In April 2017 we decided as a family we were tired of the way our lives were panning out so put our house on the market and started making plans to buy a boat and live with our 2 girls and the dog on the waterways of the UK.
Our then 5-year-old had been swimming with our local pool every week since Preschool lessons, was slowly improving so we decided to do the same with our youngest who was then 3. We had no reason to think of any other options because why would it be a problem? They teach loads of preschoolers…
The day of Isabelle’s first lesson arrived. Mollie had a day off school so we all got to swimming, Iz was nervous as you’d imagine but went in fine. She’d been swimming with us and pottered around but these lessons she was on her own with her teacher and 6 other kids.
She got in and started off OK. I’d told her to stay by the steps where it was most shallow but the teacher took her (the smallest in the class) and put her at the deepest part of their little area. She managed the entire lesson blowing bubbles and enjoying herself and then she was handed a noodle. As soon as the noodle was placed between her legs you could tell her little body was too deep in the water and the float was making her unsteady on her feet…the teachers didn’t seem aware of this! She teetered across half the pool until she could hold on no longer and under she went! Upside down, float still between her legs and the barrier floats separating the lanes on top of her. I tried to stay calm…surely they were watching and someone would grab her…no…the lifeguard isn’t watching…one teacher has got out…the other is shoulder deep at the other end of the line…what do I do???? “EXCUSE ME, MY DAUGHTER IS UNDERWATER!!!!!”
The teacher waded over and grabbed up a clearly panicked Isabelle. It makes me want to cry now thinking about how scared she must have been…on her first lesson! I smiled reassuringly and Mollie and I made light of it so as not to add to her fear. We kept calling her Ariel because she went underwater but it was done…she was terrified of water! I made a complaint and the management belittled me saying I was too hasty to call out and she would have come up eventually…hmmmm! So, after a few a couple more sessions of both of us being petrified (I tried to hide mine) we eventually quit. I had lost trust that they would take care of my baby so we had to look elsewhere.
I asked for recommendations on Facebook and a friend mentioned Swimkidz. I googled every school mentioned but I kept coming back to them. Something just felt different and being that we would be living on water, I loved that their focus was water safety. I messaged them on Facebook and had a chat on the phone with Niki. She was mortified at what poor Izzy had been through and I felt so happy with the decision, we didn’t even trial, we just paid for the term!
Well, Isabelle cried before every lesson and most of the way through for most of the first term but something was different. Niki was so lovely with her and gained Izzy’s trust so it wasn’t long before the grips started to loosen. I am not exaggerating when I say that EVERY muscle in her body was tense and she just felt scared. Eventually she only cried before the lesson and not during and then she would sort of happily go under water with her Daddy. I loved the fact she was with Stu so I could enjoy watching and she also knew she had him to support her. Every week there were small improvements but she still was quite clingy…
Then there was a week off swim lessons so we decided to take the girls swimming as a family. We opted for a non-baby pool so it was like swim lessons where she can’t put her feet down. It started off a bit tense until I took Mollie to do some diving in the deep end and Stu took Iz up to the shallow end. She could just about stand up but something clicked! Suddenly she was voluntarily going underwater, wanting to swim to her Daddy and she could not get enough!! We ended up like prunes because she didn’t want to leave. As soon as we left I messaged Niki and she witnessed it first-hand the following Sunday! Our baby girl who had been scarred by an awful swimming experience was LOVING swimming!
The weather has been so beautiful this summer so far and our boat was being fitted right next to the river. We are passionate about the girls’ safety in and around the water but also don’t want it to have a stigma. They are likely to fall in the river or canal and we don’t want fear to impede their decision making because that’s what’s causing growing essentially. Stu’s brother came one sunny Sunday afternoon and all the kids wanted to get in the river. Mollie took a few minutes but once in was fine but Izzy took a little time. She opted not to this particular day but mulled over it for 24 hours and after school on the next day she was all in! BLOWN AWAY!! She got in, with her little life jacket and noodle and swims around on her own smiling from ear to ear!
I should add that despite Mollie being ‘ok’ in Stage 2 at the last school, she has also excelled at Swimkidz. She not only has gained her 5,10,15,20 & 25 metre badges but has also moved up to Stage 3. This all happened in just on term!!
I am so grateful to Niki & Suzi for being such amazing role models and teachers to the girls. They are genuinely proud of their accomplishments and the girls are so fond of them. Iz loves doing things she can tell Niki about on Sundays.
4 months ago, I couldn’t have dreamed Isabelle would be so confident in the water. Our boat is not on the water and it is such a relief that with a few more term under her belt she will be a little water baby like her sister.
Our dreams of paddle boarding and river swimming as well as all that boat life brings are coming true.
Thank you Swimkidz Bristol xxx