We hadn't been to baby swimming for two months. In that time, the class had proliferated - there were three of us last time, in July; today there were about 15. Erica LOVES LOVES LOVES swimming. I think I take her just so I can see her smiley face so much. And her cute skinny baby bum. Swimmers nappies have just made it to the stores here, but are as yet not a requirement in the swimming class. She is by far the genkiest (happiest, most energetic; also can refer to tantrums!) kid in the class, calls out "Yay!" and "woo-hoo!" while we wade through the water.
I like the bigger class. We had more time to do our own thing. I can't believe how much more advanced in movement she is from two months ago, when we last went.
We start the class sitting on the edge of the pool on 'betoban' (kick boards) set out in pairs, for each mother/baby pair. At 11am exactly, they start playing kids' music, action songs everyone knows, and the mums and kids play the songs together. Today, we got there WAAAY too early, and it was all I could do to keep her in one place. She kept twisting away, crying out, trying to go god-knows-where, certainly not sitting there quietly like all the calm little Japanese babies.
Next, the teachers come down the line of babies, kick their feet, splash them and greet them. We had the young guy teacher today that both Amy and Lena like, plus a new woman I haven't met before. Then we can finally get in! Erica had memories of the pool and beach with her floaties, and kept trying to push my hands away. I let her sink a little, to try to make her understand that she's can't actually swim without me holding her up! She's pretty intrepid though, she kept trying!
After we get in, we take the baby for a swim down to the far end of the (25m) pool, swinging them to and fro in the water. Erica LOVES this bit, and grins and laughs and shouts out "YAY!". Then I put her on the edge of the pool to jump back in to me, on the count of three. She used to do this quite happily two months ago, but she was reluctant today. All day she resisted doing it, and wanted my hands under her arms first before she'd jump.
Next, all the mums and babies get in a circle. First, we move around the circle, again pulling the baby to and fro, with the teachers making waves and splashing. Then we pull them facing out, going backwards, then put the baby on their back, head on mum's shoulder. Erica HATES this one, she still won't do it. Next we lift them up above our heads on the count of three (or four really, ICH, NI, NO, SAN!). And drop them into the water. Only the advanced babies get really dropped, most of them get gently placed in the water! I try to place Erica in with a generous splash. Then the same thing, only baby faces out and hopefully, waves bye-bye to her friends while her mum's arms die as she tries to hold her up so long!
After that, all the mums and babies do individual widths or lengths, while the teachers go around each kid and try to take them to the next level. Erica found her own fun. Today she liked the 'crab' - holding on the edge of the pool and moving sideways. She did that a million times. Then she figured out she could also hang on to a hoop in the same way - it was my job to make sure the hoop stayed at the surface of the water. Then she discovered my knee, and stood on it, while holding the hoop, and jumped. From then on "Jump!" was the game of the day.
After she tired of the hoop, I put her arm bands on, and she got to do some free swimming. She is getting really good at kicking. It's 'bata bata' in japanese, and this is what she called the whole experience, from the changing room on. She found my knee again and we did some more jumping.
Then she saw the slide. At the same time as the baby class, a kindy class has a lesson in the Lane One. Lane One is special as it has an elevated floor, so it's only about 60cm deep. Our class finishes at 12pm. Theirs finishes at 11:50. For the last ten minutes of their class, they have playtime, with balls and floaties, and the big plastic slide. Our class gets to go to Lane One after the kindy kids leave, but Erica saw the slide too early, and managed to escape (I thought she was trying 'crab' again, then I thought she was afraid of something, so I let her climb out of the pool) and ran off to the slide. Another mother caught her, she twisted, and tantrummed (other mother was chasing her own absconding toddler at the same time!), I caught up with her and got her back to the pool just in time to be told it was now our turn on the slide.
Oh well, Erica gets to win that one! She went down the slide three times, decided it was too scary, and proceeded to "jump" down the whole length of the pool. When 12pm came, we were at the other end, and I faced tantrum NO. 3 and held her under my arm to get her to the showers. (we have to shower before getting in the pool, and it's expected that you'll want to shower after as well. The showers are in public next to the pool, you shower in your togs).
She was happy until I tried to remove her robe. Tantrum No. 4 followed. I finally got her dressed, put her towel robe back on her to stop the tantrum, nd we got as far as the entry way before Tantrum No. 5. I gave in and bought her Anpanman juice, and finally got her in the car for home!
More of the same fun to follow next Tuesday. Hope we can achieve it with only two or three tantrums this time. Did I mention I do this to see her smiley face? Honestly she does spend MOST of the time blissfully happy. And so do I.