A week ago from tonight, I found myself losing my mind in the shallow end of a pool. Questioning my ability to be a parent, and doubting my purpose in life.

What had led to this travesty? How could my life be so complicated when standing in a swimming pool?

Let’s go in reverse order.

Thirty minutes before, my daughter began having a complete panic attack at even the thought of getting her face in the water. Or even her chin.

One hour before, I had done the treacherous work of getting my two children ready for the pool, driving to said pool, and taking off my two-year-old’s diaper and putting him in a swim diaper. Only to then find out that the pool was closed for a swim meet. This was followed by calling a family friend and begging them to let us use their pool.

Four hours before, at the first of three pools for the day, Ali’s swimming teacher told me the grave news that my daughter was not willing to get past the whole “water” part of swimming, and so I needed to work with her before the next day, or she would be fired.

(Okay. He actually recommended that I pull her out because he didn’t want me to waste my money. But still – only my kid could get fired from private swimming lessons.)

But four and a half hours before, halfway through that swimming lesson. That’s where the true root of my meltdown originated.

It was the second day of lessons with Mister Ray. Perfect for my intensely fearful daughter, he was calm, laid-back, and gentle. (Let me know if you need his number.) He didn’t try to trick her, and he never let her get scared.

(Unlike myself. Who is apparently horribly scary in the pool setting.)

Despite her six and a half years of built-up water/face contact fears, Ali adored Mister Ray. The day before, she had giddily giggled at everything he’d said, and was oddly not at all nervous about the pending confrontation between h2o and her facial orifices.


Noah and I had tried to stay far away from the lessons so as to not impede the happiness that was occurring. I thought he would be happy scooping and dumping, since it’s all he ever wants to do.


But he was not.

Thanks to teething, heat, and general crossness (I’ve taught him to explain to people, “I’m a little storm cloud”), he made it known how unhappy the arrangements found him.

So on Day Two (the fateful Tuesday in question,) Mister Ray, being the kind and merciful guy that he was, suggested that I let Noah hang out on the stairs of the pool. After all, our lessons were in the middle of the day, it’s June, and have I mentioned that we live in Alabama?

I happened to have Noah’s swimsuit and a swim diaper on my person, so I quickly took him up on it and plopped the kid in the pool.


Noah was happy, Ali was happy. Mister Ray was happy to explain how water doesn’t hurt our face for the four-hundred-and-sixty-seventh time.


I sat on the side of the pool, soaking up the rays of sunshine and of happiness exuding from my children.

Until a few minutes before the lesson was over. When I looked next to me and saw a dinner-plate sized pile of puke directly adjacent to my hand and creeping closer at an alarming rate.

My mind started racing.

“How did PUKE get next to the pool? We’re the first lesson of the day…and Ali didn’t throw up. I’ve been watching Noah. And Mister Ray seems healthy…so that’s strange.”

I looked at it and I looked at it, and then I looked at Noah, who was standing in the pool. Which is how I noticed the unhealthy yellow-brown tinge on the top of his swim diaper.

Nonononono NO NO NOOOOOO!!!!

In denial, I stretched the backside of his diaper open and peered inside…then yanked my finger back out with a new, thick coating.

That pile of puke was not puke. And if he had left that on the side of the pool…how far and wide had he spread his love?

I grabbed him out of the water and ran over to the sidewalk, where I had zero wet wipes. Or shop towels. Or a HAZMAT suit.

I told him to NOT MOVE AN INCH and ran to the car. When I came back, he was lying on the sidewalk with his feet sticking straight up in the air.

“Change me, Mommy!!”

As carefully as one can (which isn’t very), I shimmied Noah’s sopping wet and unpleasantly squishy swimsuit down his wet legs, while things that must not be named dripped out.

Then came the door to the underworld.

The ripping of the sides of the Swim Diaper of Hell.

Nothing can make poo nastier than being marinated in water. Especially when that water has had a really good chance to mingle, thereby creating a Lake of Darkness.

Let’s just say that I, who prides myself in never gagging at my kid’s various productions, totally gagged.

I managed to get the Bog of Eternal Stench into a bag without spilling it everywhere, wiped him up, scrubbed the sidewalk with a wet wipe, then went to attend to that gigantic pile next to the pool.

At which point I realized: Mister Ray and Ali were still practicing blowing bubbles in the pool. That pool.

“Hey Mister Ray…um…you might need to shock the pool and then some with a treatment. Noah just…had an issue.”

About twelve wet wipes later, I got the pool deck clean…ish.

Then I looked into the pool and saw a sinker.

(As opposed to a floater.)

I leaned over and dipped it out with my bare hand – it was a poo cashew.

Like, literally. Left over from the previous day’s granola consumption.

All the while, Noah was screaming because I wouldn’t let him back in the pool.

It was time for the lesson to be over anyway, so Mr. Ray had tactfully hopped out of the poo(l). While Noah continued to scream, Mister Ray broke the news about Ali’s inability to get over the whole water thing.

