Surviving a haircut and learning to swim

I took Daniel to get a haircut today at the first barber’s I came to on our way to swimming. The hairdresser was a short and muscular middle-eastern-looking man with tattoos up and down each arm. It all seemed to be going fairly well except that Daniel kept moving his head. He’s not the easiest customer and indeed for many years he was too scared to go to the hairdressers and I had to cut his hair at home. Finally the hairdresser lost it and held the scissors in front of Daniel’s face pretending to cut his own fingers, then said in a more threatening tone than I was comfortable with, “If you keep moving your head I’m going to cut my fingers. Do you want me to do that?”. Daniel looked wide-eyed at the scissors and quickly shook his head. From then on I sat gripping the edge of my seat with visions of an angry barber stabbing Daniel in the head with some scissors. Fortunately Daniel made it out of there alive. I think I’ll find a different place for the next hair cut 🙂

At the beginning of the school holidays I did something I never thought I’d ever do: I took out gym membership. I’ve always found these places pointless. Why would anyone spend crazy sums of money sitting in a room on a stationary bicycle or running machine when they can go outside and do it for free? Alternatively, sell the car and get a bike and then you don’t have to bother with exercise at all since it will just happen as a consequence of going to work/school/shops. But I digress.

I took out gym membership because I wanted to teach the kids to swim and the gym has a quiet pool which is very close to our house. Daniel, it turns out, can already swim thanks to school swimming lessons in Aberdeen and Auckland. But he was not very good at treading water or floating on his back; two things which I think are very important survival skills. Daniel asked me why he needs to know how to tread water and I told him to imagine he is out on a boat that sinks. There’s a rescue boat on its way but it’ll be two hours before it gets to you. If you can’t tread water or float on your back comfortably you’ll get tired and drown.

I’m ashamed to say that Elizabeth, who is 5, could not swim at all. Growing up in Brisbane I learnt to swim from a very young age. So many people have swimming pools in Brisbane and the heat meant that we spent a great deal of time swimming. But my kids have never spent much time around pools at all. I did pay for Elizabeth to have swimming lessons in Auckland but it was a disaster and she ended up quite traumatised and too scared to put her head under the water. So my goal for the summer holidays was to teach Elizabeth how to swim. We’ve been going 3 or 4 times a week and I’m thrilled to say that today Elizabeth swam unaided in deep water for the first time. It was so exciting for both of us. Elizabeth was clearly chuffed with herself and I feel a great sense of satisfaction. I’m also happy to report that Daniel is very good at both treading water and floating on his back. I guess gyms are not so bad after all 🙂

15 responses to “Surviving a haircut and learning to swim”

  1. One of my favourite memories is when my wife was working at a ski tournament, and I was out with the kids having a holiday. Our daughter couldn’t really swim at the time, but we spend every afternoon in the heated pool. She met a couple of other kids who didn’t speak English, but who could swim, and so she essentially learned how to swim so she could play with them. On one of the last days, I was sitting on the pool’s steps with our son (who couldn’t swim) and saw my wife coming towards the pool with a look of horror on her face. I’d forgotten that she didn’t yet know that our daughter (who had just jumped into the deep end while I wasn’t watching) had learned to swim.

    • That’s a funny story. Because I didn’t teach Daniel to swim myself – he had lessons as a preschooler and then more at school – I didn’t realise how thrilling it would be to see your children swim for the very first time. It’s one of those milestones like learning to walk. So it’s quite funny that you didn’t think to tell your wife about it. Must be a man-thing.

      • Ah, ok. It sounds as though learning to swim for your daughter was more of a gradual process rather than something that suddenly happened, as was the case with Elizabeth.

  2. I took beginner swimming lesson for 3 years and failed each year! I can swim a bit now, but I’m NOT surviving the capsized boat thing! Oh, well, I’ll just wear the life jacket!! 😉 It’s still amazing to me as a father of adults now, what they learned despite me!

    • It’s never too late to learn to swim! I think what this process with my own daughter has shown me is that it’s not enough to do it once a week for 10 weeks and that’s it. You need to go several times a week and that’s when you start to see progress.

      • My cousin, at age 50, took up cycling with me and THEN decided to do triathlons. She didn’t know how to swim either. Now she’s finished first in her age group on some sprint tri’s. She found a swim coach and, while still a bit nervous in open water, loves it!

      • That’s very inspiring, I started doing tris when I was 23, then took them up again when trying to conceive my kids I have now- I started off by being better at the running then the cycling- Swimming is still the part I have a challenge with- Now I have 3 kids there is a challenge enough finding time to train amongst their activities- In New Zealand, obstacle course racing in mud and in winter has become a very popular pastime with crazy people mad enough to pay for it! It doesn’t matter if your pelvic floors are stuffed-, one of the reasons I prefer cycling over running in my mid forties! one is pretty quickly wet already, so that cuts out the self consciousness of feeling a wee bit leaky, if you’ll pardon the pun! I am hoping to take up swimming again with some commitment to put the time and money aside to do that- a case of priorities!

  3. We’ve taken our kids swimming right from 6months of age- It seemed a bit pointless at times that we had to get them floating on their tummies while singing what seemed to us the most banal songs- thing is, they loved it and the one on one time with mum and dad- We try to make them comfortable in the water by encouraging play too, and a swimming teacher says that is when the learning happens too- Having goggles makes a huge difference to comfort under the water- so much that the kids often ask if they can wear their goggles in the bath, so they can play divers and merpeople… they confidently submerge and bob about- I wanted to encourage them to swim as it is a great skill to have and opens up a lot of sports they will enjoy more, like kayaking, sailing, diving etc and also is a great form of exercise- My lack of confidence in the water sometimes limits me in multisports where swimming is usually the first part of the event- thats when it is good to go as a team, although swimming is one of the most beneficial exercise form there is, as it is non weight bearing and exercises the most muscle groups compared with other sports. Its also relatively inexpensive!

    • That’s great! I really should have started them off from early on. We did take them swimming when they were babies but not often enough. I’m just not that keen on swimming myself.

  4. Nice to see all of you swim. It is an essential skill and I say that with nearly missed drowning experience!

    I used to get my son’s hair cut at middle eastern barber in Sandringham. They were so harsh on him despite repeated requests to be a bit gentle with trimmer. So I changed the barbers and now we get his hair cut in St Lukes mall where they play peppa pig dvds during hair cut. My son is loving it.

    We started swimming lessons for my son since he was 1. We continue the classes every term since then. Tomorrow is third class of the current term. We decided to continue the lessons indefinitely.

    The biggest challenge is for me to learn swimming. I deeply want to learn but unsure if I ever step ahead and learn given I am very afraid of water.

    • This barber was also quite rough and even tied the thing (for protecting clothing from hair) too tightly around Daniel’s neck. Fortunately Daniel said it was too tight and he loosened it slightly.

      I’m pleased to hear you’ve signed your son up for swimming lessons. But it’s never too late. Even adults can learn. You just have to go regularly and persist, I think.

  5. Good on you mum! I can imagine how chuffed Elizabeth feels about her latest conquest. I can still remember the thrill of learning to swim when I was a kid. So exciting! Although I was terrified of the water, it was learn to swim or miss out on all the fun during summer.

    Hope the pool is heated so you can swim as the weather cools down.

  6. So glad the swimming lessons are a success Rachel! My eldest was terrified of getting his face under the water when he was little, but once he mastered his fear, he loved swimming, as did all the kids. Such a vital skill for them to learn. You’re right, the gym is good for one thing 🙂

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