Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Swim BABY!


One of the things I love to do with Maya is take her swimming. As a child, I remember practically growing up in our pool, and all our friends would come over and play. We would literally be in the water for up to 8 hours a day - it was so much fun! I don't remember what was my earliest memory of swimming, just that I was always in it. The pool, the ocean...we always played in the water. So from a young age, I became a very strong swimmer - and the act of swimming, and playing in the water, was a huge part of my childhood.

My experience with water was very different than husband-ji's family, who have had little to none experience with water - coming from the non-coastal city of Hyderabad. I think they never learned how to swim because it was expensive, and they didn't see the need for it. Nobody in husband-ji's immediate family knows how to swim, and in fact, many have an intense fear of water. My MIL cannot even let the water go over her head in the shower without getting a drowning sensation. One time, I tried to teach husband-ji how to swim before marriage and it was a complete disaster!!! He was adamant that he would drown, even in the shallow end of the pool, and had to get out of the water after only 5 minutes. He has since been too traumatized about it and refuses when I bring it up that we should try again.

I really feel bad that husband-ji is left out of me and Maya's favorite shared activity. I remember swimming to be such a family activity, with both my parents always chasing me and playing with me in the water. Hopefully, Maya will have better luck teaching him, one day...

But even in our extended Indian family, with many relatives and cousins living abroad, none of them seem to be taking their children swimming. One relative said that the children are "too young" for it, even though their child was older.


Here in Canada, parents start doing swimming lessons with their children very early. Some even start from the age of 6 months old.

Why, you ask? There are so many benefits of teaching babies swimming, including:
- water helps improve coordination and balance, as well as endurance and concentration
- babies can exercise more muscles on water than they can on land, because they are less restricted by gravity. That means that this increased strength often leads to early walking and other improved physical and psychological development
- the combination of warm water and gentle exercise increases baby's appetite and makes them sleep better
- fosters a growing sense of independence, self-esteem and confidence
- regular baby swim training reduces a child's sick rate by 70%
- early swimming prevents a fear of water
- learn vital life-saving actions, such as kicking, floating onto the back, and reaching for the sides of the pool
- reduces the risk of drowning by 88% in children ages 1 to 4.
- nice bonding experience between parent/child; and socialization with other infants


I started swimming with Maya quite late (by Canadian standards), around one year, but she picked it up so fast. As a toddler, it is one of her favorite activities to do. And as a parent, I like that it gets her nice and tired for the day (jackpot!) But really, it is such a fun activity for both of us. And boy, did she pick up fast. It is amazing how they learn to hold their breath underwater and kick.

Maya has never been scared of the water, she always loved it, right from the very first day. We take her to a mixed age class with other children as young as 6 months to 3 years old. I've noticed in the class, that the later you start swimming with your child, the more scared they are of water. So the earlier, the better!

As my MIL was staying with us during the Fall, I made sure to bring her to watch Maya's swimming classes. And boy, was she amazed. For a woman who had been deathly scared of water for her entire life (and still is!) she was both amazed and baffled that babies as young as 6 months were able to swim and hold their breath. She loved attending the classes with us, and it easily became our favorite weekly outing.

Recent videos of Maya swimming:





What about you, dear readers? Do you know how to swim? Do any of your Indian family have a fear of water? Do you think it is important to teach children how to swim?



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32 comments

  1. Alexandra,

    Love your blog! Just the way you write is amazing. Thanks for writing this post on Maya, she such a cute little girl. This reminds me of my days growing up and how I loved to go swimming. Growing up myself as an only child my parents gave me swimming lessons from a swimming instructor that lived down the street from us. I was in grade school when I started swimming, he was such a fun instructor and he taught us good water safety and proper techniques for all the swimming strokes. I took 3 or 4 years of lessons but I still remember all the fun that I had when I took lessons from him. Maya seems to enjoy that time with you and her in the pool. Maybe as time goes on Husband - Ji and your MIL might learn to swim or maybe just dangle their feet in the water.

    What a joy! Keep writing, love your posts.

    Missy

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    1. Awwwww thanks Missy!
      I am hoping they will join in on the fun....Maya is such a water baby! I think they would like the feeling of weightlessness that one has in the water.

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  2. Hi Alexandra - I think what you are doing is wonderful. I was born and raised in Puerto Rico so it was imperative that we all learn how to swim. It was actually frowned upon if your kid did not know how to swim been that the island is surrounded by beautiful beaches.

