Hell camp: Day One

Because I like to make my life harder than it needs to be, this morning we trotted off to MOFO School Holidays Swim School for a week of intense lessons. I know. It’s just as bad as you think it would be.

Daisy hasn’t had a great swimming career. We have done lessons on and off where she hasn’t learnt a think except that she doesn’t like to go and swim in groups of other smaller kids who can swim. Get her on her own, in a swimming pool and she will swim like a fish (with a bubble on her back) and even by the end of summer last year she would take a few paddles without one. Late last summer we had one morning at a friends place where she was happily swimming until a kid in the pool panicked, held onto Daisy, with her head under the water so he could keep his head above it. Needless to say after someone else’s Mum jumped in the pool fully dressed to rescue her, she has been a little scared of the water, and especially about “going under”. Combined with a lazy mother who would rather stab her eyes out than sit through swimming lessons watching her usually confident kid struggle, and panic and freak the fuck out, swimming lessons haven’t been top of my list of things to do. Funny that.

But, I also realised that she is almost 5, about to start School, and can’t really swim, so we enrolled. And off we went. And it was everything I hoped it wouldn’t be. It was bad. BAD. I hated. She hated it. I hated the teacher who forced her to do stuff even when she didn’t want to getting cross with her and embarrassing her. I hated that Daisy hated it and was scared and wouldn’t even push herself. I hated myself for hating that fact. I felt like an arsehole. I felt like a weak parent who let her kid get out of the pool when she should have stayed in there. I hated the other Mum’s with their little kids who could swim. And most of all I hate that I have to do this for the rest of the fucking week. I hate that I know that persistence is the key. I hate that we have to stick with it.

So. That’s Day one of the holidays. I have a week of this, every day, because I know we have to. Even though it’s the last thing any of us want to do. Sometimes being the Mum just sucks – doing things because it’s the best thing for them, even though it breaks your heart into a million pieces. Staying positive and feeling like you are lying to them, convincing them that something really isn’t fun when you know it isn’t. All because you know in the end it will be worth it. Mother Fucker Mothering.

Happy Holidays!


  1. gaaaaaaaargh omfg Beth.

    sympathy. dislike. stupid. blah.

  2. Oh I feel your pain….it sucks!
    Couple of things for you to ponder:
    1. Would it be worth ditching the rest of the week and finding a nicer swim teacher who you can get to do a few one-on-one lessons for her to overcome this anxiety in a ‘safer’ environment??
    2. If you decide to keep going, try and remind her of the amazing progress she’s making and what a great girl she is for even getting in the water (spoken as a mother who’s forked out a fortune in child psychology bills for a child with major anxiety!!!)
    It may not feel like it’s helping but it will in the long run :))
    All the best for this ordeal!!

    • Totes agree with this.
      My little one hated the water from the get go. First time in at 6 months she screamed the place down. Tried again at 1. Same. Tried again at 18 months. Same.
      Teacher suggested I should bring her back each week for this pain until she stopped screaming.
      But why would I put her through that, never mind me?
      Finally found a tiny class with three kids in it and a gorgeous teacher who made it all fun. Now she swims like a fish.
      Swimming should be fun.

  3. oh sh*t!
    how I know that pain.
    sh*t sh*t sh*t
    it’s the reason we never did swimming lessons for the 3rd until she was alot older.
    i. just. couldn’t. go. thru. that. pain.
    and i still had mother guilt. it doesn’t matter what age you decide to finally do it.
    sending you all the strength i can muster thru the airways.
    cheryl xox.

  4. Hang in there Beth, it will be worth it. Do you have a friend that could maybe teach her on her own? The Hairy One cant swim and it wrecks alotta holiday plans “how about Alice Springs this year?”. Its one of those things that she will thank you for in the long run. I hated swimming lessons when I was a kid – mainly cause I was shit at it, now I try and swim before work a coupla times a week. Feel for you, me being childless and all and not having a clue. You can tell me to shove it if you like…
    T x

  5. How about a prize? Something along the lines of ” I know it’s really scary and that you’re trying really hard but you’re safe and if you try your very best to stay in we’ll get an icecream/ milkshake/ dog / pony… whatever after the lesson. and if you can make it all the way through the week how about you pick something really special from the toy shop ” I feel your pain, have been there for the meltdowns and I was once that ar*hole parent hissing ” Swimming lessons aren’t a bloody spectator sport, get in the pool” PS. Don’t think the swimming “teacher” is helping you out here, maybe a word to the coordinator about a quieter time, more patient teacher might also do the trick? Good luck πŸ™‚

  6. This makes me so mad! That @# teacher is impacting the anxiety even more. I taught a child in London to swim who was so scared he took a bite out of my shoulder the first day. Point taken. So we took baby steps. He didn’t get in till everyone else was out as all the other splashing and noise completely terrified him. Then we just played for a couple of lesson- I’d hold him, sing a funny song, chat. He gradually got more confident and eventually was fine to get in with everyone else and got really excited on swimming day. He also had profoundly disabling cerebral palsy. Follow my nanna’s parenting advice and listen to your instincts. Forcing a kid through fear just never works!

