It’s International Grandparents Day on Sunday 8 September, and we know the important role grandparents play in the lives of their grandchildren. We’re fortunate to see the very special bonds that exist between grandparents and their grandchildren, particularly in our Swim School.
For Nicola Roberts, having her mother bring two-year-old Ava to swimming lessons made sense on several levels. “Mum initially offered to take Ava to swimming as a way for them to spend more time together, and for my husband and I to have a break over the weekend,” she explains. With baby Jack joining the family in early July, that time is now especially important. “Ava loves the undivided attention she gets from Granny and Grandad, and we’re able to have that time focusing on Jack, or catching up on sleep!” Sunday afternoons have now become dedicated grandparent time for Ava. “We all look forward to it,” Trish tells. “It’s our regular, fun activity that Ava, Peter and I do together. Ava really looks forward to ‘simming’ and a play on the playground.”
Having been coming to swimming lessons for five months, Trish has seen Ava’s water confidence increase. After a hesitant start, Ava is now comfortable in the water. “It’s a gentle process with her,” Trish says. “She was initially quite tense and clingy, whereas now her body feels much more relaxed and she’s happy to let her body float.” As a school teacher, Trish understands positive learning environments, and compliments the way swimming lessons are structured for little swimmers. “Each session follows much the same routine, so Ava knows what to expect, and so do I! She loves the rhymes that teach the different skills, and she sings them in the car to and from our lesson.”
The environment of the learner’s pool and approach of Swim School staff is something which has made lessons more enjoyable for both Trish and Ava. It’s the little things which make the difference, like remembering Ava’s name and acknowledging her apprehension. “As with any toddler, Ava can have her ups and downs, but the instructors are just lovely,” Trish tells. “We’re not made to feel bad if Ava has an ‘off’ day. I very much appreciate that there is no pressure.”
Nicola has seen a progression in Ava’s water confidence in day to day life. “We’ve been working on encouraging her to go under water, because even the suggestion of that used to be met with lots of fear and a potential meltdown,” Nicola shares. “I’m glad we persisted after the first few lessons when Ava felt very unsure. She’s definitely more comfortable trying new things now. I remember when she decided to put her head underwater in the bath, all on her own. She was so proud to tell her Granny what she’d done.” Ava also uses bath time to practice her kicking and blowing bubbles, and even shares her knowledge with her ‘bubba doll’, teaching her all the drills she does during her own lessons. Having Ava’s water confidence grow at a young age is important to Nicola. “I don’t think swimming lessons are optional in New Zealand, it’s an essential skill to keep our kids safe,” she says. “We’re fortunate to be able to access them for Ava, and that we can reinforce her learning over summer at the beach and in her grandparents’ pool.”
Nicola doesn’t feel like she’s missing out by not being in the water with Ava. “I came along to the first few times so I could have an idea of what went on during a lesson, and now it’s her special thing she does with Granny,” she says. “On Sunday evenings, we talk with Ava about how the lesson went and share her little triumphs.” She would encourage other families to consider making grandparents part of a child’s swimming routine, if they’re able. “It’s such a lovely opportunity for them to bond and have some special time together, and having the organised activity means the grandparents don’t have to think about how they’re going to entertain the child.”
As well as making life a little easier for her own daughter with a newborn, Trish loves the special moments of bringing Ava to swimming. “Being there when a grandchild is learning to establish and build their confidence in the water is a gift,” she shares. “It’s strengthened our bond and the trust we have together, and is making special memories. It’s also rekindled my own love of swimming!”