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May 9 2013

Why Does My Daughter Suddenly Hate Her Swimming Lessons?

By at 1:53 pm

girl afraid of swimmingI need a little advice, folks.

My daughters are currently enrolled in the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy at our local JCC. It’s a great program, and I’m very happy with it (and not just because I don’t have to get in the pool with the girls!). My younger daughter (almost 3) is very happy in her private lesson, but my big girl (age 4.5) is, well, not so psyched about her group lesson.  Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 22 2013

Teaching My Son to Swim

By at 10:05 am

howard wolke teaching son to swimSo according to Judaism, I, as a father, am supposed to teach my son to swim. Seriously, it’s right there in the Talmud. A father is supposed to do six things, and one of them is teach his child how to swim.

First of all, let’s hold off questioning this for a while. I mean, yes, it’s an important skill to have, but if I am living in what is primarily a desert-based society, I don’t think I would rank swimming as one of the top six.

Regardless, this particular decree has been on my mind recently. First of all, I read The Blessing of a Skinned Knee, and it’s talked about in there. Secondly, my father pointedly told me about it when we were outside a local JCC and he mentioned that it was written above the pool. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 15 2012

Should My 8-Month-Old Already Be Competing?

By at 9:40 am

As he toweled off, my husband asked me, “How old do you think the youngest Floater ever was?”

My 8-month-old son, Carston, had just completed his first swim lesson as part of the Lenny Krayzelburg Swim Academy (LKSA) at the JCC in Newton, Massachusetts. LKSA is a seven-level swimming program designed to teach kids to swim safely; it begins at level one, Splasher, continues on to Floater, then Kickers, and eventually ends with Flyers.

I’d been motivated to sign my little splasher up for safety reasons and, honestly, because I’d heard kids nap better after they swim. My husband, on the other hand, was ready for our son to become the next Michael Phelps—or more appropriately, Mark Spitz.  Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 12 2012

Don’t Do Your Kids’ Homework

By at 11:55 am

colored pencilsThough our kids typically take the bus to school, not long ago I was one of the many 4th grade parents on the elementary school campus.

Parental chauffeuring was necessary in order to safely transport book projects from home to school. As I walked down the hallway, I was treated to an eyeful of lovely, highly-decorated, well-designed dioramas. Sophisticated and polished. Ones that looked NOTHING like the one Lilly had made. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 22 2012

Free Stuff Alert: Hydrochic Modest Bathing Suit

By at 10:32 am

hydrochic modest swimwearLet’s say you love a good swim, but aren’t the biggest fan of a teeny tiny bikini. There are plenty of reasons to want a more modest bathing suit, and whether it’s for physical or religious reasons, no one should feel like they can’t go for a dip just because they don’t want to bare all.

Enter HydroChic, an active and swim wear company started by two women who didn’t want to go forego femininity and style while also providing full coverage, sun-protective swimear. They offer a wide variety of tops–sleeveless, long sleeve, and short sleeve–as well as bottoms like pants, shorts, long skirts, and skorts that can be easily mixed and matched. This also happens to be the bathing suit of choice for actress Mayim Bialik, as seen here!

We’re pairing up with HydroChic to give one lucky winner a top and bottom of her choice. To enter, leave a comment below telling us your favorite place to swim. We’ll choose a random winner on Monday, August 27.

Jul 27 2012

Drama at the Swimming Pool

By at 10:23 am

swimming class underwaterI had high hopes for swim class, and it seems they were justified: both girls are taking to the water like… uh… like ducks to water! But I had an unfortunate situation arise at the pool today, and I’d appreciate some opinions (polite ones) on the subject.

Neither girl has had swim lessons before, and they’re just 22 months apart. Still, I thought I’d try having them in two separate classes. Abby, 23 months, was in the Mommy and Me class, and Penny (3.5) was in the Starfish class. Both do roughly the same skills, but in the M&M class, the kids are doing stuff the whole time (since mommy is there to assist), and in the Starfish, they spend a lot of time bobbing around in the water waiting while the teacher holds them up to float, works with them on kicking, yadda yadda. Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 10 2011

Learning to Swim

By at 1:03 pm

People didn’t often try to drown me as a child. Indeed, growing up two hours from the sea in God’s own county of Yorkshire — a cold, law-abiding place where antisemitism is illegal — any notion that swimming lessons might be related to my Jewishness seemed contrived. And this week, swimming in the summer heat of a suburban Tennessee pool, with my two blonde-haired, blue-eyed daughters, that relationship seems tenuous to the point of absurdity.

Yet it’s a traditional and explicit obligation of a Jewish father to teach his sons (and daughters) to swim. This probably started because most people lived near the water making swimming an important skill for families hoping to avoid accidental deaths. Plus, later in the history of Ashkenaz, it meant that any malicious attempt by vaguely-pogromic middle-Europeans to drown those children would have to be pretty determined in order to succeed.

But you realize how vitally important it really is, when you compare it to the other obligations a father has to his children — to find a spouse, teach Torah and teach a trade. Remember, it’s the Talmud saying this (Kiddushin 29a if you’re interested), so Torah stands for your child’s entire identity and spiritual heritage. The absolute significance of learning to swim is clear. It’s a vital part of life, love and livelihood.

The stakes are high when the danger of water is quite literally “in your face,” but the process of teaching how to manage it safely is a viscerally happy one. And, though there may be some toe-curling moments of suspense on the way to acquiring it, the payoff — a child who can swim — is deeply satisfying.

Teaching her to swim is also, crucially, a time where you get to know your child and her temperament intimately, through joy and fear. It’s not surprising that the Talmud would use it as a metaphor for Torah scholarship, but it’s also a good metaphor and practice for a father: being there to help his daughters as they deal with the pleasures of a new medium that, though buoyant, would kill them without a pause.


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