To the parent of the worst kid in swim lessons:

It is hard to show up to swim lessons or gymnastics class or soccer practice week after week knowing your kid is the worst one out there. You worry and try not to compare, but how can you not sometimes?

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My 2-year-old daughter Mac has been in swim lessons for over a year. She loves the water and swims like a fish, which makes her dad extremely happy. He was part of the swim team in high school and is so excited to share his love for the water with her. They still do the lessons where he is in the water with her, making it a special bonding time.

But this lesson session, it has been hard. See, the other kid in the class isn’t a great swimmer. He has fun, but he isn’t up to where Mac is and the other day his dad made a comment about it to my husband.

“She is such a fish in the water. I wish my son was like that.”

And even though he didn’t mean it in a way that he was disappointed in his son, it made me sad.

See, his son and my daughter are taking away two totally different things from these swim lessons.

Mac is an independent, super confident girl and she has been her entire short life. For her, swim lessons are about building up swimming skills. She’s learning to paddle and kick and climb out of the pool. She’s trying out going underwater, jumping in from the side of the pool, and even wearing goggles.

But this other little boy isn’t to that stage. The biggest thing he is taking away from these lessons is confidence. He is working on believing in himself and trusting that he can do it.

He doesn’t need to learn how to put together his kicking and paddling until he learns that he is fully capable of doing it by himself and trusting his abilities. That is so much more important at this point in his life than swimming skills.

But I’m going to let you in on a secret: we put our little fish into gymnastics class last year and while the older children learned to do somersaults and walk on the balance beam, my kid ran around just enjoying the gym time. She had a great time, she just didn’t do exactly what she was “supposed” to.

And I accepted that what she was getting out of the classes was not exactly what we signed up for, but it was still important. She was learning how her body moves in space and how to interact with other children around and how to wait her turn. Those skills are just as important as learning to do sumersaults or walk on a balance beam.

So when I look at the differences between the kids in swim lessons or whatever classes my kid is taking, I don’t judge children on their surface abilities. I look further down and try to see what they are really learning.

That kid who is slower than the rest in soccer might be working on his coordination. That girl in ballet who is always a step behind may be working on sequencing skills. Maybe the socialization of a class is the most important part for another child.

Instead of feeling embarrassed or concerned, feel proud with whatever skill your child is working on and look at the improvement in that skill at the end. Swim lessons isn’t just about learning to swim.

Featured Photo Courtesy: Mikki Tuohy