OB has been having swimming lessons since November. I knew it was going to be hard work for him as he hates water so much, but it really has been a nightmare. The first week he cried hysterically for the whole half hour. We parents have to watch through a glass wall and I could see his mouth forming the words "I want my Mummy!" over and over again. Not pleasant.
The following week was much the same. After about five minutes, the teacher came out and asked me to leave the viewing area. I obeyed, much against my better judgement. After a few minutes I crept back in and watched where he couldn't see me. He was still crying just as much. So I had broken my promise to "be right there" and to no avail. I vowed not to leave him again.
As the weeks went by, it was clear the teacher was struggling to stay patient with his continued crying. I don't blame her, but her irritated tone did nothing to reassure him or help the situation. Each week, OB would sit on the steps, clinging to the rail, and barely allow Dawson, the in-pool assistant, to lead him around the water a couple of times a lesson, screaming loudly all the while! The sheer terror on his face was awful to watch. Other parents commented on it weekly, sometimes sympathetically, sometimes not so much!
But over time, OB built up a good trust relationship with Dawson and became more and more willing to allow himself to be taken further and further, with less and less support. Then, in January, the lady teacher left, and OB's beloved Dawson became the class teacher with a new guy, Dave, as the assistant. At this point I took Dawson to one side and explained to him a little of OB's past, making sure he understood that it wasn't clinginess that was making him cry, but terror.
Well, since then we have had a few setbacks, most recently when we had to move to a new swimming pool, and lots more tears, but the kindness and patience of Dawson and Dave have been outstanding. I'm not going to claim a fairy tale ending - OB still cries most weeks and still clings to the rail - but recently he has allowed himself to be taken around the pool holding one side of a float while Dave holds the other. To be in the water and not in actual physical contact with another person is a big deal for OB!
And then, last week, OB finally got his Penguin 1 Swimming Certificate!! To put it in some perspective, NB got the same certificate after ten lessons. We have been working towards it for over six months! It isn't much - just basic skills around the pool really, like recognising the teacher and holding onto the side - but it's OB's first ever swimming achievement and he's had to overcome so much to get it. We're both very proud.
I'd love to be able to post a picture of OB proudly holding his certificate, but I can't - even the certificate itself is covered in identifying information (the scheme is run by our local leisure service so it has their logo in about seven places!), so you'll just have to imagine a beaming little boy and his first ever swimming certificate and badge!
I have shared this post with The Adoption Social's Memory Box linky.