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Watching swimming lesson takes me back - Valerie Baldowski

I had a most enjoyable experience Saturday. My son is taking swimming lessons, and on that day, the parents were allowed to sit in and watch.

Usually, the instructor shoos away the parents after the kids are brought to the pool area, which is a good way to cut down on distractions.

But Saturday, the moms and dads quietly sat on the bleachers, observing. Some took pictures. Looking on brought back childhood memories of when I learned to swim, somewhere between kindergarten and first grade.

My best friend across the street had an in-ground pool, but with no fence around it, and when I heard the other kids splashing around in the pool, I wouldn't wait for any grownup to accompany me. I would head straight over, and jump right in, if given half the chance. I absolutely loved the water, and would stay in until dragged out. Maybe, it's because I'm an Aquarian, the water sign.

Finally, after a few panicky times when my mother couldn't find me immediately when she called me, she enrolled me in swimming lessons. I'm sure she was worried I'd fall into the neighbor's pool and drown, otherwise.

I took several sets of lessons in an indoor pool, and if I remember correctly, they were in the winter, because my mother insisted I dry my hair before going outside. Moms are like that.

I distinctly remember hanging on to the side of the pool with the other kids, kicking with my legs straight, to learn the proper way to kick when swimming. I remember learning to put my head under water and float on my back. I remember learning to do the dog paddle, to get myself from one end of the pool to the other.

Watching my son sitting on the edge of the pool with the other kids, and listening to the instructor outline basic water-safety rules, I had the strangest feeling of deja vu. Like I was at that age, my son is not afraid to jump into the deep end of the pool when he sees the bigger kids doing the same.

During the lesson, the kids all put on life jackets and marched down to the deep end with the instructor, taking turns jumping in one at a time. When my son caught sight of me, he grinned proudly.

Learning to swim as a kid is not just important, it can literally be a life-saver. But aside from that, it's just plain fun. What makes summer more enjoyable is having the self-confidence and the ability to be able to jump into the pool -- or the lake -- with the knowledge that you can keep yourself afloat and propel yourself forward on your own.

I can recall the excitement of learning a new skill in the pool, proudly showing my mother what I learned in my latest swimming lesson, then trying it out and refining it in my friend's pool.

The younger the child is, the more easily he or she takes to the water. That's why I'm so relieved we finally took the plunge and started my son with lessons.

I don't think this will be the last of the youth swimming lessons. After these are done, I hope to sign him up for another series and continue the momentum.

I think we've just found ourselves a beautiful thing.

Valerie Baldowski covers government and politics for the Henry Daily Herald. She can be reached via e-mail at vbaldowski@henryherald.com.