Swimming lessons pay off for Ty

Dad Days of Summer: While Momania’s Theresa Walsh Giarrusso takes a vacation, local dad and sportswriter Andy Johnston will be filling in. You can e-mail him at ajcmomania@gmail.com.

I was beginning to think Ty would never learn to swim, mostly because I spent the past two summers trying to teach him.

This year, I delegated that responsibility to someone else.

Andy and his son Ty.

Andy and his son Ty.

And guess what?

Ty can swim.

It’s not always pretty.

He doesn’t kick real well, which makes it look like he’s swimming with a big bag of quarters tied to his waist, but he’s improving and he’s more confident in the water.

He jumps off the side of the pool, dives to get toys off the bottom, wants me to throw him up so he’ll land in the water and he can already swim the width of our neighborhood pool.

All that might not seem like much, but is quite an accomplishment considering where he was two months ago. Theresa wrote about swim lessons last month, so thanks for indulging a proud dad.

Like a lot of dads, I think I can teach Ty what he needs to know to be a successful boy in today’s world.

Hit, throw and catch.

Climb trees.

Listen to his mother (we’re both still working on that).


Grill steaks. :)

And many other things.

I’ve succeeded in some areas and he’s progressing in others, but I needed help when it came to swimming.

Group lessons at the Y didn’t do much good, so we followed the suggestion of some friends around the neighborhood and sought the help of Sarah, a college girl who lives down the street.

With a sweet voice and persistent personality, she gained his confidence, helped him trust himself in the water and quickly turned him into Aquaman.

Seriously, we can’t keep the kid out of water.

If he’s not in the pool, he wants to play in the sprinklers. If not that, he wants to spend time in the bath or shower.

Now, I have to find somebody to teach him to ride his bike.

Were you able to teach them how to swim, ride their bike, etc.? Or did you need help?

Was there a breakthrough moment for your kids when it came to swimming or some other part of growing up to master?

Do you have tips for the parents whose kids haven’t learned to swim?

- By Andy Johnston, for the Momania blog

17 comments Add your comment


July 26th, 2011
1:13 pm

I can’t understand or comprehend NOT teaching your child (or in Andy’s case, having someone do it) how to swim.
If you don’t, you are putting your child at risk of death, probably for their entire life, because if they don’t learn young, they will probably remain too scared to “take the plunge”. Then, that plunge comes where it is not expected, and the non-swimmer panics and dies. Yes, dies.
I have even known pathetically insane people who, don’t know how to swim, and go out on party boats, where drinks are flowing. Disaster awaits the fool.


July 26th, 2011
1:20 pm

My two older kids took lessons starting the summer before they turned 4 in September at the local pool. It was rough for the older one–getting dropped off the diving board on the first day–but by day 4 of 10 she was fine. Little brother also took to it. With the youngest, I had no $ for lessons so we were just encouraging her and of course showing her how much we enjoyed swimming. She clung grimly to the side of the pool,or to the side of someone’s face, then suddenly one day, she let go and started swimming! It was literally like that. She wasn’t a swimmer, then she was. In a couple of days she was swimming the width and then the length of the pool. This was all right before she turned 4. Is that a magic age?

I have encouraged the older one to put the granddaughter into lessons but it hasn’t happened yet. She knows her daughter best, so I will keep my mouth shut. Gd loves water, and I think she could learn this summer, but…. They live very near a YMCA and I have said I will pay for lessons if that would help. Maybe this winter.


July 26th, 2011
2:01 pm

Kudos to you! It is a proud moment to see your kids master a skill. The bike riding will come…just be sure to use a helmet! We had a terrible crash into a tree and the helmet saved a lot.


July 26th, 2011
2:17 pm

I was able to teach my son on my own when he was 5 (2 summers ago). Thankfully, he was never afraid of the water, so we just progressed from doggie paddling to swimming. It helped a lot to let him wear a mask when we taught him to swim with his face in the water, so he wouldn’t get water up his nose. He’s a confident swimmer, although his form could use some work. We’ve been working on that this summer. I was a swimmer in school, so I’ve been trying to help him work on more proper form to allow him to get more power with each stroke. He seems to really enjoy that good form makes him faster!


July 26th, 2011
2:24 pm

My daughter loves anything active. I’ve helped her with some things, her mom with others. The biggest thrill is watching the look on their faces when it finally “clicks” and they get something.


July 26th, 2011
4:22 pm

I almost drowned when I was 7. After that I had a fear of water for a very long time. I didn’t learn to swim until college. My brothers took lessons at Chastain, but I refused to go and my parents (really my mom, my dad wanted to make me) didn’t push it. I made sure my kids learned how to swim. It took my son a couple of summers, however today he and his sister are great swimmers.


July 26th, 2011
8:51 pm

I SUCKED at teaching my kids to swim. They just were not naturally relaxed in the water like I was so I just don’t think we “got” eachother. Hired a lady that some call “the swim Nazi”. She was wonderful, got my kids swimming beautifully in a couple of weeks with no fear. She is still one of their favorite people ever.

The bike thing is a different story (although I probably would have sucked at that too). My husband, the road/mountain bike genius, simply took the pedals off the kids bikes. They learned to coast down the hill. Getting their balance was easy w/out pedals in the way. Once they were balanced, he put the pedals back on. Both of them learned in a few hours. Both of them were 4 yrs old. I swear by this method.

