Raising children in a different culture than the one we grew up in, sometimes I find myself wondering if the perspective the teachers or people in positions of authority who come in contact with my children are "correct". There is no one right way. And who is to say what end result means you have done a good job as a parent?
I took KB and KG to try out a new swimming class with the head coach of a swim team. She gives private lessons as well as coach the swim team for the kids who join the team from the neighborhood. She is a strong, somewhat reticent, but friendly enough person. I took KB and KG for one trial lesson with her and we all liked her teaching. She is firm with them without yelling at them. The next day, I decided to also try out the "swim team" lesson. After their half hour class, they had a half hour break and then they had to swim for another hour as part of the swim team lesson. This was the first time KB was doing anything longer than half hour of active stroke swimming. He plays with his friends in the pool for two hours. But it is not the same since it is just play. So when they started the swim team lesson, KB was OK with it for a short while. But about 20 min into it, I saw his face looking tense. Ten minutes later, I knew he was on the verge of tears. The coach standing outside his lane said, "He is OK".
Ten minutes later I saw him at the end of the lane with tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was OK and he said he feels left out because every one else was better than him. I didn't know that the other kids were all wearing fins for that segment of the session. Naturally KB was not able to keep up with them. I went and told the head coach that I was pulling him out since he had just had a class and he was also not happy since he was not prepared for this with fins etc. She shrugged very disapprovingly and said, "OK if that's what you want to do". KB's friend who was trying out the team also looked very unhappy. He complained that he was tired. His mom went and asked the coach what she should do about it. The coach said, "If you pull him out now, he will think he is in charge. Let him be in the water. He will manage".
That got me thinking...is it so bad for a seven year old to feel like he is in charge of that situation? If he is really feeling tired, if it is the first time he was trying it out, he has had a class just before this and doesn't feel like he has the energy to cope, is it so wrong for him to want to come out of the pool just then? Why shouldn't a seven year old have reasonable rights like that? Why shouldn't he feel in charge? I know that if I had left KB there and insisted he finish it he would have survived. But why put him through that torture? I still feel I did the right thing. KG too was in the same class but her attitude is totally different. She does not get perturbed by all this and she has a little more stamina than KG because she is a better eater. She enjoyed herself, finished the class and came out after the hour.
I went the next morning, got him the fins and kickboard and scheduled a semi private lesson for KG and KB with the head coach. KB learned how to use the fins and kick board. He learned intently the butterfly stroke. I then took him to a friend's community pool and he practiced all four strokes with the fins on. He told me today that he is now prepared for the swim team. I feel, for his personality, I did the right thing. He likes to be in control of the situation, feel prepared and do his best. He did not enjoy not knowing what he was doing and he pressured himself to keep up with the kids who had fins on and he was truly exhausted. It remains to be seen how he will fair in the next swim team class. But culturally, the head coach is sure her way is right. I should not have pulled him out. She said to my friend, "It would be a realllly bad idea to pull him out" when she wanted to get her son out because he was tired. But the way I raise my children, I feel they have their rights in certain situations and it is especially my responsibility as an adult to make sure they know that their wishes are respected and that I am in charge of it and not some teacher who does not know them. To her it might have seemed like helicopter parenting, to me it seems like responsible parenting. It is probably how one sees it. I don't know what is the right thing to do except to do what "feels" right. Well, let me see how the swim team lesson goes next week. At least I feel he is prepared for it now.