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Tuesday, December 14, 2010  

In Deep

M. Edium sometimes seems to be in danger of becoming one of those "overscheduled" kids. In the past year, he's had piano lessons, karate, gymnastics, Lego League, and maybe even a playdate or two. We try to keep it from getting out of hand. For instance, karate has handily replaced gymnastics as his primary form of organized exercise and favorite activity, so he'll be dropping that when the term is up at the end of the year. Piano might not even count, because he only did that for eight weeks and didn't learn jack anyway. Lego League is also a short-term thing, but if he weren't playing Legos at school during that time he'd be doing it at home…well okay, actually he'd be at karate. Huh, maybe he does have kind of a full plate.

One thing we don't want to pull him out of, however, is swimming lessons. I mean, that's a safety thing, after all. We want to feel safe leaving him alone in the bath, right? He's been going to swimming since he was three, when we started the weekly lessons in the pool at the high school across the street. Couldn't beat the convenience; distance-wise, the pool is closer to our front curb than the back of our garage is. Plus, during the parent/child classes where I got into the pool with him, it meant that I only had to shower half as often as I do now. The problem is that it's community education, and all the bush-league red tape that entails. Well, that and the fact that the pool is in the middle of "renovations" that will keep it closed for a year and a half.

Last summer, we put him through a term of the lessons provided by the community center in the neighboring rich suburb. The only problem with that was that the lessons were priced for people who live in a rich suburb.

After a single-term return engagement to the pool across the street, we decided to go old-school by enrolling him in classes at the Y. (I was going to make that name Google-proof just in case, but I think it already is). He was in the "Eels" class for his first term. And his second. And third. And fourth.

At some point, Trash and I started to wonder if he was learning anything at all. Every evaluation sheet at the end of the term had check marks next to most of the skills -- all except the one about swimming alone for 20 feet without a flotation device. Which, you know, was the one we cared about.

Scheduling challenges with regard to his fifth(!) term as an Eel led us to try out a commercial "swimming school" that had been sending us big, glossy catalogs for some time. Yes, the lessons there are a hell of a lot more expensive, but the term is also longer, and how much economic sense did it make to keep paying for lessons where he wasn't learning anyway?

I have to admit, the first time I brought him there, I was horrified. To begin with, it's in a mall. The changing room (not a locker room, because there are no lockers) is crowded and chaotic, with stressed-out parents hovering over flocks of damp, directionless munchkins swarming underfoot. The pool itself is startlingly small -- especially after the Olympic-sized pool at the Y, only an eighth of which is being used for lessons at any given time. Here, every square inch of the pool is part of a "station" where some level of class is taking place all the time, with teachers apparently getting breaks that are no longer than the amount of time it takes for the current batch of kids to swap places with the next. Through the cacophony of a dozen teachers hollering over the ambient pool-echo at four dozen kids, you can often pick out key phrases that are obviously tattooed onto the brain matter of every staff member. Clearly it's all about maximizing efficiency. It looks less like a school than a factory where they make young swimmers, complete with floating veal pens.

But damn if it isn't working.

M. Edium started at the end of summer, unable to schlep himself through four cubic feet of water. Now he's torpedoing from one end of that floating veal pen to the other, if the torpedo in this metaphor has no guidance system and a bent propeller.

So obviously we're going to spring for the more expensive lessons again in the next term. I just wish that when we brought him to the Y, it had been the one on 92nd Street. I hear they're good about giving people their money back.

posted by M. Giant 8:54 PM 0 comments


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