I still remember the happieness and confidence in my son’s face when he had his first successful swim day. He could have taken on the world. And my daughter, the day she learned to ride a bike and would not come inside, even after dark The joy on her face is imprinted in my mind. These were huge milestones for us. Thanks for the reminder.

tayta n mokie

July 26th, 2011
9:51 pm

needed help with the swim lessons, taught her the bike myself….it took a few years but she finally got at age 8! can someone give me help on teaching my daughter to skate??!!!


July 26th, 2011
10:37 pm

I am divided on this article. I am teaching my grandson to swim (3 years old) after taking lessons at the Y. He has a super teacher and she taught him a lot. Now, he swims several laps at the pool 3 times a week and loves doing it and I am so proud. On the other hand I tried to teach my daughter and it was a flop. On the other hand, the biggest regret I have in life was my dad never teaching me sports. His philosophy was that he would push to hard, not understand or get frustrated with my development. He was a very successful 3 sport high school coach in Colorado winning many state titles and turning down several college offers. To this day I wish he would have tried to teach me as I feel I wasted a lot of my athletic ability. But then, who knows? So, I guess the answer is to just support and communicate. Also, one of the most important thing to learn is how to swim and respect for the water. It opens a whole new world.


July 26th, 2011
10:59 pm

This hits home for me. I tried everything to teach my 8 year old to swim. We went to a local swim school, the YMCA and a local lady who everyone around here swears by. I tried bribery, patience, threatening and pleading. She just hated having water anywhere near her face. Sure, we tried to work around that and teach her to doggy paddle, but even that didn’t work. Before this summer, I told her that this would be the summer that she would learn how to swim because I would not wait another year. (My younger daughter, just turned 6 a couple of weeks ago, wasn’t as scared of the water, but picked up on her sister’s difficulties in the water and became afraid to do anything also)

So I too found a “swim Nazi” (maybe the same woman as homeschooler?) who dunked the entire class in the first 2 minutes. The pool was chaos for at least 15 minutes until they mostly calmed down, and all of the mothers looked at each other uncomfortably, but we all supported the teacher and every kid (except for one stubborn one) was swimming by the end of the day. Hallelujah, I love that woman, although my kids refused to go back after the last class.

But they can swim to the side of the pool if they fell in the deep end, and they love swimming. So now I just need to come up with a plan to improve their form so that they can swim longer distances. Working on it…

Also working on bike riding on slopes. My 8 year old learned to ride her bike last year, but only at the park where it’s mostly flat. Not bad, but considering the amount of hills in this town, pretty impractical. As soon as it cools off a little, we’ll go back outside because I can only last about 15 minutes running around with her in this heat.

I also agree with homeschooler on the pedal thing. We were in Europe for 2 1/2 weeks this month, and all the little kids over there have those bikes with no pedals. They start when they’re little so they just scoot around, and as they naturally go faster they learn to balance. So adding pedals is a cinch when they get older. I wish I had done that before mine were too old to think about it…


July 26th, 2011
11:34 pm

My wife and I own a pool and that has been a driving force for our almost 3 year-old boy to learn how to swim. He’s taking to it quite quickly. My mother never knew how to swim and we lived on Lake Allatoona! It’s imperative to teach our children how to swim. Good luck out there!


July 27th, 2011
12:08 am

I love Jeff’s innocent, yet condescending comment, “The biggest thrill is watching the look on their faces when it finally “clicks” and they get something.”


July 27th, 2011
4:09 am

Swimming is a great thing for a child to master. Swimming on a neighborhood team is a source of companionship and accomplishment. My youngest was on a swim team beginning at age 8. That was 13 years ago and now he is entering his senior year in college in which he competes and receives a half scholarship for his hard work.

We found the swim team athletes to be very independent, hard working and committed. There were just a handful who had academic problems. Plus, they did not get into trouble at night. After swimming 5,000 yards a day they are just to tired to go out and cause trouble. Be cautious of the year round swimming programs. They tend to consume a child’s afternoon and weekends and burn out the child before they get to high school much less college.


July 27th, 2011
11:16 am

How is Jeff’s comment condescending?

Both of my boys were taught to swim and ride bikes by my husband and I. We didn’t have any issues with either activity.

I think the earlier kids are exposed to water and taught to swim the better. We started when the boys were babies….long before they had the chance to become afraid.


July 27th, 2011
11:29 am

I taught my daughter to ride her bike, by taking off ONE training wheel, not both. She learned how to balance, but also had that “safety net” of the other training wheel. Within an hour, she had bicycle riding mastered!!!

She also took to the water like a fish. She has been swimming since she was 6 months old.


July 27th, 2011
1:22 pm

JJ – we used the one training wheel trick as well. I had forgotton until I read your post.

I think one trick to teaching kids to ride bikes (and other activities as well) is to keep your own fear and panic tucked safely away. Hearing Mom gasp or scream or running over at every little topple to make sure junior is ok – doesn’t help. It instills more fear. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen a kid fall and be absolutely fine until Mom or Dad run overs panic stricken. Then, and only then, does the kid start crying and screaming.


July 27th, 2011
4:33 pm

I did not get the condescending thing ether. Did I miss something?

Dad taught both of ours to drive too. I was simply not up for the task. FYI… that day will be here before any of you know it. It was 8 years ago that our son got his license and 2 years ago for our daughter! The time has flown!