When you have the cry baby of the swim class

It’s true – Miss Belle is the cry baby of our swimming class. And it’s really starting to do my head in.

As my husband and I both like to swim, swimming was the single most important baby class to us. So we signed Miss Belle up when she was about four months old. Along with a couple of NCT friends we chose Waterbabies, and even though the cost at £15 for a 30 minute lesson, made our eyes water, we went ahead knowing how important water safety and swimming skills are. After all, she was going to be the next Rebecca Adlington, according to Daddy.

The first few months she loved it. I felt so proud of her. She was almost the best in the class. Yay for my brave daughter, I foolishly thought.

Then, around the time she was learning to sit up, she started to hate lying on her back for Twinkle Twinkle Little Star at the end of the class. No big deal everyone said, loads of babies go through this stage of not liking to be on their backs. Something to do with reflexes, or something.

At Waterbabies there’s a lot of emphasis on going under the water. At first I was terrified my daughter was going to drown, but along with the other parents, I dunked her, and it was OK. She didn’t love it, she spluttered all over the place, but she lived. But as the weeks went on, she cottoned onto what was coming. You are supposed to give a cue so they learn to close their mouths (and their eyes, if they are super clever). But this advanced warning told Miss Belle she was about to be forced under water, and actually, seen as she didn’t like being partially drowned and the subsequent choking afterwards, she wasn’t going to co-operate. So, when I called her “name, ready, go!” with the biggest of smiles, she started to tense up, scream “Nooo” and shake. I heard her loud and clear, she did not want to go under.

The teacher said not to force her, that it would scare her more in the long run, and that she’d eventually get over it, if we just took a break from going under the water.

Well… it’s been nearly a year now.


After about four months or constant illnesses (colds, conjunctivitis, ear infections and viruses) we stopped Waterbabies, after realising we were essentially paying them every week, not to swim. When we did go to a class, she’d still cry, even without going under water. I started to dread going too. It was stressful and exhausting trying to reassure her I wasn’t trying to kill her.

At our last lesson, the teacher told me to carry on taking her swimming and that the worst thing to do would be to stop swimming completely. So what did I do? Went with my gut and completely ignored her advice.  We needed a couple of months off.

We took her to the local pool a few times over the summer and she went in the pool on holiday and she seemed to enjoy it, without going under. Hurrah! I thought. She’s turned the corner – no cry baby here! Keen not to keep her out of the habit of swimming for too long, we signed up for new classes at our local pool, at a third of the price. We started again in August.

swim cry baby

Having fun in the sun. Maybe I do have a waterbaby after all?

Well, as the title of this tells you, I still have a cry baby.

She still hates it! Every class is the same. General smiles for the first 10 minutes until everyone else starts with the “name, ready, go!” I don’t even say it and she thinks it’s coming! Then I’m stuck with a whinging cry baby for the rest of the class. She clings onto my swimming costume and she physically climbs up me. She won’t do anything that all the other toddlers do. Last week she wouldn’t even sit on the side and allow me to help her pretend jump in.

All the other mums give sympathetic looks. “Oh Rosie used to cry for the first few weeks” one woman said to me. I just want to scream, “but it’s not been a few weeks! IT’S BEEN MONTHS!!! It’s alright for you with the confident daredevil of the class who launches herself in every week!” Yep, I have swim class envy.

Last week I got so fed up and frustrated I cried. I actually cried, not for the first time I’ll admit, in my daughter’s swimming lesson. How embarrassing. Muttering that we might as well go, that it was all just a waste of time, I swam off to the side and let Miss Belle play with some watering cans. At least she’s learning those all important skills…

So now, I am seriously considering cancelling our lessons again. My husband says we need to take her more. Or, I could just stick it out and never ever put her under water. But I don’t want her to be behind all the others. I want her to enjoy it so desperately. Maybe that is the problem? Am I putting too much pressure on us both?

I just don’t know what to do anymore.

Anyone else got any great ideas about how I can help her enjoy it and stop her being the cry baby of the swimming class?

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