Monday, May 12, 2008

Off the Deep End

I am having trouble accessing Blogger today (including comments), so I am moblogging.  Also, my apologies to Liz over at Los Angelista -- I have tried responding to your comment a couple of times, but no go! I'll try again tomorrow...

Nearly 60 percent of black children can't swim

New study underlies efforts to prevent drowning, boost sports participation


A recent survey by USA Swimming found that 58% of African-American children can't swim, and that Black children drown at a rate almost three times the overall rate.


Now, I can swim, but I don't like to. I almost drowned in a YMCA swimming pool when I was four during "free swim" time at summer camp, and ever since then, I hate being in water over my head. Sweet Dub swims like he was born to it, and knowing of my fear of the water, he was determined to teach Viva how to swim (and how to LOVE to swim) from a very young age. 


At the outset, Viva was fearless. She would launch off the side of the pool and plunge right in, paddling around even when her teeth were chattering. She just didn't want to get out. And then, a couple of years ago, she started "learning" how to swim at day camp. And all of a sudden, she was not so fearless. Sweet Dub was furious. We don't know what exactly happened, but suddenly she did seem to be a bit dubious about the water. "They put the FEAR in her!" he howled angrily.


Not long after that, we moved from the apartment building where we had a pool at our disposal whenever we wanted it, and to a house where there is a yard, but no pool aside from the kiddie pool we throw out there and fill with the hose.


I recently took Viva over to a friend's for a playdate. They live in a luxury apartment building, and they have a pool. I watched Viva and her friend swimming around, and I realized her friend is hugely confident in the water – she is not quite five, yet swims quite ably from the shallow to the deep end and back. Viva, on the other hand, is constantly getting water up her nose, swallowing water, and refusing to get her face wet.


Now: last year, when we went to Hawaii, we bought Viva a lifejacket. This is because we knew we would be swimming in the open ocean, with a strong undertow. Viva now insists on wearing this lifejacket every time she swims, whether in a pool or the open water. It is a security blanket. I hate it, although I haven't commented on it much beyond, "Are you sure you want to take it? You're such a good swimmer I don't think you need it." Viva always assures me that she does in fact need it.


An added wrinkle: the African-American hair. Viva has lots and lots of hair. It is naturally kinky and naturally very dry. The chlorine really does a job on her hair and makes it even more fragile. It makes it harder to comb through and more subject to breakage. I do not need an extra struggle over her hair (yet another reason for her to hate swimming). This year, I would love to get her into a good swimming program, but I'm considering getting her hair braided to protect it. 


Sweet Dub looks concerned. "Are you sure you really want to do that?" he says. "They just braid their hair so tight. I know I've seen little girls come back from having their hair done and their face looks like this–" and he stretches his face back with his hands in that universal symbol for "bad facelift."  "And then we'll have to listen to her whining about how her head hurts."


Oh my God. Do you see?


I am trying to make sure my child will not drown, and if getting her hair braided tight* is the price we must pay, then so be it.


* Although I am not down with the dreaded traction alopecia.  I don't want my baby to end up bald.


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sploo said...

Get the African ladies to braid it. They know what they're doing. And they can do it fast, too. The Amazing One gets hers braided every summer and you know how much hair she has. No traction alopecia ever! Angela Davis eat your heart out in envy!

She'll look so cute in little corn rows with beads, you'll want to eat her up! Once Asha had glow in the dark beads. She picked them. Not me.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

Splooey, email me with the African ladies' contact info. I am definitely down with that!

I can't wait to see how GAW-juss Viva will look with them in!

Los Angelista said...

Okay, I can't swim worth a lick because of a similar mishap at a pool in Montreal when I was three. I've been meaning to sign my boys up from swim lessons at LACC but haven't gotten around to it. I feel awful because I know there are kids older than them that know how. I figure I should learn too so that I'm a good role model and can actually take them to a pool to practice it. But I'm scared. Sigh!

And I hear you on the hair because my mom would never let me take swimming lessons after the pool mishap because she didn't want to have to re-press my hair every couple of days. Do the braids, she'll be fine and it's better to have a face lift forehead than to drown.

BTW, Sploo, if you could be so kind, email me with the African ladies contact info too...I was just thinking about getting my hair braided and have no idea where/how! :)

Lisa Blah Blah said...

LA: I looked at the LACC site and noticed that in addition to swim classes for adults and kids, there is also a Water Exercise class. That may just be perfect for my preggo self, tho' I am an eensy bit scared to show myself in a maternity Speedo.

My mom and grandparents sent me to the Y for several summers, so I did end up learning how to swim. THEN! In college! The most horrible thing! You had to pass a swim test to graduate -- some alum had drowned and her parents donated an obscene amount of $$ for a new gymnasium with the stipulation that a swim test be part of the graduation requirements. As I recall, I had to demonstrate two strokes, swim laps for ten minutes, tread water and float for 2 minutes. I waited until a few weeks before Commencement before summoning up the nerve to do it. It actually wasn't too bad...

I bet you could easily learn to swim in a good adult swimmers' class, with someone who understands your fear. I think our experiences are not uncommon. And you are already in great physical shape, right? :-)

E. said...

My little five-year-old white boy can't swim and hates putting his head under the water. It's all our fault, because we didn't start him swimming early enough and now we're trying to make up for lost time. But we've already got eight-month-old Roo in swimming classes, and she loves it. Got to get them in as babies.

Lisa Blah Blah said...

e: Good for you for getting Roo into the water early! She will no doubt be like a little amphibian. I'm hoping that as the summer progresses, I'll be posting about the vast strides Viva makes in terms of her confidence in the water. You do the same! (I mean about O, obviously. :-))