Over the past 2 weekends, both my daughters received swim diplomas. Miss P got her C level last week and Miss V swam her way to the B level diploma this week. These diplomas do not predict Olympic gold medals for swimming, or guarantee a place on the school swim team. This process is all about safety and survival in the event they fall into one of those beautiful canals Holland is so famous for.
|Miss P with her C diploma.|
A. While wearing short pants, a short sleeve shirt and shoes, student should be able to jump into water, tread water for 15 seconds, and show mastery of the four swim strokes (back and breast stroke, back and breast crawl) by swimming 12.5 meters using each.
|Miss P jumps in the water during A diploma test.|
|Miss P in long sleeve shirt, long pants and shoes for B diploma.|
|Miss V displays her B diploma.|
|Miss P jumps off the high board during C diploma test.|
Learning to Swim - Easy as A-B-C
Today as Miss P took the swim test to get her Level A diploma, I got misty-eyed. Looking at my child swim so confidently, I was taken back to the time a few years ago when she took her first swim lesson.
In Holland certain things happen at certain times. For example, when you are four years old, you start school and most likely, swim lessons. The country’s National Swim Certification program,Swim ABC, is marked by three consecutive levels of training with increasing difficulty and a focus on safety and handling difficult situations in the water, such as strong currents and waves. Children are taught four basic swim strokes: the back and breast stroke and the back and breast crawl. They also learn to swim under water, swim to the bottom of the pool, to react quickly if the fall into the water with clothes on and how to jump into and safely get out of water.
Miss P was four, in school and we were in Holland, thus it was time for swim lessons. Once a week I’d take her to swim class, and with my then toddler, Miss V on my lap, sit for an hour in absolute agony watching through the plexi-glass window that separated the on-lookers from the pool as my child looked for an escape route and listening to her huil* (pronounced howl) as if she were being tortured. After a few weeks of this I took her out of the class, the hassle of bundling up my children, taking them out and driving what seemed like 100 miles (but was actually only 6) on those short, dark days of winter, then uncoiling my pre-schooler from my body and handing her over to who in her mind must have looked remarkably like the bogeyman, was more than I could bear.
A few months later I found another class. The pool was smaller with only a few children per class, it was closer to home and most importantly, the class was at a time when Mr. Man could take her. Let him detach her limbs from his body as she tries to avoid getting in the water. Let him listen to the blood-curdling screams. Funny thing is, none of this happened on his watch. For Daddy, there were no tears; only a brave face and a serious attempt to conquer her fear of water.
Now, almost 5 years later, as Miss P jumped into the pool fully clothed, swam to the bottom of the pool and demonstrated her mastery of the four strokes and her ability to jump into and get out of the water safely, there was no sign of that terrified four year old that I used to drag huilen* to the pool. In her place was a confident, competent swimmer who conquered her fear of the water.
*Dutch meaning cry. My favorite Dutch word because of its onomatopoeia quality.