  7. PS. Sorry. Got carried away. Just saying maybe a calmer slightly older more mums teacher could ease the pain and make some gains.

  8. I need to do the same. Lil was going to do it these hols too, except the little mister arrived early.

    It sucks and I’m not looking forward to it one bit. But it needs to be done.

    Good luck for the rest of the week! I hope it improves x

  9. Never fun making your kid do something they don’t like. That’s life, and meanwhile I’ll be over here scowling at that mean old swim teacher, what a bitch making a tiny girl feel worse about her fears. Boo.

  10. oh no:( can you find another swim school. I hate spending half my saturday up at the swim school or the fact we pay $600 a term for all 3 but it’s one of the things I have just accepted with 4 little kids and a pool in our backyard. BUT we have gentle teachers and finn at the moment own’t put his head under water but there is no pushing or making him, instead they put him in a small class of 2 -3 where he gets loads of attention and is loving it

    hang in there! I was off and on with keira and swim lessons but since most of her friends can all swim well I’m glad we’re sticking with it.

    oh and they have mixed genes – I am THE worst swimmer and can’t dive into a pool and their daddy was captain of the high school swimming team so one of them has to come out a good swimmer!

    hopefully you can get a new teacher or have a quiet word to the swimschool! not on and not helping her confidence!

    oh and I take the iphone or my knitting, buy a coffee and banana bread and watch the swimming!

  11. this is what i am dreading. i am so slack i have never taken my kids for swimming lessons. it does not appeal to me one bit, but i know the longer i put it off the harder it will be.
    i hope each day gets easier. x

  12. Maybe you can spend some time in the pool just mucking around & doing her own thing after the lesson. Or the promise of something yummy afterwards. It’s a tough one. I had similar problems with my eldest .He’s 16 now & quite happy in the water:)

  13. right there with you this morning.

    I’m with the idea of a fun swim before or afterwards (preferably where you have had time to remove your clothing before plunging in, unlike my effort this morning).

  14. stick with it. we did intensive swim classes last holidays and Angus was a disaster. I finished the week thinking that was such a waste of time… but I also enrolled them into the term swimming, once a week class…. about half way through the term they started 1/2 swimming in the kid pool, just mucking around, before their class, and their confidence just blossomed. By the end of term I could see such and improvement, and they have both been moved to the next level. Just like control crying, it’s hard at the start, but so worth it in the end. Jo x

  15. Yes unfortunately life as a mum is full of moments that just plain stink and you wish you didn’t have to put yourself and your child through the whole experience. But you know what? It gets better…. xx

  16. i have a similar prob with a nearly nine yr old who has a three yr old brother who is part fish. he eventually sucked it up and realised it had to be done (ok i bribed him with make your own sundae’s for dessert every day that there was no fuss and a transformer of choice at end of week) good luck and screw the other mothers and their kids!

  17. Story of my own patental swimming career, B. Totes sux. I don’t know what else up say except that if it’s the same kinda horrible tomoz, I wouldn’t go back. Not every kid can swim at five. Why make it so awful when in a year or two it might go… swimmingly?! x

  18. I feel your pain. I still remember my swimming lessons (which I hated and was terrified) and that was over 40 years ago. I hated going swimming.

    However, it didn’t stop me putting my children into swimming lessons. One loved it, the other loathed it.

    I kept them going for the whole week, really regretted forcing the younger one to keep going. Lots of crying when we got there. Good luck with the swimming lessons.

  19. How horribly shitty. But you are doing a good thing… despite how hard it is.

    I don’t know from experience or anything but I agree with the suggestion of hanging around in the pool just the two of you before/after the lesson?

    Hope tomorrow is better… hopefully that swimming teacher slips on the wet tiles and breaks her leg or something.

    oooh that’s baaaad.

  20. ow woman. That licks balls. really it does. there is NOTHING worse that watching the little person you grew feeling completely unsafe, it’s unnatural.

    You’re a good mother cub and Daisy is lucky to have you for your strength and your compassion.

    Hope it goes better


    p.s i fear my over confident child may end up much the same… umm… joseph, don’t jump in the deep end without and adult- you cant ACTUALLY swim.I just posted our swim session- don’t look- you will hate me. πŸ˜‰

  21. Dude, just thank your lucky stars you don’t have to get in too. As selfish as that sounds. THAT truly sucks.

    I am THIS CLOSE to having the Little Guy realise, at 17 months, that he doesn’t have to be held by mum and idely watch his big sister swim her little togs off. No. Next term I am envisaging having to jump in too and be on of those fun mums. Holy cow! Gone are the days of sitting back with a coffee and watching…

  22. Well I have booked Miss 2 into swimming lessons for next term…do you know what this means? I will be in bathers, in the shallow end of the pool.

