My Son’s Fear of Water

Sometimes there are quirky things that happen when you have kids.

One of the most troubling and puzzling quirks my son had was an aversion to water. He hated swimming, would not scamper through the sprinklers and hated bath time… I mean really hated it. 

I know— you assume he must have had a traumatic incident as a child that caused him to fear water. Nope.

He hated getting wet from his very first bath in the hospital the day he was born. And I mean screaming, hysterical, sobbing from the very first bath. In fact, he started in the minute he was undressed. He also hated a wet diaper. This was quite a surprise for me because he was my second baby, so I thought I was a pro by the time he came along. When this aversion to water started I was shocked.

I remember one day my mother was helping me after he was born and she was sure his aversion was because I wasn’t gentle enough or not doing the bath thing “right.” It was so funny when she smugly took my baby boy into the bathroom to give him a bath, determined to show us it could be done without the tears. The minute she took his clothes off and removed his diaper, the screaming began. And it got louder and louder as the bath progressed. She finally emerged from the bathroom with a sobbing baby bundled in a towel and a look of shock on her face. She handed my son to me and shook her head saying “I concede, you were right. He hates water!”

Told you…

Fast forward a couple of years. By now he was old enough to verbalize his hatred of water and he tolerated baths, but just barely. No big tantrums or hysteria anymore, but he would have preferred getting clean some other way besides getting wet. Is there baby dry cleaning?

Now it was time for swim lessons. “Oh great, here we go again,” I thought. Ever been at a pool and seen that little guy or girl clinging to mom, afraid to get their face wet? Cute, huh? You usually shake your head and thank your lucky star that isn’t your little one.

Well, my little guy not only clung to the swim aide but screamed nonstop in the aide’s ear the entire half hour lesson. And this was way before he even was wet all the way to his neck. Forget about putting his face in the water— that was not going to happen.

My older daughter loved her swim lessons, jumping in from the side of the pool and blowing bubbles in the water and having a ball. But not my boy. It was almost like we were torturing him. And this lasted two full sessions. We were lucky he had the same swim aide for both sessions. The aide was gentle and patient and by the end of the second session he had calmed my boy enough to stop crying and follow some basic moves. He actually put his face in the water. Needless to say, that swim aide was given a very nice gift at the end of the session.

I think my son’s aversion to water lasted until he was about five years old. He fought baths, but no more than any boy. He continued in swim lessons and actually learned how to swim.

Fast forward again and he is in high school. Would you believe it? He joined the water polo team.

I know, amazing huh?

I was convinced that he was going to be scarred for life when I forced him to take swim lessons. Listening to the screams and the sobs was probably one of the hardest things I had to endure as a mama. So many times I wanted to take him out of the water and wrap him in my arms to comfort him. I resisted, though, knowing it was necessary and hoping he would be okay.

In fact, he is now a triathlete. That means he has to swim often in open water, a lake or the ocean for a couple miles. Quirky huh?

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