Nine Types of Children You’ll Find at Swimming Lessons

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I have two young sons under six, so I’ve spent more time than I would otherwise care to admit sitting around public swimming pools on the weekend, while an assortment of patient instructors have tried in vain to teach them both to swim.

It’s kind of boring and embarrassing (YES, MY FIVE YEAR OLD DOES NOT KNOW HOW TO SWIM WITHOUT FLOATIES YET, SO SUE ME), so I tend to pass the time by people-watching and putting my sociology degree to good use (YES, I JUST USED “SOCIOLOGY DEGREE” AND “GOOD USE” IN THE SAME SENTENCE, SO SUE ME).

Here’s what I discovered. There are nine types of kids at swimming lessons:

  1. The Misbehaver

The Misbehaver is a chronic time-waster, forcing weary instructors to employ a battery of ineffectual behaviour management strategies in an attempt to secure their compliance. They deliberately splash the other kids in the face, wander off, refuse to participate, jump in the pool when it’s not their turn, hang off the teacher’s neck, tussle with the other kids, refuse to follow instructions and basically act like annoying little so-and-so’s in dire need of firm boundaries. Their parents mostly fail to intervene because they are glued to their phones, deep in conversation or sucking down a coffee at the cafeteria because they obviously do not GAF.

  1. The Scaredy Cat

The Scaredy Cat is afraid of water and will wail as though they are being dipped into a vat of sulphuric acid whenever the teacher attempts to submerge them. They will bob around for the entire lesson with a miserable look on their faces and burst into periodic bouts of anguished tears if so much as a single drop of water makes a beeline for their face. Their parents are the ones slumped in wordless defeat by the side of the pool, counting the many ways they have clearly failed to equip their child for the petty inconveniences that life will throw at them.

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  1. The Tantrummer

The Tantrummer refuses to get into the pool without throwing the kind of full-body dummy spit that draws the ire of every single adult within a 500 metre radius. They regard the water with abject terror, as though Satan himself was about to somersault into the deep end and devour the innocent souls of several dog-paddling toddlers before hopping out en route to the spa. Their parents are easy to spot, because they are the ones physically manhandling their screaming child into the pool. Swimming lessons are important – even if they traumatise your child for life. And if the child isn’t traumatised, the instructor certainly will be after they’ve been repeatedly belted in the face by tiny fists.

  1. The Lucky Dip

The Lucky Dip kid is the eternal enigma of the pool. Some weeks they will take to the water like they are training for the 2024 Olympics, and other weeks they will strenuously object, like they couldn’t possibly enjoy an activity that requires them to swim around in a bacterial soup of other people’s body fluids. Other weeks – inexplicably – they will resist getting into the pool with the ferocity of an evil demon trying to avoid contact with holy water; all flailing limbs, gnashing teeth and wild shrieking. If these kids were in a Facebook relationship with swimming lessons, the status would read: “it’s complicated”.

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  1. The Happy Splasher

The Happy Splasher can’t swim for shit, but boy do they enjoy it. With complete disregard for their own personal safety, the Happy Splasher wants IN the pool and they want it NOW. They have no time for pesky floatation devices or any other precautions that might just keep them alive: they want to SWIM, dammit, and they are not going to let a little thing like “not knowing how” stop them. Their long-suffering parents can be found poised anxiously at the edge of their seats, arms stretched outwards and calf muscles flexed for the inevitable rush to rescue when their kid launches themself off the side of the pool.

  1. The Child Prodigy

The Child Prodigy is the kind of kid who was already working on their backstroke in the womb – nature’s heated pool. It’s the two year old who struts up to the pool without floaties, executes a perfect swan dive and swims 50 metres without flagging, before making a flawless flip turn at the end of the pool on the return lap. You will know who their parents are. They are the ones with the smug look of superiority and the condescending sneer in the general direction of the parents whose five year old still flips out when their eyebrows get wet. *ahem, coughs*

  1. The Stealth Bomber

Beware the Stealth Bomber. No-one wants to be the parent of the kid that poops in the pool. No one. Change your name and move suburbs. Dob in the ringleader of a major drug syndicate so you can join the Witness Protection Program. Move to Borneo and set up a charity for orphaned orangutans. Go off-grid and survive on a diet of carpet beetles, roadkill and rainwater. Disown your family and relocate to a silent monastery in rural Tuscany. Do what you have to do. Your other somewhat less appealing option is to continue turning up to swimming lessons every week, forever known as “the parent of that feral kid who shit in the pool”.