    My brother and I were started at a young age. I think I was four when I took my first lesson at the YMCA. First lesson was a nightmare for me. There were no parents in the water with the kids and no arm floaties. I was scared to jump in. My wonderful father just picked me up and threw me in; things were different in the 70s.

    I panic and started crying. The instructor told me to just kick and moved my arms and come to him. And boy did I kick. I made it to him and he was like "good job". After that my fears started to disappeared and by the end of the hour lesson I was asking my father when we were coming back.

    My husband had the same fate back in India. His father took him to the public pool and taught him how to swim at a very young age. My husband is like a fish in the water.

    When we go to PR we go to the beach a lot and he swims at least a couple of miles each time we hit a beach; he says is a peaceful and liberating experience.

    We do have desi friends that are petrified of water. I think that the water fear gets worst in adulthood so is important to get kids started at a very young age.

    Millie B

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    1. Hi Millie,
      Yes, here it is the same - since we are a coastal city, everyone frowns upon it if you do not know how to swim. People are drawn to the beaches every day, just to be by the water.
      That is so great that your hubby knows how to swim...it just kills me that mine doesn't know how! I just feel bad! That is lovely that he can experience the beaches in PR....
      We have recently planned a trip to Hawaii and my hubby is refusing to go because of his fear of water, so I will go with Maya and my mum, like a girls' trip. I think if he knew how to swim he would love to go on the trip, he is missing out!

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  3. I lived in Houston so we were constantly swimming in the summer - it was the only way to keep cool! We were enrolled in swimming lessons when I was seven and over the next seven years I took lessons every summer and had my Red Cross Advanced Swimmer card. Only thing I didn't go on to do was the lifeguard course, because my vision is too poor! :( I was even on a swim team for a while in junior high school but I wasn't very fast. :)

    My husband, on the other hand, is terrified of water and never learned to swim. I keep telling him to take lessons - just as a safety thing - but he's still putting it off. I wish that he would learn, even just to float and tread water.

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    1. I totally agree, it makes me nervous knowing that hubby doesn't know how to swim. The entire time he was on the Alaska cruise, I was petrified that something would happen and they would not know how to swim. I even think about it when we are on airplanes! LOL
      When Maya gets older, I am totally going to put her in charge of pestering him about swimming... because I know he can't say no to her! :D

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  4. Hi,
    In India, Swimming is not taught as part of school. Kids usually learn swimming from elders in the family, be it uncles or cousins. Therefore knowing swimming ( or not ) usually depends on families. You'll find that families in coastal regions or those living next to large lakes/rivers usually pick up swimming.

    This is all changing in Urban India, where swimming pools have proliferated. Parents enroll kids for summer camps where swimming is taught. And these days, there are 'Adult Swimming Classes' too, so that they don't feel bad learning next to little kids !

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    1. That is great to hear, so essential...! It really is a safety thing too. ot just for enjoyment, but for life-saving skills.

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  5. Ah. I only have beginner swimming lessons, that too when i was an adult. I also never had access to swimming pools. It was expensive, very few pools, not much access, the water didn't seem to be clean blah blah.

    Another reason could be that swimming requires one to wear not so modest clothes ha ha and thus Indians do not want it.

    With the younger people i realized that many of them in cities pick it up - if you are relatively well off or from school.

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    1. My MIL has the same fear of water not being clean...it is weird. And then she has some thing about "water should never go in the ears", and I'm like, "WTF are you talking about..." LOL....
      That is interesting about the clothing part, especially for women. I remember when we were in Goa, I saw some Indian ladies dipping into the water with a full Salwar Kameez set....it is impossible to even move in water with heavy wet clothes like that!

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  6. @Alexandra

    Swimming pools in India have always been expensive and located in five star hotels and clubs. Some schools and sports complexes in India have such facilities. Swimming requires wearing costumes which are revealing. Therefore, girls are discouraged from taking it up or persuaded to give it up during teenage. In villages, people learn swimming in pools and rivers which comes naturally. In cities and towns, however, people still have fear of water.

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    1. Hmmmm that is really interesting. But when you are in the water, nobody can see your body, it is only when you get in and out of the water. I am more modest at times and I just bring a towel to put at the side of the pool to cover up immediately after.

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    2. @Alexandra

      This being India there is always a possibility of such men around pool. Even if you are not a ogler, some men do find it uncomfortable with women in such costumes. It is our cultural instincts perhaps which makes both men and women uncomfortable in such surrounding. Indians women enter sea/ocean wearing full clothes unless is Goa where the surrounding are a little more liberal. Further more you cannot leave your daughter with an unknown person alone to learn swimming/driving. I have seen people getting up early in the morning and accompanying their daughters when the learn to drive. One male member of the family sits on the back seat throughout the driving session. There are lots of ifs and buts when it comes to women in India. We believe nobody.

