Child Abuse Or A Swimming Lesson?

jumpThis summer I had to take a page from my own book.  I’ve always said, with passion, as a parent it’s your duty to teach your kid how to swim and ride a bike before they are six.  If you wait to teach them it gets so hard, dangerous and exhausting.

Little kids believe in magic and in a parent’s unquestionable power. So, when you tell a three year old they can float…they believe you…and they do it.  Tell a twenty year old who is flailing in the water “you can float” their brain jumps up and says…”no you can’t dummy, you weigh 130 pounds you’re gonna sink and drowned.”

Over the years I’ve taught Sandor, who is ten, to swim, but not as thoroughly as I should. Last weekend when we made our first trip to the lake he ran ahead of me and threw himself off a dock. There were waves, there wasn’t a ladder, the water was colder than he expected.  He panicked and by the time I got to the dock he was clinging to a cross bar.  I hauled him out and started yelling at myself.

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Sandor now knows something that’s important. Don’t jump in till you know how to get out. This weekend we went to the YMCA and I made him prove to me he could still swim. I watched  him do the crawl down the pool. He floated on his back and I made him tread water for a couple of minutes.  It’s not pretty but it’s good enough.

Poor kids and country kids are at a disadvantage when it comes to swimming, I think. They grow up playing around in creeks with water that’s only waist high, so they don’t really learn to swim. Their parents don’t take them to swim classes because they aren’t members of the Country Club. They don’t have boats or lake houses with docks either so never learn to swim.

I was a lucky kid and grew up on the lake.  One night in October my mom was hosting a cocktail party. I was dressed up in a Sunday dress with tights and little heels.  My father, whom I adored, and I were walking along the boardwalk to a neighbors house when he suddenly kicked me into the cold black lake. The water was so cold I gasped as I went under and swallowed a bunch of water. But I bobbed back to the surface, swam to a ladder and climbed out.

Furious, terrified and shivering, I stormed through the cocktail party slinging water on the laughing guests.  My dress was ruined, my shows were ruined, my hair was ruined and I was a humiliated six year old. I was mad at him for a week. And to this day, people who were at the party still tease me about my soggy and hysterical stomp through the living room.

Daddy said he did it because he had to make sure I knew how to get out of the lake, under any circumstances.

If somebody did that to one of my children I would absolutely explode. But I almost understand his reasoning and motives, now.  Still his delivery in teaching  “life skills” could use some work.

I’ve Got A Serious Problem….I Refuse To Be A Loser

While reading the church bulletin I realized I have a real problem. I am ridiculously competitive. I knew this about myself before I went to church but the bulletin kind of dotted the i for me.

There was an announcement “Casserole Contest” winner gets a great prize! The word contest slams me in the face, I LOVE CONTESTS, no I LOVE WINNING CONTESTS. Actually I love winning at anything, being the best, better than other people. Wait, I’m not one of those people who brags about being the best but it rolls through my brain like a happy train all the time and it’s silly, especially at my age.

The casserole contest is this Wednesday and I’m going to make something insanely yummy even though, I have never, ever made a casserole. i told my daughter lexie about it and she actually said, ‘what exactly is a casserole”? When I say I’ve never fixed one I’m not exaggerating. But it’s a contest, I have to compete.

I’m stupid competitive. Last week when my taekwondo instructor said, “I did 1500 kicks yesterday,” I started counting, trying to figure out how long it would take me to do 2000 kicks. If I do 500 kicks today, then 600 on Wednesday I should be able to do 2000 kicks without stopping in a couple of weeks. But that’s stupid, he’s a professional, he’s a 6th degree black belt, he’s my instructor and just won in an International TKD competition. Why do I feel the need to kick more times than he does? Because I’m an idiot. But I have to try.

Every summer, when we go to the lake, I challenge everyone to underwater distance swimming. My children, other people’s kids, stray teenagers, construction workers. I’ll take on anyone and I’ll die like a beached whale before I let myself lose.

I used to love our sales meetings on Monday mornings because we found out who sold the most the week before. It motivated me cause I want to win. When the new boss decided not to announce our numbers I actually sold less becasue I didn’t get to beat anyone.

Hate me if you must, but I try really hard to be humble. I don’t cheer for myself or brag. Though, when I do win, at anything, there is an outlandish party in my head with fireworks and noise makers.

So what am I going to do about my problem?  Make the best damn casserole the First Presbyterian Women have ever tasted and walk away knowing Diana McDaniel Hampo is the CASSAROLE CHAMPION!

3 Things You Have To Teach Your Child…Today

 There are three things parents have to teach their children before they are seven years old. Otherwise…it’s too late. And if you don’t teach your child these three things consider yourself a crappy parent. I should know.

#1 Teach your kid how to ride a bike and start when they are young. It’s not easy, it takes a lot of patience and running around. Your child is going to cry and get mad at you. They will want to give up, but don’t let them. Take the time to hold the back of the bike seat and run up and down the parking lot or side walk.

Learning to ride a bike when you are young is easy and not nearly as scary because you’re a short person on a short bike, you are close to the ground and you don’t look like a complete doooof if you are wearing all kinds of elbow and knee pads, extra underwear and a football helmet.

Little kids fall down all the time, it’s not that big a deal. But when grownups fall down it’s a monumental embarassment. Kids fall down then pop back up. Adults fall down then miss work for a week.

I failed to teach Mary how to ride a bike. So my beautiful, brilliant 21 year old daughter still needs one training wheel.

#2. Teach your child to swim, or let somebody else do it. First there’s the safety side of the equation. Unless you live in the Middle East your child will spend time around water, lakes and pools, he’ll end up on a boat. Accidents happen, kids push each other off docks so make sure your child knows how to swim.

Learning to swim as an adult is frightening and nearly impossible. Children belive in magic so they have faith when you tell them they can float. They trust adults and will allow us to teach them to swim.

When adults try to learn to swim they are terrified because they know the reality of the situation. If they go under they will die. The adult brain also interferes with the learning process. A two hundred pound man may know he can float but he doesnt’ believe his great big fat body will stay on top of the water. So he thrashes around, sinks, gets water up his nose and gives up. The end.

Teach your child to swim to the edge of the pool and to hold on before they are one year old.

Your kid doesn’t have to be an olympic swimmer, they don’t need to know all the strokes including the butterfly, but they better know how to float and how to get to the shallow end of the pool.

When a child learns to swim it’s cute, when an adult tries to learn to swim it’s embarassing and sad.

#3. Finally, please teach your child how to shake hands.  Again, do it when they are little bitty so it’s not a big deal.  All you have to remember is “firm grip and eye contact”. Their lives will be better with this one simple skill.

When Jack was 13 or 14 he decided he wanted to look like an absolute freak, bright red mohawk, suspenders, plaid golf pants. Still, he had a great handshake, he knew how to look an adult in the eye and act like a man so coaches, teachers and ministers cut him some slack and still loved him. Grown men let him date their beautiful daughters in part, I believe, because he had an excellent hand shake.

If a kid has a pathetic handshake I generally think they are weak, sneaky, or stupid. I can’t help it. And yes, I know lots of scummy, slimy people have great handshakes. But do your child a favor. Start shaking hands with them when they are two years old. Then you can move on to the high five and knuckle bump.