Teaching Swim Lessons For Dummies

Dear Reader,

     Have you done the Daily-Post-Weekly-Writing-Challenge yet? No sooner had I posted my first letter to you, when I learned of this magical, word-press-sponsored, creativity-boosting smorgasbord (what a delicious word) of writing topics. If you haven’t jumped on this crazy hay ride of giggles yet, I strongly suggest you check it out.

     As for me, I would like to focus on my daily “comedy of errors”. It would not be a stretch to describe my life with that phrasing, but during the summer a more specific cast of characters come together to perform their bumbling, screaming, laughing, sneezing roles on a stage right in front of me. You can come watch them July through August, Monday through Thursday, 4 half-hour shows daily at my swimming pool.

     Firstly, I call it “my” pool only because I help run it, and not because I hold any kind of deed claiming legal ownership. I am the Supervising Lifeguard at an outdoor swimming pool in Northern Washington State. In addition to the glamorous job of guarding the pool, cleaning the bathrooms, doing all the paperwork, and taking well earned but good natured flack from my little family of lifeguards, I teach swim lessons to small children. If you have not yet had to joyful experience of caring for a child, you probably haven’t taken on swim lessons yet. Let me give you a summary of the average day.

9:20am: Shaking from fear of the little terrors headed our way, and the freezing morning fog rolling off the Pacific to shroud our outdoor facility in mist, we, the swim instructors, crouch in the 3 foot wading pool awaiting our doom.

9:22am: Please, please, pleasepleasepleasepleaseplease stop screaming little girl/boy/monster spawn, and get in the water. No, there aren’t any sharks here. In fact, nothing could live in this water with the amount of chlorine in it. Look, all of those bugs floating on the surface are dead because of it! Even that beetle over there is… OH SWEET BABY RAY, SOMEONE THROW IT OUT OF THE POOL. KILL IT, KILL IT! RUN CHILDREN, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

9:23am: Beetle has been safely removed and discarded. All instructors and children are safe to reenter the pool.

9:25am: We have successfully convinced all the children to blow bubbles out of their nose. Now if they would only do it in the water.

9:25 and 8 secondsam: On second thought, there is a lot of snot coming out of those noses. Maybe we should just blow bubbles out of our mouths.

9:30am: 2 kids have to pee. Wait… ok only one kid has to pee.

9:34am: Now that we have the whole class back together again, lets hold onto the side and use our big kicking legs! Please try to keep them to yourself, and under the surface of the water.

9:34am: Small tsunami ensues.

9:40am: 20 minutes of carefully planned teaching guides have been soaked, there is a dead bug in my gruesomely tangled mass of wet hair, and each of the students has taken a turn spitting water in my face as he/she/it has resurfaced after a bob. Hurrah for 10 minutes of play time!

9:50am: LESSONS ARE OVER, SO GET OUT!

10am: Rinse, repeat.

     This itinerary is not as varied as the typical day. All of these things happen regularly. However, once in awhile you get one of those especially thrilling days in which a kid poops, and or vomits in the pool, forcing lessons to be cancelled and rescheduled for a later date. Freezing and wet, we as the Lifeguards are forced to clean up the mess, file a report, and then GET BACK IN the water to finish later lessons. However nothing tops what we at the pool fondly refer to as “The Reluctant Swimmer”.

     Few of the younger children enjoy adventurous water exploration when their fear of drowning is fresh and raw in their little minds. But there always exists in each session of teaching an extraordinarily obstinate child with the delusion that they control their world. This delusion is most often encouraged or enabled by their parents. Screaming, crying, kicking, hitting, and biting all at the same time should be physically impossible and must be exhausting; the Reluctant Swimmer is able to keep maintain all of those things for 15 minutes without stopping for breath. In an effort to stay out of a pool he/she/it could easily stand in, the little darling with hurl lisped and slurred comments of rage that, while technically harmless, contain as much venom and hatred as the cruelest swear words. Once in the water, it quickly becomes obvious that this child is not afraid of the pool. Quite the contrary, this kid knows how to spit water in our face not as a necessity, but as a specific maneuver. All the whiles, as you attempt to maintain your sanity and the other students’ safety, the parent hovers concernedly and impotently at the side of the pool saying nothing to assist you or their child. There is no one method that works every time. If you encounter this predatory animal, play dead until it grows weak from ravaging your flesh, and then run. Or give it a good, quick dunk.

     I love my job, and I think children are precious. All I can say is that all Gremlins start out as adorable Mogwai.

That is all.

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