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  1. The Snorkeller

You won’t see much of the Snorkeller, because he or she will spend most of their swimming lessons face down in the water, completely oblivious to everything else that is going on. Their attendance is essentially pointless – and disruptive to the other kids in the class – because being arse-up means that they don’t hear the majority of instructions and the teacher spends most of the class dragging them out of the water by the scruff of their rashie. In one of those not-so-shocking twists, their parents tend to ignore the fact that their kid is ignoring the teacher.

  1. The Absent Child

The Absent Child is the source of heated debate. Nothing inspires frothy-mouthed moral panics quite like parents who haven’t signed their children up for swimming lessons. If you don’t have your newborn baby enrolled from the very minute they evacuate their bowels for the very first time you are basically setting them up for a lifetime of failure, lost opportunities and misplaced resentment because they will never make the synchronised swimming team at school. Or something.

66 thoughts on “Nine Types of Children You’ll Find at Swimming Lessons

  1. We did 3 swimming lessons and never went back. Little Miss was both a Scaredy Cat and a Tantrummer – she didn’t actually make it into the water during any of those 3 lessons. Money well spent!

    • Oh man this was us with my youngest starting the baby classes. Dumb ass teacher grabbed him in the first lesson and dunked the shit out of him, and he was completely terrified after that. We did a few more disastrous attempts and then stopped taking him. Money well spent here too! LOL.

  2. You know, I can actually remember having a tantrum in the car on my way to swimming lessons after school in grade one.
    And don’t worry about the degree thing. Sometimes I call my anthropology degree useful…

    • Oh. ANTHROPOLOGY. High-five!!! Random trivia: I boycotted the entire faculty of anthropology after one of the lecturers wrote a note on one of my essays saying that I didn’t know how to structure a sentence properly. FUCK YOU, PROFESSOR. I write real good.

  3. Absolutely fudging hilarious. My own kids were Happy Splashers. But I saw many Scaredy Cats when I’d take various classes to swimming lessons. Poor little things. Most of them were English and had never seen open water that didn’t have ducks in it. Poor things. The worst thing I found at swimming lessons was trying to avoid staring at the instructor’s dick togs. But that’s just me.

  4. I have two absent children. Yes, I am a BAD PARENT. We tried the eldest at swimming lessons and it was so horrific we gave up. He’s definitely a happy splasher – though now aged 5, he can almost swim without floaties, so we must have done something right!

  5. Oh definitely the Lucky Dip over here, but I’m not always lucky … I’ve learned to take every day, or lesson, as it comes 🙂

  6. My son didn’t start lessons until recently, when he was already 4 and a half (because he’s the neglected 3rd child), but I think it’s actually paid off cos now he’s like a ‘mature aged student’ – really keen to learn! But we do have a misbehaver in our swim group who’s starting to bug me. He’s cute and all, but time is money people. I always feel terribly sorry for the parents of scaredy cats – shelling out cash week after week while their little ones hug the ladder.

    • Heh heh heh… We have a misbehaver in one of ours at the moment and he SHITS ME TO TEARS. He was the one that actually inspired this piece. I figured that I might as well turn that rage into something positive. LOL.

  7. I sink like a rock, seriously my feet are like dense weights. I do love the pool though. However, a strong swimmer I am not. I would like my daughter to be, but her dad is basically a mermaid. I’m hoping the stay at home mermaid can teach her and we won’t have to endure the poop kid. Or being the parents of the poop kid. I really don’t want to be poop kid’s mom.