I apologized profusely for my son and my daughter, promised to work on her swimming in the next 24 hours, then collected my children, their shoes, their towels, and their poo and loaded it all in the car.

It was one of those car rides where Mommy needed a time out.

“No one talk. I need silence.”

I processed my mortification with regards to my child’s murder of the pool.

I processed my kid’s inability to conquer her fears.

Then, when my voice returned, I began teaching Noah a new No-No-Poop Catechism.

“We No-No Poop in the pool.”

“No-No Poop in the pool.”

“What do we no-no do in the pool?”

“We no-no poop in the pool.”


Noah repeats his catechism at the mention of the pool, and has not pooped in any more of them. In fact, he actually didn’t poop for several days, since he met of that need so thoroughly in that nuclear waste site of a pool.

I recovered from the day with the help of a lot of artisan chocolate consumption.

Ali did indeed take an early retirement from swimming lessons. Although she could never make herself voluntarily put her face fully in the water, she did adore Mister Ray so much that on the last day, she allowed him to do this – twice – without any tears.

Ali Dunk

I was amazed, stunned, and otherwise speechless.

If only she loved me as much as she loved him, I might be able to help her conquer her fears before she’s twenty-one.

Mr Ray

But I don’t see that happening.

49 thoughts on “Swimming Onset Insanity.

  1. On the bright side you taught the catechism to one and had the other baptized all in the same swim lesson. That’s pretty efficient.

  2. Hilarious! Just so you know, there’s a name in the pool world for what Noah did! AFR – accidental fecal release!

  3. Oh my goodness gracious! I’m sorry but I laughed and laughed and laughed. I am NOT laughing at you but your story-telling is brilliant and most excellent. Plus, I am a mother too and can I say, you have a talent for making the horrible, embarrassing parenting issues so much fun to read and acceptable? LOL I reckon I can say that now that I am a parent of teenagers and those days are behind me now. However, you make me want to write about my parenting experiences, with teens, but I am afraid they’d start taking hideous Vine videos of me and posting them if I did. ;-)

  4. That is a terrible, no-good, rotten swimming experience. Poop in the pool has always been my fear, but it never happened. Swimming lessons, however, have been the bane of my existence for the last six or so years because my son (now almost 8) was exactly like Ali. He threw fits and refused to stick his face in the water. He was fired by three instructors, and manipulated all the rest with his big sad eyes and his professed water phobia. Finally, I took him to Swim with a Purpose, where a burly 20-something, African American man, listened to him discuss his water terror and basically told him, “tough.” In the space of one 30-minute lesson, he had his face in the water and was swimming. By the end of one week of lessons, he could swim across the pool. I sat on the pool deck and cried! I hope you can find someone who can help Ali because it makes the summer a WHOLE lot better.

    1. That’s awesome.

      We have a lady in our town that is called the Swim Nazi. People swear by her, but I’ve heard her methods, and I just know that my daughter would faint.

  5. As we southerners say, Bless All Your Hearts. What a horrible day for you. It is great Ali finally let Mr. Ray put her face in the water. Poor Mommy is who I feel bad for at this point. She finally put her face in the water, did she get fired or did she want to quit? Sorry I laughed at the Noad experience.

    1. The firing/retiring was mutual. He recommended that we take a break, and Ali very willingly agreed. Because she knew where all of the swimming lessons were headed, and she didn’t like the trajectory.

  6. My oldest daughter had a huge, horrible, scream bloody murder fear of water in her face. She would not play in the sprinkler, would not take a shower, would not blow bubbles in the water. I could only wash her hair by emptying the tub and slowly and carefully rise her hair with a cup. If she felt a drop of water below her hair line she would freak out. When she played in a pool she would not move beyond the steps.
    I’m not sure when it happened, but she no longer has that fear. She just turned nine, she loves pools, showers, sprinklers, and swimming – and there was no counseling involved. Maybe this will give you hope? :-)

    As for the pooping – there is no hope…

  7. Sounds like you have grounds against the swim diaper company for emotional damages from such a traumatic experience. ;-) Way to go Ali, going under the water like that!

  8. I like the “no-no-poop in the pool!”

    I am so soo SOOOOO afraid of this happening to my kids… eventually… when we actually have a pool membership/friend with a pool! We already have poop issues of our own (http://keithandadri.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-other-call-you-never-want-to-receive.html) so I can’t imagine the water diaper disaster!

    The fact that you never gag (until now) is very impressive!! I can’t say the same for myself, though I think some of the sensitivity should be blamed on my being pregnant with children in diapers, twice now.

  9. I literally laughed out loud!

    So proud of Ali for letting Mr. Ray help her go under water!

    My 2 youngest think they can swim…yeah, that gets interesting.

  10. “Bog of Eternal Stench” is so awesome. (Well, Not the item itself, just the way you phrased it.) At least you can feel good knowing that you didn’t actually *worsen* Ali’s fear of water. My mom got so frustrated with trying to teach me to swim that she finally just yelled at me, then declared the whole operation a resounding failure.