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    3. @anonymous - that makes sense. I am also very protective over my daughter and I never let anybody watch her other than our parents. You can never be too careful, I feel! I watch her like an eagle mother...LOL.
      The swim centre that I take Maya to, has all the parents watching the lessons on the sidelines, and then with the younger kids, it is a parent + child class. I feel such places are more safe, the more parents are involved and keeping a watchful eye.

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  7. Omg maya is so cute! It looks like she is having a great time. You're right about swimming is not typically taught in India. Most of my family here do not know how to swim. I took my son when he was 13 months old and he learnt how to swim here in Delhi.
    It is changing in India though. A lot of schools are encouraging swimming as a sport (studies are first though!) and when my son gets to class 3 they do swimming once a week.

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    1. That is wonderful that your son is learning, I think it is such a great and fun thing to teach children! So beneficial, in so many ways.
      Maya is crazy about it....when she gets in the water, she says she is a "fish"! :)

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  8. Alexandra,

    The swimming looks like so much fun! I have a terrible fear of water because of an accident involving water in which I nearly drowned as a child. I learned how to swim after the event but water is something I will never be comfortable with when it comes to swimming. However I do plan to have my daughter start with swimming this summer and have kept my fear far away from her.

    Raina.

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    1. Oh no! That is terrible! Thank god nothing happened.
      Yes, maybe your fear will lessen once you see your daughter in the water...she will want you to come in and play with her, I'm sure!

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  9. The fear of water among Indians ..ah, another thing that fascinates me! I guess I was lucky to have parents who had the foresight to make me learn swimming!

    We took our daughter to a mixed swimming lesson, like the one you mentioned. The official minimum age for the class was 1 year. She was 11 months old at that time! And how she loved it! My wife and I took turns every week, going into the water with her. My daughter has even been in a lake with us.

    ~ Krishanu

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    1. Yes, it fascinates me too....nobody in our Indian family knows how to swim and nobody is taking their kids swimming! It is weird to me....it is such a fun activity. For me, too!
      That is great that you took your daughter swimming, she is such a cutie! I bet she loved it! It is amazing how fast they learn.

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  10. This is awesome! My mom took me to swimming classes when I was around Maya's age. I've always been so thankful for it, always had fun around water growing up and became a confident swimmer. Very good thing to do with your baby girl. Looks like you both are loving it too :)

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    1. Watching her in the water has made me love swimming again, it is such a fantastic activity. I think I am going to go in the mornings before she wakes up, on my own, for exercise. I just love it!
      Our baby swimming classes are only once a week, I wish it was every day! We both love it so much!

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  11. Absolutely love this post! I learnt to swim very late in life so made sure my daughter would learn early on.

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    1. That is so great you learned! Still trying to convince my hubby to learn, but he is really too stubborn!

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  12. I loved Maya's expressions in the pool! I am taking my babies swimming next week and I hope it will be a positive experience for them too :) Wish me luck!

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    1. Good luck! You will have loads of fun, I guarantee!

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  13. I totally believe that swimming is a survival skill; not a luxury! Glad that you are teaching your little girl!

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  14. Great peice, I love the pictures!! It funny Alex because my husband was told that water would cause him problems in his soul. I guess a wise man looked at my husband when he was born and told my husbands parents to never let the child near water. Well I love to swim so I convinced him to go in and learn to swim . He swims on occation now but we never tell his mother lol. There habe been times when somthing went wrong, like a car breaking down days after he swam and he has tried to connect the misfortune to swimming, so he feels guilty when he swims. He was told his whole life to stay away from water, so I understand. But the reason he learned was so he could resue our daughter Nasreen from drowning if need be.

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    1. That is so interesting about the superstitions, I have not heard of that before... I'm so glad he learned to swim though. I wish my hubby would!!!!!

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  15. Great Maya! In India swimming pools are generally not accessible to the command man. That's another reason why majority of the people do not know how to swim. I absolutely agree that children should be taught how swim early on! I have an 8 month old but sadly there are no pools in the town I live :(

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  16. Great Maya! In India swimming pools are generally not accessible to the command man. That's another reason why majority of the people do not know how to swim. I absolutely agree that children should be taught how swim early on! I have an 8 month old but sadly there are no pools in the town I live :(

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