“You’re Not Helping.”

So. My kids learned how to swim this summer. They both can do freestyle laps with me. Wesley is good for 25-50 yards without stopping, he gets worn out because he hasn’t perfected side breathing yet. Nikki can do more because she can side-breathe pretty easily, and she won’t stop, she’ll just catch her breath on her back. They can both swim on their backs indefinitely if there’s something containing them.

SO! I called our YMCA about something I heard of that was like swim team, in that it was lane work and stroke work, but no races/competitions. It’s basically the next step up from the lessons they’ve taken. The only requirement? They needed to be able to swim the length of the pool on the front, and on their back. EASY! No problem! I got this information on the phone and from reading the paperwork they gave me. There was a new session that started last night.

It should be noted that the lower level swim classes that both kids have done are in 4-week sessions too, the first class of the session welcomes a whole lot of newbies with some veterans that go to several sessions. Therefore, I logically was expecting the same this time around. No one indicated otherwise in my phone calls asking about the class.

Well, things started off bad because there was some confusion and the coach that was supposed to teach the Monday class wasn’t coming so the Friday coach was going to rush over after work but he’d be late so both age groups would have to go at one time. (Wes and Nikki were in separate age groups.)

That created confusion and tension in everyone, especially me.

When the coach got there, he called everyone over to the big pool and it was obvious IMMEDIATELY that he knew the entire group. He was pinpointing people out of the other pools to pull them over. There was no “introduction” like there is at the other classes. I wasn’t sure if this was because he doesn’t normally coach that class, or if it was because my assumption of this being like the other session was wrong. Basically he gathered both groups by the pool and divided them up by age into 3 lanes. And then he said, “Do the warm up you know! 100 freestyle, 50 kicks, 50 back stroke! Go!”

And I panicked because it was VERY obvious this was NOT going to be like the other swim classes. There was no “teaching” of strokes, because all of these kids knew them. My two kids were the ONLY new kids in the session. Now, did they teach strokes the last four week session? I guess? Maybe? I have no idea. All I know is my kids did not know what that warm up was. He went to talk to the little kids but Nikki was panicking, I told her to do the freestyle first because I knew she knew that. Then the coach had to go to do something else (he wouldn’t normally have both groups at once and he wasn’t supposed to be coaching so he was flustered too) and neither of my kids understood the “50 of kicking” or “50 of backstroke” – luckily another Mom helped me a little when I said, “My kids have no idea what’s going on.”

But it was just chaos. Wes started crying because he had never swam that much without a break and he didn’t know he could take brakes. I was trying to calm him down to tell him he could take brakes. And then Nikki was crying because she had no idea what to do and was just freaking out. The coach was trying to help but there were TWO classes in one and it was just chaos. They kept crying to me and I kept trying to help but I don’t know what I’m doing either. I felt like I might be interfering because sometimes the coach was there but other times he wasn’t and I didn’t want my kids slowing the group down so I thought helping if I could would be good.

Donnie, who had come over after talking to a friend told me, “You’re not helping. They need to listen to the coach and go to him with the questions, not you. They keep coming to you because they see you here.”

In my defense, there were too many kids for the coach to help my new ones every 5 seconds, but really – Donnie was right.

So I left. I went to the side of the pool where they wouldn’t see me in their sightline, but where I could still watch. And I watched them cry the entire time. And I cried. By the side of the pool surrounded by tons of grownups. I cried like an idiot. It was so hard. I don’t know if me being gone helped, but at least they weren’t getting worse and I felt like they were downward spiraling before. Nikki was talking to the coach, maybe too much, for reassurance and guidance. Wesley was just panicking because he was exhausted and tired and trying his best (he was actually doing pretty good) but also felt like he couldn’t breathe because he was tired. He wanted love and I couldn’t give it to him.

Nikki was just in full-blown meltdown mode. She was scared. She was confused. She felt really alone and she finally found me and just kept looking at me and shaking her head like, “Don’t make me do this.” But I knew she COULD do it so I just kept drawing hearts in the air and giving her thumbs up to show her I was watching and I loved her. She didn’t want to jump on the start/diving board thing. I did talk to her there and convinced her to try (the coach told her she could just quit since that was the last thing they were doing) because a) I wanted our money’s worth – I’m nothing if not frugal and b) I didn’t want her to give up. She never jumped off the board but she jumped off the side and did the drill with the girls.

That was the other thing – no one was talking to her because she was the new one. And several were annoyed with her being there. That’s what made me cry the most. Seeing her feel so alone and lost and seeing other MUCH OLDER girls whisper behind her back and exasperatingly roll their eyes or slouch their shoulders like, “Is she EVER going to finish?” And I just sat there crying like a baby, and I’m sure I looked INSANE. None of those parents will probably ever talk to me because I’m the weirdo crying lady.

I did end up knowing one Mom and she was kind and talked to me and re-introduced her daughter to mine (they knew each other back in the day) but that was during the diving/start board thing and my daughter was too far into FULL MELTDOWN mode for it to do any good.

It was awful. Awful.