    • HAHAHAHHAHA! I am a shithouse swimmer too. Probably had something to do that my first “swimming lesson” took place when my Dad threw me in the pool when I was five. We had to be tough little buggers back then. And LOL. Poop kid’s mum. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

      • That’s terrifying!!
        One of my first experiences at a public pool my friend thought it would be fun to ride on my back. Little did she know, I’d sink like a rock. She came up gasping “what the hell?” And I quickly responded “what the hell are you talking about you just tried to kill me!” And she did not understand. She told me that I had tried to kill her by letting her sink with me. I still think she was experimenting with life and death. Needless to say we are still best friends.

      • OMG my older brother used to do that to me all the time DELIBERATELY and it WAS terrifying! Shit man, how did I ever actually survive that family? No wonder I turned into such a hard-ass.

  8. I have a lucky dip on my hands. Big. Time. Last week she screamed the freaking house down making me feel like a terrible mum forcing her to do swimming lessons. Nek minute her bestie gets in the pool and she’s all like: This is the best day ever! I love the pool and I never ever ever want to get out. A fight to get her in. A fight to get her out. Kill me now.

    • HAHAHAHHAHAHAH!! Nice of her to keep you on your toes like that. I had no idea these kids existed until someone in my online mothers group put her hand up to say she had one. WORK IT OUT, KIDS!

  9. I could buy a house with the money I’ve spent on lessons. My youngest swam with a bubble for so much longer than advisable because I had to supervise 3 at once, and I just couldn’t cope with it (so I figured that gave me a little peace of mind). Water terrifies me with kids,as there’s no second chances. I’ve had to save someone else’s kid once,and it was very distressing. So floaties or not, whatever keeps them safe is best…

  10. Ah, yes. Swimming lessons. We stopped going because we had a misbehaver and a tantrummer. This has to be one of the worst combinations! I took C out because he wasn’t listening. He was being a nice naughty though as opposed to trying to deliberately drown anyone, he was just a cheeky non-listening splasher monkey. At least he was in the water though, unlike his 2 year old brother who just screamed bloody murder! It was rather embarrassing!

  11. I have a snorkeller & I’m pretty sure he’d be a snorkeller out of the pool if he could be as well. Everything looks cooler & he doesn’t have to listen to anyone, perfect! Actually, think I’d like to be a snorkeller too…..

  12. Ahhhh so many memories Zilla! I had a Scaredy Cat and a Happy Splasher. In other words, both my kids inherited my complete inability to swim. I tried so hard to help them to learn to swim; I was traumatised by always being in the turtle group (or whatever the worst group is called) for swimming lessons throughout my school years. In high school I was the girl that forgot her togs or had her period every week to get out of it. I vowed my kids would know how to swim so they wouldn’t have to endure the agonies that I did … and yet … they turned out much the same!

    Visiting from #teamIBOT x

  13. I’ve got a happy splasher… and he’s only two!! He’s determined he can swim by himself with no help from me, floatation devices or holding onto the side. Totally crazeeee but i do love the enthusiasm.

  14. Ha ha ha replace taking a shit in the pool with vomiting and that was our biggest little lady at her first lesson! She got so worked up about being in the pool she vomited all over my husband… it was a sight to behold, watching vomit disperse itself in the pool. She’s awesome now, but we were those defeated parents for quite some time. Littlest lady? Insane. In the membrane. Good to see your working your degree out. What can’t sociology do? Oh wait… 😛 xx (from a fellow sociology fan)

  15. I think there must be a parallel post to be written about the 9 types of swimming parents! As a mum of two kids who LOVE swimming and are now doing it competitively at club level I have met all sorts. I was at an all day swim meet a few weekends ago (like watching paint dry) and one girl was sick in the pool just as she dived in at the start of the race. Queue a long delay to clean the vomit out of the pool and make sure the water was safe for the competition to continue without killing off the other kids. I was in the spectator area, little knowing that the sick child’s dad was in front of me. The mum turned up and said to him ‘I’ve given her some calpol (the child was 9) so that should sort her out and she can continue competing’. The dad said ‘Um, I think we should take her home if she’s not well.’ and I piped up ‘yes, so that she doesn’t give whatever it is to all of our kids’. They went home. PS – I’m sending the link to this to my uni student daughter who teaches swimming to kids in her spare time I know she will love it!