  11. This is one of those moments like when someone falls down the stairs and while you are giggling you ask if they are OK. If my chair wasn’t so grounded I probably would have fallen off of it with laughter…sorry, Rachel.
    I must say..you write a story like no other…the descriptions were priceless.

  12. Hilarious. Ray loved your kids and is definitely looking forward to his love note from Ali. Not accepting any packages from Noah at this time. Especially assorted nuts. Chemical warfare certainly has its place.

  13. This is one of those post that you just can’t stop reading no matter how much gagging. And there is nothing wrong with floaties.

  14. Poopy swim diaper ARE THE WORST THING EVER!!! About a month ago both of my twins had poopy swim diapers at the same time. It was awful, I am still traumatized and poop doesn’t normally bother me!

  15. Ah, swimming lessons :)

    Elizabeth too had a thing about putting her head in the water. It’s very common, if that helps.

    Four things helped us:
    1) Lots of time in the water. I don’t understand the comments about “wasting” your money. We started lessons at six months & have taken at least 30 weeks of lessons per year. Face dunking is a requirement before the kids turn 18 mo. She wouldn’t blow bubbles let alone dunk her head but no one ever made an issue out if it. Just kept playing games where they had the opportunity to first get chin wet, then nose, then eyes.

    2) Games and songs
    Eg Old mcdonald had a bubble farm, Ollie Otter, pretending to make witches cauldron. Every five minutes the instructor gets child to try bubbling, but while they were encouraging & affirming of any attempt, they just kept going with the song or game regardless of whether bubbles happened. 60 weeks of that tends to wear down a kid. Last year she had an instructor who got the class dunking with a game where they threw sinking toys under the water & they had to look to see what animal it was.

    3) A sloped entrance to the shallow end. Really effective – instructor had rings for the kids to fetch, put them at varying depths and they had to race to go get them. Starts shallow & as weeks go by they get deeper. As the kids grab them the instructor threw them out again. Only rule is you have to use your hands. Kids got so into the game that they forgot to worry about getting (ack!) wet. They also did games like shark & crocodile. Had to race in and out of the pool, blowing bubbles (of course) when they were in so as not to get “eaten”

    4) Daily lessons. Varying the frequency made a big difference to Elizabeth.

    Anyway, it may take a long time but don’t give up! (We also practice bubbles in the bathtub, found that helped too)

    1. 30 weeks of lessons!! This must be a Canadian thing – I’ve never heard of such in the US! In fact, I think I only got one week of lessons ever – it’s somewhat of a new fad to get your kids one week of lessons a year.

      Canadians are so thorough…

  16. Oh dear Mama….it’s going to be a long (hot) summer!

    As for Ali’s fear of water, it happened to my kid too and it took several years of private lessons before he finally learned how to swim. Hang in there – both of you!

  17. This is my first time writing but I just have to tell you that your blog is hilarious and a breath of fresh air. I am a homeschooling mom of 4 (ages 1-8) it is nice to find your humor in your every day situations and know I am not the only mom out there going through these mortifying experiences. I can totally relate. I love your writing style, Thanks for sharing.

  18. HAHAHA. Poor Noah. Poor You.

    But also Ali.

    I used to be a fish in the water. My first swim lessons were at four and I LOVED the water and I couldn’t wait for my swim lessons everyday during the first/second week of summer. That’s really the only vivid memory I have of when I was four. Seriously. It seems just like yesterday I was swimming in that pool. *sigh*
    Every summer from the ages of 4-12, I was in swim lessons! Then, when I turned 13, I started to hate it and not really care much about swimming. It’s been that way ever since. I don’t care if I get in the pool now. Isn’t that pathetic??? Don’t get me wrong, I still love it. Just not as much as I used to.

    Maybe I can work with Ali some this summer. I convinced her that Fairies were real, what else could I do? ;)

  19. Ugh, I HATE swim diapers! They suck. Or not. They don’t do anything except hold the big chunks in. Obviously not the little chunks. Haha, oh so sorry. K hated to get her face wet too. She still doesn’t like it, but after her two weeks of swim lessons last year she finally started to do it. She acts like she’s just conquered Mars every time she gets her face wet and HAS to have goggles on, but that’s fine with me as long as she does. I finally talked with her about trusting me. She was in panic mode when the teacher asked her to float on her back last week. I told her she either trusted me to make sure she wouldn’t drown or she didn’t. That helped, but we’ve still got a ways to go! S on the other hand is ready to go off the high dive…literally asked me about it! Yikes. The only thing worse than a kid that won’t learn to swim is one who thinks she CAN!

  20. So sorry! I could identify completely with your horror!

    Jack recently decided to not only put his face but dunk under water by himself. Maybe I can get him to make a video for Ali.

  21. Okay, I was totally not expecting the MAJOR progress Ali made by the end of the lessons! I count that as a major WIN. I’ve never had a child who wouldn’t put his or her face in the water, but I can imagine how frustrating that would be. So to see her go under at the end is terrific!

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