As most of you know we have four children and at the beginning of the summer none of them could swim.
I know, I know. That's not good.
Especially when you live by the sea. I'm pretty sure most Croatians are born swimming.
So in an attempt to help our kids to be more a part of the culture, we decided that one of our objectives for this summer was to have the kids take swimming lessons and learn how to swim. We went into the experience expecting the kids to learn to swim, hopefully meet some other kids, and have some good hands on language learning. What we received was all of those things and more.
One of the adjustments for our kids has been that in Croatia there is what we like to call "no fluff." Whether it's at school or swimming lessons, there is a "just get the job done," mentality. We call it - no fluff because in the States there was much more encouragement, cupcakes (before cupcakes were banned from schools), and praise that goes on. It's not that encouragement and praise don't happen here it's just reserved for those who work hard and do well. They push you harder and don't waste any time in doing so.
For example, during swim class they would push our kids hard each and every day. The older two would swim countless lengths of the Olympic sized pool only to finish and hear the instructor say a few words and then go swim it again. The younger two were taken into the deep pool and were pushed to swim with pool noodles and then without them. The instructor would swim beside them and let their little heads sink under the water for a brief moment (although it felt like an eternity to their mom who was watching from a distance) before pulling them back up.
The great thing is that despite the more intense teaching methods our kids did really well and can now swim. Flynn has a little bit more to go but he has vastly improved. Flynn went from not wanting to be in the water at all to leaping into the pool by the end of the summer (even when he wasn't supposed to). On one occasion while he was waiting his turn to swim he began to "accidentally slide" into the pool and crawl back out. He did this a few times as we watched from a distance. It was one of those moments where you're trying to will your child to obey from afar but it doesn't seem to do anything. I finally had enough and began to walk over to him to talk to him just as the instructor saw him as well. I then watched her take him and gently toss him away from the edge so he had nothing to hold on to you. She then gave him a look that said "You want to be in the water without me? How's that working out for you?" as he struggled to keep his head above water. She then grabbed him back and sat him on the edge of the pool. Needless to say Flynn didn't slide back in the pool until the teacher came along.
We are so proud of our kids, they have stepped up when high expectations were given to them. Now obviously you can push kids too hard and there are moments where you can sense that here as well. We have found it to be a great reminder for us and for our kids that we must constantly run to Jesus. When school seems too hard or the language is just too confusing and you feel like you can barely keep your head above water all you can do is say, "Lord, I need you!"