  16. Haha… this is gold. Pretty sure my2morrows have been all of these at one point or another, except the stealth bomber thank god. (Although Tuscany does sound rather nice 😉

  17. Ha! I’m at swimming lessons now enjoying your fabulous post! My 3 yr old is a misbehaved and a scary cat all rolled into one! He too freaks when his eyebrows get wet. We’ve been going for a year now (90 minute drive each way) and I swear the pink donut rewards has seen them dash their face in the water for 1 second and stay in the same stage #moneywellspent #olympicswimmermum #thereneedstobeawinebaratthepool xx

  18. Boodi was very much the happy splasher at swim lessons before he turned `1, not at 3 and a half that’s still where he’s at, but wow he loves the water! Poor number 2 child never stood a chance of having swim lessons because who would stop the happy splasher from getting into trouble in the water?

  19. I want to cry, I just wrote a frankly hilarious comment and it’s not taken it. Grrrr…..

    Context: We are now in the Big Pools – Council pools, in mainstream lessons and yes, they are both ahead of other children their ages, so I get to be Smug Mother.

    I like you, feel compelled to cough at the point of reading about “The Prodigy” with regards to Precious FIrst Born. God, he’s amazing. It’s the One Thing I know I’ve done well with my parenting of him. The rest of it is pot luck.

    When it comes to Ignored Second Child, I’m left praying that his Lucky Dip behaviour will be more Snorkelling than Tantrumming. He used to stand there all imperious: “I’m not getting in the pool by jumping in as it’s not safe – I shall use steps”. They’d have a stand off with him and 20 minutes of his lesson would pass. The Shame. The Shame.

    I started both with Water Babies when they were tiny and it’s the best thing I ever did. It now means I can go on holiday knowing that whatever their meal time antics are it’s ok, because they will swim like fish in the pool and I can sit there, book in hand, one eye on them, feeling happy that they know what they are doing. Ish.

    • OMG that used to happen to me all the time and now I compulsively copy all my comments because far too much of my genius went begging. And LOL, how funny is it that our kids are all so different – I swear so much of them is already hardwired when they get here, and we just get to smooth some of the edges. Kudos to your little fish though – swimming is one of those skills it is so important to get right. Water is way too scary to mess about with.

  20. lol man oh man those swimming lessons are soooooo boring. Given that we all swim around in the womb I have no idea why we can’t just come out with some innate ability to swim. I mean, really, it doesn’t make any sense at all that we can’t!

  21. Hahaha I remember it was always interesting times taking my Grade 2 classes to swimming lessons. Some were so confident and would virtually bomb into the pool as soon as we arrived, and others would just completely refuse to get in the pool! Such a massive difference!

    • Oh man, teaching is such a hard job at the best of times, I can’t imagine how trying it must be when you throw water into the mix. I still remember doing swimming lessons at school too – HATED IT. I bet it must be fun trying to deal with that. LOL!

  22. My girls are definite combos here, Punky is a combo of the misbehaver, the scaredy-cat and the lucky-dip. SOme weeks she loves the water and other weeks she doesn’t want a bar of it, she hates getting her face wet but loves to swim. Zee on the other hand is a cross between the tantrummer and the happy splasher… the tantrums occur when it’s time to get OUT of the pool, however, she just loves the water that much (which is weird because as a young baby (5/6 months) she HATED baths and going in the pool at Mums whereas now she throws herself in to the pool with reckless abandon, despite the fact that as you say, she can not swim! Doesn’t stop her though, and means it’s impossible to take both girls in Mum’s pool by myself, but makes her the start of her swimming group. At least she can float, poor Punky is just like her Dad and sinks like a stone the minute she gets in the water, making her have to work twice as hard as any other kid to keep her head above water!

    • HAHAHHAHAHAHHA! It sounds like swimming lessons are some fun and unpredictable times for you guys then! My kids are the same as Punky – HATE getting their faces wet and will carry on like a couple of bloody galahs. They’ve always been like that and I wish I knew how to get ’round it. Urgh. Trying to wash their hair. I can’t even…

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