Donnie was right. I wasn’t helping at all. But – in my defense – my kids needed help. I had NO idea they were going to be so lost. If I had known the sessions built on each other unlike the other classes, I would have tried to sign them up the last session. The only reason why I didn’t was I didn’t want school starting, soccer staring, and swim starting all the same month. I wanted to ease them into school/soccer before swim. Now I just want to kick myself.

So, I’m not going to take ALL of the blame. It was a bad situation at the start. The classes were not what I was told or what the paperwork explained. There were too many kids and an emergency coach that wasn’t expecting to have to be there. But then – I did not help. And that was the toughest part because my kids were upset and I WANTED to help SO BAD. But I was making it worse so I had to hide in the corner and sob while they did their thing.


I’ve sent a message to someone I’ve seen do individual coaching at the Y to see if she has time for a quick session with the kids this week. They need just a base understanding of terminology. The kids in the class weren’t all great swimmers, it’s not like my kids need to be champs on day one. But they don’t know the terminology. They don’t know the lingo. They basically just need to know what they mean when they say, “Do 50 of kicks!” I didn’t even know they needed a kickboard for that part. I just said, “Maybe you just kick across the pool? I don’t know.”

So maybe someone can help this week. I’m crossing my fingers. Here’s to hoping we can all keep our shit together during Friday’s session.

8 thoughts on ““You’re Not Helping.””

  1. I would have been out of there so fast… Not at all saying you were wrong, in fact, making them stay may have been right – I don’t know – only you know your kids. For mine, this would have led to disaster and I would never get them to go back. I would have left, citing chaos, and tried again with the next “lesson”.

    I do think trying to get them up to speed with a private lesson is a wonderful idea. Here’s hoping it goes better next time!

  2. I would have gone to the office and complained to an administrative-type person, and asked them to get a second coach or assistant or lifeguard person to help the sub coach. What a clusterf***. I would have felt terrible, too. Hopefully Friday will go a lot better.

  3. I would not have handled that well at all. I do not accept my daughter being set up to fail, and I would have likely either gone to the office to discuss it or pulled my child out of the program. I don’t blame you for your reaction at all. Why would you pay money to put your children in that situation? I don’t say that to blame you but to say that they simply blew it entirely. Not ok, not reasonable, not acceptable. So now you are going to pay for an individual instructor because the group was handled incompetently? You should do what feels right for your family, but I do wonder about their responsibility in this situation. I wish you the best, and I am sorry that happened to you.

  4. I probably would have done the same thing you did. Once I pay for something I see it through, and I don’t want my kids to think its okay to quit when things are not going smoothly.

    That said, I would have HATED it and I probably would have cried too. I’m sorry you had to go through that. I hope it all goes better next time.

  5. I hate joining already established groups. My son is starting hockey this year, and the website actually has a section called “New to Hockey” because the terminology (and the equipment!) is so overwhelming. In his first game he scored a goal into his own net, and I felt so helpless sitting on the side watching him on the ice. Thankfully he had great people on the ice with him so he wasn’t upset, but I can’t imagine anything harder than watching your children struggle and not being able to fix it 🙁

  6. NO, sorry; you don’t take any of the blame on this one. Maybe Donnie was right and you needed to back off right then, but you still don’t get the blame. (And, I’m only not saying he was wrong, because he said you ‘weren’t helping’ and not that you were making it worse.)

    The front desk needs to know what is actually happening, so that the description matches the actual class/team. The coach needs to have control of the class. (Coach gets a pass on this one under the circumstances, but still not your fault.) They allow new members to the class, so they need to be prepared to show them the ropes, whether its typical to have new members or not. AND, finally, kids mostly take their cues from the adults. If the coach had been helping Nikki and Wes out, showing support and encouragement, the kids wouldn’t have been so impatient. They might not have been instantly friends, but they wouldn’t have been so cranky either.

    What a nutcluster… I’m sure there was panic when they realized they didn’t have a coach, and good for them for finding a solution. (I think. It might actually have been better to just re-schedule.) I’m sure the substitute coach was overwhelmed, and he gets serious points for racing from work and trying to manage two classes at once. But – your poor kids got caught in a terrible situation. I hope they go back, and I hope its better. You, though, need to realize that you did not create this mess, you did your best by your kids and that is all that can be asked of you. Your kids will be fine. Now stop beating yourself up.

  7. Sounds like a mess! We tried lessons at the Y when Sydney was learning to swim. There weren’t enough catches that day either. She was 4 I think. It didn’t go well either. The first lesson the coach asked Sydney to jump to her (this is a preschool class for non swimmers!) and she’d catch her. The coach got distracted and Sydney sunk like a rock. She was terrified of swimming for a while after that. Unfortunately I wanted to get my money’s worth so we kept going to class and she would sob! I wish I’d gone to the desk and complained and gotten my money back. I can’t offer any real suggestions. I just sympathize with your experience. We ended up doing lessons at UAH at the UFC and were much happier. I think they have advanced lessons/stroke work but I’m not sure.

  8. Everything that Cara said. You need to complain to the Y. I’m sorry it was so awful for all of you.

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