Fathers don't get to teach their children to swim anymore.

When I was a boy, my father taught me how to swim. I would cling to the edge of my grandfather’s pool, my father would push me off the edge and toward the center of the pool, and I would flail my way back to the edge.

He would repeat this process again and again until I was a capable dog-paddler.

It wasn’t the best way to teach a kid to swim, but it was the 1970’s. We weren’t wearing seatbelts or life jackets either. Airplanes were being hijacked every week. Kids rode in the back of pickup trucks.

My father’s method of swim instruction seems rather apropos to the times.

Eventually, I learned additional strokes and ultimately became a life guard for the Boy Scouts.

When I was growing up, professional swimming lessons were not an option. Maybe children didn’t learn to swim via swimming lessons back then. Perhaps swimming lessons weren’t available in the town where I grew up. More than likely, my family simply didn’t have the money to afford swimming lessons.

Whatever the reason, my father taught me how to swim, and I have fond memoires of those experiences.


While I certainly intend to contribute to my children’s swimming instruction in every way possible, it has become apparent to me that my children will be taking swimming lessons in the near future. It’s simply how it is done today.  It’s what my wife wants for our kids. Nearly every student in my class learned to swim via professional swim lessons. Almost every child I know is taking, has taken or will be taking swim lessons.

I think this is kind of sad.

When I am asked who taught me to swim, I answer, “My Dad.” And because my father disappeared from my life for more than two decades, I don’t get to answer “My Dad” very often.

I’m glad my father taught me to swim. It seems like the thing that a father (or mother) should do. 

When my kids are asked the same question years from now, they will likely answer, “Some nameless, faceless, quasi lifeguard/swim instructor at the local pool.”

There was a time when fathers and mothers taught their children to swim as a right of passage.

Not it’s the writing of a check.

I think something is lost when we delegate parental responsibilities onto professionals, even if the instruction that our children receive may be better than our own.