Swimming lessons and a chlorine memory

Our eldest daughter had a swimming lesson on the weekend.
It's a big deal! She - like many little people her age - isn't too fond of getting water in her eyes......

As I watched her - my heart bursting as she sat so straight-backed and courageous on the pool step - surrounded by strangers and noise and splashes of water right into her eyes - doing her very best to do everything her teacher asked of her......

I was astonished to find myself blinking back tears.

Smell is powerful isn't it! 
That chlorine transported me hard and fast back to a memory from my own childhood swimming lessons.

I recall loving the free time we had at the end of a lesson. "Free Time for 15 minutes" called by the teacher was like a song.....

There was one lesson when I thought those words had been called - and in I dived.
The most wonderful freeing feeling of silence and weightlessness - I could stay down there for a long time and often did.
When I finally emerged I was met with the teacher yelling at me and a sea of faces staring.
Free Time had not been called. I had been disobedient. There would have to be punishment.

Punishment was sitting out on the bench while everyone else swam - but worse - my class mate's free time in the water had been cut short to a measly 5 minutes.... because of me.
"That'll teach her!"

It taught me - at the age of 7 - what shame felt like.... and the stinging heat of humiliation.
And now - it teaches me how heavy and full and lasting the words of adults are upon children.
The responsibility of it.
We all have to experience the weight of these feelings at some time - there will always be a first time - so perhaps it wasn't that this teacher was particularly unkind, but that this was my first time sitting alone with such strong emotion......

So as I sat there by the swimming pool watching my big girl's brave face - I knew how much I wanted to protect my girls from those feelings - Knowing at the same time - that I can't... and perhaps, shouldn't.
But we can help them to move through them as gently as possible, can't we?


  1. what a beautiful post, your daughter is lucky to have you. swimming lessons were a bit of a traumatic experience for me, also because of my teacher. I sometimes wonder what adults seek to achieve by humiliating little kids, it's so pointless. Good luck to your daughter on her lessons!

  2. This is a really lovely post. The art is beautiful and your words ring true.

  3. Thank you Hila! I am aiming to write something for your Why I adore the Night project soon.... beautiful idea! And your book looks fantastic and has got a solid place on the Xmas wish list!!

    Thank you Sasha - hope you're having a good week!

  4. oh.. my boys are going through the same but how they love being in the water:)

  5. I had forgotten those swimming lessons, but your poignant post reminded me of them and having a conversation with another parent about the swimming teacher, the words belligerent and bully came up. We discontinued the lessons, but too late as your memory is still so clear.

    Talking about hurtful things dissipates the pain a littlle or a lot. It helps. Kate

  6. A beautiful post. Thank you for sharing! x


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