I have just spent the last 5 days in Burlington, IA visiting Kerry’s family. It was a pleasant enough week as the weather and hospitality made for a relaxing time. I got to play golf twice, practice once, and had plenty of home cooking to fill my too-ample belly. Today was getaway day, and being July 3rd, I set Noon as our departure time in order to beat the crowds headed into downtown Chicago for the fireworks. Of course, the kids wake us up between 7 and 8, so we needed an activity for those 3-4 hours before we left. Kerry had the winning idea…Huck’s Harbor!
Huck’s Harbor is a surprisingly large water park that makes up only a portion of a huge family entertainment complex called Fun City, and is plopped right in the middle of the strip malls and fast food joints that lie on Roosevelt Ave. just north of Highway 34…yes, the same 34 that we in Chicago call Ogden Ave. In addition to Huck’s Harbor, Fun City features a resort/hotel, a children’s/young adult “arcade”, a bowling alley, at least 2 dining options, AND a casino. Not bad for a town of about 30,000 people.
So, we were off to Huck’s Harbor. The drive over from my mother-in-law’s house was all of 5 minutes…tops. The cost for two adults was $12 for the entire day, and the two kids under 3 were free. We purchased a “swimmers” diaper for Xavier for $2, changed into our rarely used swim gear, and moseyed on over to the indoor kiddie area. It was a pretty great setup with a gradual ramp to wade into the 1 ft. deep water which held an array of miniature water slides, a few of which were in the shape of such aquatic denizens as a frog and a fish. There were two of those mushroom/umbrella things which you could stay dry under, but got wet as you entered. There was also a bridge-like structure in the middle from which various styles of 2-3 foot high slides exited in every direction .
Xavier has been swimming twice in his young life before today…in back-to-back days down in Florida when he was 7 months old. He liked it then, but that was a long time ago. Xavier loves taking baths, but is not fond of the shower. He abhors getting water in his eyes, a boy made for the desert, I suppose. I, on the other hand, was a fish as a child. I have nothing but fond memories of swimming as far back as I can remember, and was quite proficient at it as well. Having children that like to swim (or at least know how) is important to me.
So, once we got Kerry and Hayden settled at a poolside table, I took Xavier’s hand, and we moved to the wade-in point. As we wandered in, I was relieved to feel the bathwater temperature of the pool…at least we wouldn’t be dealing with blue lips from the chill. Xavier handled this part pretty well, and strolled around the pool with me for several minutes. At some point shortly thereafter, we stopped, and I sat down in the water next to him, and started to lay back to show him that we could swim just like in the smaller bath back home. This did not go over well. Xavier’s lower lip began to quiver, the eyes squinted, and the crying began followed quickly by near screaming. I sat back up, of course, and held him, reassuring him that I was OK, and he would be too. I then picked him up and we strolled around the pool, stopping at every drenching opportunity to soak daddy’s head to demonstrate safety and fun. He was having none of it, but I didn’t want to give in so easy lest I foster a fear of water in him.
By this time, Grandma Kay showed up to watch Hayden, so Kerry came in for an assist. It was a fruitless effort however, as Xavier only continued to cry and plead to get out. At one point he even told Kerry that he pooped, and that we needed to go back to Grandma’s to change him (he didn’t — clever boy). We chose next to walk outside in the sun to warm up a bit, and check out the other attractions.
Aha! The Lazy River…surely an easy way to introduce him to the water. I grabbed an inner-tube, and sat him right on my stomach so he could slowly ride above the water around the complex. Well, he did stop crying, and even enjoyed himself for a brief moment as Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” played loud enough for me to mock dance with him. About halfway around, he had enough however, and wanted out. He held it together through the end of the circuit, but that was enough of Lazy River.
Next, we tried letting him watch me swim a couple laps in the adult pool. This he seemed to enjoy, though it did not make him want to get in the water any more than before, and reminded me how difficult lap swimming is when you haven’t done it in years. Once I caught my breath, we decided to attempt the kiddie pool once more before abandoning ship.
I carried Xavier in, and we moved to the corner of the pool right next to Kerry, Grandma Kay, and Hayden with a rope netting serving as a barrier between us and them…it didn’t go any better.
So, still not 100% ready to give up, I sat down and held him again. I moved back away from him slowly and asked him to follow, which he did. I then told him that if he walked all the way out of the pool and over to the table, all the while holding my hand, we could go back to Grandma’s for lunch before we left for home. He sucked up his last few tears, and made me proud…it’s the little victories, y’know? Kerry quickly wrapped him in a towel before he and I went to the locker room to change back into our street clothes.
So, I am not terribly concerned. I think he just needs more exposure to swimming. I am going to try to get him into the next session of lessons at our local pool to help warm him up to the idea of swimming. He is 2 years and 4 months old now. What are your experiences with your kid’s early attempts at swimming? Have we done any damage or missed a key entry point? Any sound advice, or just entertaining stories of commiseration are welcome!