Learning to Swim

photo by stephen jones (steve p2008 -Flickr)

I couldn’t swim until I was 11 years old, and even then, it was a pretty panicky endeavor.

Today I taught both of my kids (ages 7.5 and 10) how to swim in about 3 hours.

Both were super afraid of being in the deep section when we started. Because they trusted me; it worked. I gave them pushes to the side, and skill tips, and once the fear was nearly gone, they could do it.

Much has to do with trusting that one is fairly buoyant in the water. Thrashing is not helpful, tense muscles tend to sink. For my son, who was quite scared, I told swim, “swim gently.” Something clicked. He saw/experienced that when taking his time, he could maneuver and stay afloat. The terror of sinking like a rock eased away. He probably jumped in the deep end to swim about 150 times after that.

For my daughter, distracting her with techniques, like a flutter kick and slicing arms through the water, distracted her from her over-thinking. The paralyzing fright of trying something new and “dangerous” settled out, and made way for real progress. I would hold her under her belly, to qualm her fears, and then I’d take her into deeper water so she wouldn’t stunt her learning by cutting it short: standing up each time she wasn’t sure of things, or when she felt scared–which, at the start, was about every 4 seconds. Once she saw how far she could go, by obeying my instructions, she realized she was ALREADY swimming. Then the fear (well, more the 50% of it) subsided. She got far more comfortable in the water.

It’s like that in life too, isn’t it. Much of what we think is beyond us, or too scary is part of how we’ve let our fears and false notions get in the way. We all must learn to float and not fight as God teaches us how to manage deeper water. Otherwise we are trapped in the kiddie pool.

How old were you when you learned to swim? Or do you have Aquaphobia a.k.a fear of water?

In what ways, to you, is the art and skill of swimming related to growth, or your own personal journey?

Any other thoughts?


I’m looking for a pop up camper… keep your eyes peeled.

5 responses to “Learning to Swim

  1. I liked your statement, “Because they trusted me; it worked,” which ties in with your spiritual observations at the end.

    • Orual: There’s really something to be said for swimming in the quiet darkness. I’ve really enjoyed that in a spiritual sense. I’ve said that it feels like I’m in the womb of God. 🙂

      Yes, trust. Isn’t that what it’s really all about? (Maybe that’s what “Hokey-Pokey” means ‘trust’. lol –that’s what it’s all about….)
      Thanks for picking up on that. (It’s nice to know someone is paying attention.)

      We’re off to the lake today. Those swimming skills will get more practice.

  2. Oh, and congratulations on such a speedy and successful experience at a practical level, teaching your kids to swim!

  3. “swim gently”…I like that! I learned to swim early but now my swimming time is my prayer time. It’s the one time where there’s no noise or music or people talking to me and I can get into this meditative rhythm of talking to God with no distraction.

  4. Doug Jackson

    “Swim gently” – good advice. I’ve noticed that in speaking Spanish. I love the liquid rapidity of native speakers and yearn to be able to communicate with that lovely grace, but trying to speak rapidly only leaves me stumbling over double-r’s and misplacing accents like dance steps out of rhythm. I must slow down to learn it correctly if I ever hope to speed it up. My wife tells me it works the same way for music: play slow if you ever want to play fast. The key to spiritual growth is otium sanctum, so hard to trust in our world that values efficiency and quick results. Great blog! (By the way, I was five when I learned to swim in the pool at the country club in Sulphur Springs, Texas.)