Today is Lily’s last swim lesson. In the past eight weeks, I think I’ve learned more about her than she’s learned about swimming.
Sunshine has done lessons off and on since she was about eight months old, but this was Lily’s first lesson. I wanted to see how she was doing compared to the Red Cross swim level for her age (Sea Turtle) and thought she might have fun playing with the other kids in the lesson. What we both learned surprised me.
Sunshine is my little social butterfly. She has been since day one, almost. She never played strange as a baby and loves visiting friends or having friends come over. When I put her in lessons, whether it was swimming or dance or music, she went happily off with the teacher to do whatever all the other students were doing. She’s fairly independent, so she wasn’t too worried if I was there or not.
Lily has been more of a mommy’s girl than Sunshine. While she enjoys playing with her older sister (and they play quite well most of the time), she can also keep herself entertained while Sunshine is at preschool (in fact, as I type this, Lily is upstairs playing by herself and Sunshine is down here singing “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” to me). Sunshine wants to be wherever the other kids are; Lily isn’t quite as concerned about that.
At our first lesson, Lily took one look at her instructor and wrapped herself around me like a starfish. She didn’t want to float. She didn’t want to ride on the crocodile-shaped mat. She didn’t want to go down the slide or jump off the wall. She didn’t even want to play “Tiny Turtle,” which had been her favourite game at the pool with my mom in the summer. She just hung onto me or tried to wander off to another part of the pool. I spent the half-hour lesson trying to engage her with the activities the teacher was doing: “Let’s see what game we’re playing next! Look, do you want to sing along? Hey, let’s go for a ride!”
Her second lesson was a bit better. Lily was willing to do her floats for me, but not for the instructor. She participated in a couple of the games. She still wouldn’t ride the crocodile, go down the slide, or jump in. At her third lesson, she still wanted to wander off by herself, so I had to keep pulling her back to the group in the pool. And then at her fourth lesson, her teacher was away sick and there was a substitute—a nice young guy who was enthusiastic about swimming, but Lily took one look at him and turned into a mommy-hugging starfish again.
Before and after the girls’ swim lessons, we played for a little while in a small kiddies’ pool. Sunshine enjoyed showing off what she’d learned during her lessons for me, and I’m quite impressed with how much her swimming has improved since the summer. Lily also wanted to “practice” what she’d done in her lesson—and she did everything she wouldn’t do in the lesson. She blew bubbles. She hung off the side of the wall and kicked. She even tried floating with a pool noodle or flutter board. But she did it all by herself, when she felt like it, whether I or anyone else was watching or not.
Discovering this difference in my daughters’ personalities and learning styles has intrigued me. In many ways, they are very similar; they look a lot alike, they play the same games, they watch the same movies. What I saw at the pool was that Sunshine likes to learn from others, while Lily likes to figure things out for herself. Sunshine is attentive to what the group is doing, while Lily couldn’t care less. Sunshine needs to be pushed a little bit, while Lily just needs the space to learn it on her own.
For now, I’ve registered Sunshine in swim lessons again, but I’m just going to let Lily play in the pool while Sunshine is in her lesson. For the future, this experience has me thinking about what education choices we might make for the girls based on how they learn.
Have you noticed that your children learn differently or approach tasks in different ways?