Three stages of parenting: like swimming lessons

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parenting, swimming lessons
This is definitely a beginners lesson. Pic credit below.

I’ve come to the conclusion that swimming lessons are rather like the three main stages of parenting. This theory came to me when I was at the swimming pool with both my kids the other day.

Toddler Adams was a little nervous of the water and clinging to me. Over in a neighbouring pool, meanwhile, was her big sister, taking part in a lesson and swimming independently.

What are these three stages of parenting I’m talking about and why are they like swimming lessons? To my mind it goes something like this;

Beginner’s lessons

Helen started formal lessons at the age of four. Every child was accompanied by a parent and they were rarely, if ever, more than arm’s length away.

This represents those early years when your children are completely dependent on you. They don’t want to go far and you won’t let them do anything risky.

Stage one

After a short while, Helen progressed to the next stage. As a parent this took a little adjustment as neither my wife nor I were allowed into the pool with our child. We sat at the edge, fully clothed and watched as a swimming instructor took control of our daughter. Helen’s confidence grew and it was quite obvious she didn’t need or want us interfering in her lessons.

As an aside, my wife took her mother to watch Helen on one occasion. Apparently Granny was poised at the edge and looked more than once like she was going to dive into the pool to rescue Helen, such was her discomfort.

In fairness, I can relate to this. It was a major change to get used to, moving from being on hand to help Helen if anything went wrong to leaving her with someone else.

This represents the school years. Your child is building in confidence but you have to let them explore the world and make mistakes. Sure, you’re on hand to help, but you can’t hover over them or get too involved.


Here we are, the stage that Helen has now arrived at. She’s in a larger group with only one instructor. On a good day she will swim the entire width of the pool without any help.

My wife and I are no longer at the edge of the pool. We’re even further away; in the neighbouring pool with our youngest. We look over longingly to see how our eldest child is getting on and she’s laughing, swimming and doing just fine. We hope to catch her eye and give her a wave, but it rarely happens.

This represents the late teenager years. It’s that time when she’ll be living independently. We may hear from her every now and again but will be assuming that no news is good news.

As Toddler Adams clung on to me the other day, I looked over to that pool and I could see my life flashing before me. As if to prove the point, I realised that, just like the fiercely independent tenager, I hadn’t called my mother in over a week and that I must get on and do so.

That’s my theory. Do you agree? Can you relate to this? Perhaps you think I’m barking mad. Whatever your thoughts, please leave a comment below, I’d be interested to know.

Above image; MasterFinally. Image reproduced under Creative Commons 3.0 agreement. For more information and links to the various Creative Commons agreements, please follow this link to my disclosure page.

22 thoughts on “Three stages of parenting: like swimming lessons”

  1. Swimming lessons are so important as it’s one of those things that every kids should know. Our 6 year old goes swimming and although he is still learning, he is much more confident in the water now. Great to hear it from another parents view on swimming.

    1. Swimming = essential. It’s something I’m very hot on because I didn’t learn until compatitively late in my childhood.

  2. It sounds like a good analogy! It has, however, served to exacerbate my anxiety that my children (mainly as a consequence of my inept parenting) still cannot swim independently (or, indeed, at all) at 9 and 7. What does this say about the stage of parenting we are in?!!
    Nothing good methinks!

  3. I love this way of looking at it, it seems so true. I keep promising my little one we’ll get back in the pool when the weather has warmed up a bit. He’s only two so there’s no rush but I definitely want him to be a confident swimmer because I never was!! #bigfatlinky

    1. Good luck when yo get swimming again. PArt of the reason I’m so hot on swimming is that I couldn’t do it until I was eight.

  4. What a great way at looking at it. You’ve explained it brilliantly. Spot on and so true. It has also shown how important swimming is. My two love being in the water and always have. Thanks for linking up to the #bigfatlinky

    1. Glad you like the analogy Martyn. Our eldest is fearless. We unleashed something in her when she started swimming lessons. We have to keep up with the lessons now because she just loves teh water so much and we need to know she’s safe around it. Little sister isn’t too far behind either!

  5. I find there’s plenty to identify with there. With my kids, I hadn’t experienced the beginner’s stage where the parent and child are together in the the pool in the lesson. Whose benefit did you feel that was for? I would suspect the parent’s more than the child’s, in many cases.

    1. I am going to politely disagree. If you can image a swimming pool full of three and four year olds, they need one on one attention. Some of them are terrified of the water while others are utterly fearless. It’s the latter group you have to watch most as they do all kinds of crazy stuff! You’re right though, mums and dads almost certainly want to be in the water with their offspring at this sta

  6. Great analogy! I’ve found that sometimes parenting is like swimming as well. You can read about swimming in 20 different books, but you’re not going to understand it until you get your feet wet! Some of us just dived right in! Great post!

  7. Great analogy! I can totally see that parenting is like this. Im enjoying the beginners lessons and so will come for advice when I move onto stage 1! Thanks for linking up 🙂

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  9. Oliver Messner

    Great analogy. Never would have thought to look at it like that.

    From an early age I spent a large part of my time in the water. Either in pools, dams or the ocean and have taught my two little angels/monsters how to swim. While the eldest had swimming lessons (it was mandatory in our previous country of residence) I am busy teaching the little one at the moment.

    As we now live right next to the ocean and swim a lot of the time. They are both doing well and the eldest swims like an eel.
    Going back to part where you refer to the teenage years, she indeed does not need nor want my help anymore and it actually makes me feel a bit sad.

    I have told her to stop growing up so quickly.

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