Having grown up in this fashion (my wonderful mother, bless her, wanted me to be an Olympian, Oscar winner, Nobel laureate and prima ballerina by the age of 15, which possibly explains why, aged 28, I'm most content when doing very little at all).
I can certainly see the benefits of introducing your child to a number of activities (discipline, socialising, opening their eyes to new experiences, helping them carve out interests and hobbies, etc.), but I don't want to fall into the trap of planning out multiple (often unrealistic and highly pressurising) career paths for my child before she can even talk.
All of this, of course, is to preface the announcement that I've signed baby D up to a swim class, aged four months. Which I'm sure signifies that resist as I might, I've probably already turned into my mother (which in many ways wouldn't be so terrible, as she was an extraordinarily loving and caring mother).
I was actually planning on taking Diana swimming once I learned that it was OK for babies to be in the water after three months' of age (apparently, you can even start them sooner if you're really keen); during my pregnancy, the swimming pool became my sanctuary and I've been desperate to get back.
Of course, talking about going swimming is much easier than actually getting baby, baby gear and me to the pool (and finding waterproof swim nappies, which are an essential to avoid accidents), so it took another mum from my NCT class signing her baby up to a course and offering to drive another person in the class to the pool for me to actually commit. And of course, between the New York trip, wedding recovery and a class getting cancelled because of sub-zero temperatures, I didn't actually manage to get Diana to the pool for the first time until last week. (Maybe I'm not my mum after all - she would never have let me miss so many classes)
The Waterbabies course we've signed up for is amazingly well-organised and popular: baby D was initially put on the waiting list before a space opened up and she could join a class. In addition to the disposable swim nappy, we had to buy a "Happy Nappy," which is a neoprene pair of pants that further prevents any poo escaping into the pool (we may start using this double-duty technique on a daily basis since it actually works!) and even though I initially tried to resist, I also succumbed to purchasing a neoprene Velcro scuba suit-type thing for Diana to wear while swimming. I don't feel too guilty about the purchase because the water wasn't all that warm and this swimming outfit is pretty professional looking. (Let's put it this way: my infant looked like a more capable swimmer wearing it than I ever have.)
I went for gender-neutral lime green because that seemed like a cute, bright, underwatery colour. When we got to class all the other girls were in pink or purple scuba suits with boys dressed in navy, but I'm pleased to say Diana's ambiguous outfit did nothing to hinder her confidence - or her swimming ability.
We spent most of the class walking backwards in the water with each parent's hands cupped under their baby's chin, smiling at the babes as they floated or zig-zagged towards us, or alternatively hugging them and bouncing them up and down in the water. We also practised splashing water on their faces (preparing them by saying "1,2,3, Diana, ready, go!") so they got used to the idea of eventually holding their breath underwater, and Diana even got to go underwater twice, which she liked the first time but not so much the second.
The best part of the class was that after each of the babies went underwater one by one, they got an elaborate round of applause after their turn, as well as plenty of praise for being so clever. And considering I couldn't swim until I was about 10 years old, I have to admit I was pretty impressed with her. I'm also a fan of any excuse to shout words of encouragement at my daughter or myself.
In addition to looking super adorable in neoprene, going underwater and enjoying her first dip (well, second, if you count her birth), the Waterbabies class has an added bonus: although only half an hour, we spent the whole time moving the babies around, bouncing them and steering them through the pool, which meant that baby D expended more energy in those 30 minutes than she usually does in a day.
So once we got home, she slept soundly for the rest of the afternoon... and probably dreamt of breastfeeding, while deep sea diving?