One of the fun things we did with baby–at least for Mimi and me–during our trip to Chamonix was take baby to bébé nageurs swim class at the local aquatic center. Basically it was a Saturday morning free swim deal where parents (or grandparents) could take their babies and diapers would be welcome in the pool.
This wasn’t the first time baby had been swimming. He went three times last summer–twice in the River and once in the Lake–but it was definitely his first time in a pool. For as much as I thought he would be squealing nonstop in the water (he absolutely loves splashing in the tub, sink, or any other vessel of water), I’m not sure that he really loved it–despite the fact that the pool was heated for the comfort of the bébé nageurs.
But part of it also was me. Turns out there’s an art to baby swims.
I only learned that after one of the swim coaches (can they even be called that at this stage?) bee lined for my mom, baby, and me. At this point, I had taken baby out of this cool floatie thing–basically it was a thin mat cut in the shape of a fish with a hole in the middle where you stick the kid–and was just sort of holding him on my hip as I walked around the pool. Baby wasn’t unhappy, but he wasn’t splashing like a madman either. So, the swim coach came over and asked if I was familiar with le système de portage. The what?
I mean, I speak French, so I get what it means: a carrying or transportation system. But what was wrong with the way I was carrying my baby? That’s the way I carry him all the time.
But I listened as he explained in that very explicative French way that the proper way to have a nine-month-old baby in the pool was to put my hands under his bottom so that he was sitting in my palms, extend my arms out in front of me, and then begin to walk through the water. He then pointed out that I should pretty much make sure baby was submerged in the water pretty much up to his shoulders so he wouldn’t get cold.
Ok, so I was a little skeptical that there was a huge difference between what I was doing and what he was telling me to do, but I was polite and did as he recommended. Wow, what a difference. Baby went from just sort of being chill in the water–content but not excited–to really moving his arms and legs around, splashing and carrying on.
The guy went on to explain to me that when you hold babies on your hip in the water like you would do on land, they sort of go into a set position and don’t really have a lot of wiggle room. But by basically pushing them out in front of you–they don’t fall over, amazingly enough–they have the freedom to fully ambulate and interact with the water.
I’ll admit that I kind of felt stupid because I had sort of gone, “yeah, yeah, yeah,” to the swim coach and it turned out that he really knew what he was talking about. No wonder every baby in pool (except Aleksi) was just having the time of his or her little life. Their moms weren’t so ignorant as to the correct système de portage. But once I was clued in, everyone–baby included–had more fun.