear and grow with excitement in what they are doing. I’m so grateful that I listened to my mothers intuition and sought out a different alternative to where we were at. I believe that we always have the opportunity to change our paths in life, no matter the journey we are on, and this was exactly what we did for our daughter! We chose to not settle and find something better for her! This is why it’s so important for me to spread the word about not settling for mediocre and demand the best when it comes to our kids and learning this life skill!
The relief I feel knowing my daughter is getting amazing instructions and no longer has the paralyzing fear of water means the world to me! I already have several friends asking questions and making appointments to have their kiddos come to Float 4 Life, because they’ve seen the difference and thought they just had to tough it out. If my journey with Aubrey helps at least one child have a better experience with learning to swim then that means that’s one more child that we prevent from drowning! I hope I can help educate more parents about the importance of water safety and what to look for before enrolling in water safety training.