When I grew up in Beaumaris, a bayside suburb in Melbourne, we had a pool. From an early age we learned how to swim. My Dad’s Dad taught him how to swim and he said his method worked so he was going to teach my brother and I the same. My brother James had just been born so Mum wasn’t keen for him to learn just yet.
My Grandfather Cliff was a farmer. They farmed sheep. It’s a tough life being a farmer and you’re never short on things to do. Taking your kids to swimming lessons wasn’t an option. In fact, it didn’t even exist in the country. So you needed to get your kids swimming safely stat! Cliff’s style was what we would now call ‘highly unconventional’. But it worked. He would go to the river, drop Dad in the water and wait for him to come to the surface. He did this over and over. Dad learned how to swim.
My Dad thought this would be an efficient way for us to learn how to swim. Easy considering we had a pool and a good way to save on swimming lessons. Now let’s be clear. He was standing right there and if I were in trouble he would pull me out. I don’t really remember it much. I did become a school swimming champion though. My Dad says thanks to him. Hmmm.
What I do remember is this pool game he would play with my brother and I when we were older called ‘drown the baby’. Which was pushing our heads under the water, watching us swim up and then doing it again. We hated it but we kept coming back for more. When Mum would see what he was doing she would run outside and loose her s*&t! Thank God for Mum. Dad said it made us resilient.
It did help when I got dumped by a massive wave body surfing in Queensland on a family holiday. I got tumbled over and over again and as soon as I came up for air it would push me down again.
So was this way of learning to swim good or bad? I don’t think that’s the question. It happened so I can’t change it. The beliefs that I created about it are the important things. I believed (still do) that Dad cared about our safety. I believed that Dad was investing time in us. It was hard. It also worked.
When I would tell people that story some would get outwardly judgemental of his parenting methods. They would tell me that’s not ok. I didn’t think much of it until they told me that. As far as Dad was concerned he was doing his best. He was equipping us for life.
It’s interesting how other people’s thoughts can influence your perspective right?! I wasn’t unhappy with my swimming lessons until other people told me it ‘wasn’t ok’. How much do we take on board from others that we need to listen to. How much should we not listen to?
Seth Godin, marketing extraordinaire says: ‘One piece of feedback is not the source of truth’. He says that the first piece of feedback we get can skew our truth. ‘That’s the moment of maximum fragility, and so our radar is on high alert’. Our fight or flight is in action mode. So we may grip this information as the truth. It’s one perspective. It may be useful, or it may not. You get to decide.
I think that listening to others with ears wide open is good. Then decide.
PS – I decided to teach my kids to swim a different way. Just so you know.