    All because she failed the ‘stay on the safety platform” test and thinks she is the best swimmer ever born and keeps jumping in the pool and sinking to the bottom…over and over again. Then i will be out of the pool getting the two of the girls dressed, my cellulite blinding everyone!

    I think the intense week from hell sounds ok.

  23. We took Miss A to one swimming class over winter. Paid for the full term and never ever went back. We were all traumatised by it – was just such a shitty experience. I am promising myself that come summer we will attempt it all again. I totally understand the importance of learning how to swim, I really do. And I beat myself up over the fact that maybe if I’d started her at four months like the rest of my mother’s group did she wouldn’t have reacted so badly at 20 months. Hope the week gets better for you both. xx

  24. Oh I’m hearing ya lady. I still have never taken Angus to a swimming lesson… not a one! It’s one of those Mama duties that I have shirked and I feel guilty about it, I truly do, but I know it’s going to be a shit fight and like yourself, I just don’t need that, or want that.
    Each year passes by and still I haven’t enrolled him in any form of lesson. I’m kinda hoping he just takes to it like a proverbial duck when the time comes. I know. I’m dreaming.
    Hope the next few days become easier for you both. You’re a good Mama doing what you’re doing xo

  25. We had similar experiences with our daughter – paid for a term, went to one class and tehn never went back…after a couple of terms of not doing anything swimming related I started taking her to public pools…This brought her confidence – And the following term she was fine in her new swim school…Sometimes all it takes is time…We push ourseles too hard (my lessons learned from the experience)

  26. Just keep thinking how on top of the world you will both feel when she conquers the pool and is happily and confidently swimming like a fish without a bubble. Good luck. A tough week ahead and hopefully it won’t stay that crappy for too much longer. Jx

  27. Oh the poor love…and poor you….I hated swimming lessons until this term where we got a totally different teacher and no one else turned up most weeks…it has been the break through…I think find another teacher

  28. Mother Fucker Mothering. Oh, I hear ya.

  29. It will be worth it Beth. We are lucky to have a great swimming program with great teachers. All our girls have done so well. Sometimes it wasn’t easy. There were tantrums, screaming, terror, but it is all worth it. I think the key is consistency with swimming. Pushing through all the shit stuff to get to the good. Our girls are good swimmers and confident around water, but also respectful of the dangers, all because of swimming lessons. Good luck, stick with it x

  30. Oh no that is awful, you poor things. I would be cutting your losses and finding a teacher that does what all teachers should do when dealing with young kids, encouraging, praising and teaching – not humiliating them. We have been super lucky at our local YMCA – teachers are all great, love kids and they have learnt heaps. Could you look at private lessons in smaller groups?? Persistence is the key and if the teacher was lovely and the classes great and she simply was kicking up a stink not wanting to go I would be thinking it was a lesson in resilience but all the factors you have mentioned combined would make me look at other options xoxo

  31. Your doing the right thing Beth. I still can’t swim properly because my patents never took me to lessons!! I nearly drowned in a swimming carnival because I was forced to swim in an event- I’m not even joking.
    I’ve taken my kids to lessons since they were 2. We stopped about 2 years ago but they still do them each year at school & we have a pool so lots of practice at home. Each year summer rolls around & they coerce me into having swimming races with them. Each year they beat me ( unless they choose breaststroke, which I can do) because I am really that bad….keep at & try not to feel like shit. Your actually being a really good mama xx

  32. I hear you loud and clear. I’ve been attending swimming lessons with 3 kids every week (and not always on the same day/time) for 5 years now, I could have put a down payment on a new bloody house. I’ve had them screaming like banshees that they don’t want to go in the water, to screaming like banshees that they don’t want to get out of the water. Every summer as we go to the beach and they run and jump off the rocks straight into the water and kick and squeal their way back to me, I know that every single cent (and minute) that I have spent in that fucking pool that I hate is worth it… Gotta go swimming lessons to get to 3pm and 5.30pm…. your not alone.

  33. Do you have a friend nearby with a pool who’s kids also need lessons and get a private teacher or do it yourselves?.Would be less stressful.Krinny

  34. I only did two terms of swimming lessons with my youngest and he hated it. I was about to enrol for the 3rd term and I wondered why I was parting with my hard cold cash for my boy to have a crap time so I didn’t bother. Both of them were confident in the surf and could swim from one end of the pool to the other by the end of a summer of popping along to the local pool a few times a week. Now my kids are 11 and 7, can both surf standing up, paddle a board and swim 50 metres with confidence (I just won’t mention their style- kind of half way between a washing machine and a sheep dog). Where we live surf skills are heaps more important than swimming laps like Ian Thorpe anyway

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