[Edited Oct. 17th: Now with crowd-sourced additions!]
When my kid was six months old, I signed us up for swimming lessons. I felt like such a PARENT! But the reality of a wet, cold, wriggly not-yet-sitting-up baby with a limited (VERY limited!) bench space and a stroller-less changeroom complicated my idyllic views of myself as the super swimming parent. But we managed to make it to most classes, even if it was the biggest ordeal of the week. Sadly, he didn't get an official badge (though I made him one to commemorate his ingenious inchworm kick!)
We signed up again in the winter, and were shocked that even though we forgot to register at exactly 7am, we still managed to secure our first choice class time. Turns out no one signs up for swimming lessons in the winter because a) WINTER and b) see A. We got to the first class, which was an enormous feat unto itself, but I got the times wrong and we "swam" for the last 15 minutes of class. And then Jack had a cold, or I had a cold, and then a doctor's appointment, and then it was so cold, and then snow, and then before you know it, we missed every single class, except for those first 15 minutes. Whoops.
Jack warmed to the water again this summer, and we started swimming lessons again on Tuesday. This time, Jack can sit. Stand! Walk! It is a game changer. So much easier to get him out of a wet bathing suit and into clothes! It's super loud, our teacher is a huge fan of yelling, which is a bit much for my little guy, and it took a while to get into the water, but once we did, it was great. And this time around, I'm armed with a few extra tips:
1). I bike over. Or I'll drive when it gets too cold. The walk was just too long, lugging bags of towels, snacks, etc.
2). I pack a million towels. Okay, four. One for me, one for him, one for the floor for Jack to stand on and one for good luck. That was we can both be wrapped in towels the minute we get out of the pool so no one hits the I'm-so-cold-I-need-to-scream phase and no one has to stand on the grimy tiles.
3). We do whatever we want. Jack isn't in to jumping in, or kicking, or (god forbid!) dunking his head under. So we do our own thing. We gets balls and boats and splash around and sometimes blow bubbles and sing our own songs. I'm sure the instructor hates me, but whatever. This isn't about her...
4). Jack outgrew his swim diaper, but because I'm really not sure how many times we'll actually make it to the pool, I picked up some disposable swim diapers. I'm usually anti-disposable, but man oh man, they're a game changer on the please-don't-poop-on-the-ride-over-mad-dash to the pool. We'll get him another "permanent" swim diaper for the summer when we're in the water all the time, but for now, we're going with toss aways.
5). Bags! I pack extra tote bags so I can have a bag of his clothes, my clothes, extra towels, etc. Makes the post-swim change way faster.
6). Phone in a ziploc baggie. Too many puddles and wild children to risk a bag-less phone.
7). This is probably common sense, but it's taken me a while to figure out: Pack all the warm clothes. Hoodies, toques, trackpants. It seems like overkill on the way over, but is so welcome on the way home.
And crowd-sourced additions:
8). SNACKS! Bring all the snacks. It might be the only way to get changed yourself...
9). If you've got evening lessons, put your kid straight into PJs post-swim (Brilliant, Carolyn!)
10). Keep a swim bag packed and at the ready to keep the pre-class mania at a minimum (Good call, Katherine! I also keep an LZV swim bag at the ready.)
11). If your kiddo is in the pre-sitting up phase, change 'em on a bench against a wall so they don't roll off. (Good tip, Kate!) I'd also add corners are the best spots to stick your little one (and use your legs to keep them put while you change).
12). Wear *your* suit to the pool. Totally key. Changing one human is hard enough. (Though does make for a lot of commando trips home, don't forget to BRING YOUR UNDERPANTS!) Good one, Erica!
13). A bumbo. A friend used to bring a bumbo with her to swimming lessons to keep #2 still while wrangling #1. Brilliant as always, Jess!
14). There is a pool in Ottawa that HAS A PACK & PLAY IN THE CHANGE ROOM so you can stick your kid in it while you change. It might be worth moving cities just for that... The changer oom at our local is so wee strollers are banned, but if yours is big enough, it might be worth suggesting to pool management??
There was a mom of an older kid who offered to hold Jack last fall while I changed and I almost wept from her kindness. I have yet to be able to pay it forward, but I'm gonna!
And a note to the new-ish moms in the change room who were so embarrassed about their bikini lines – NO ONE'S LOOKING! I swear. No one cares. (I tell myself that at length swim, too!). But really. Who cares if you haven't shaved/waxed/whatevered. Everyone's too busy juggling wriggly, slippery kids. No one's judging anyone...
Most of all, I aspire to sit on the deck while Jack swims like Kerry now does. One day, one day...Her ode to Guardian Swim is perfect and hilarious and gives me hope for the days where I'll be able to read while Jack does bobs/treadswater/stride jumps into the deep end...