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Swimming as easy as A,B,C

by Gaelle Fourcade
with Onica King

Mom-1: I heard “Swim Like A Fish” has a really good swim program.

Mom-2: Yeah, I’ve already registered Katie there.

Mom-3: Isn’t your Katie just 4 years old?

Mom-2: Yes, but there’s a waiting list and I want to make sure she gets a spot on a day we can be there. Your Jacob is turning 4 right, where are you thinking of registering for swim lessons?

Mom-3: Ahhh, um. . .

Sounds familiar?

I first discovered the importance of Dutch swim lessons for children just as I began asking around for information about schools for our eldest daughter. At first, I thought it was a bit early to start thinking about swim lessons, yet alone already registering my 4 year old for swim class. But ongoing conversations and the evident parental stress associated made it seem just as important as choosing a good school.

Out of my depth

You see I’m initially from France. There, schools still provide swim lessons to students. So of course, I had no idea what to look for and what to expect with respect to swim diplomas in the Netherlands.

Diploma A, B, C, badje 1-2-3, colored armbands, etc. I quickly became overloaded and confused with this new vocabulary on swim lessons. Oh, and of course, it‘s all in Dutch — a language I understood very little of at the time. It took me months before I understood ZWEM-ABC (literally SWIM-ABC) referenced the various diploma levels. Diploma A was the first swim diploma that included basic swimming techniques and specific swim distance requirements.  The progression to Diploma B adds more techniques and longer distances. C indicates the most advanced level of the diplomas in this category.

Letters, numbers, colors and more

After a bit of research and experience (we’ll soon be taking my 3rd through the process) I quickly became intimately acquainted with the mysteries of the ‘badjes’ A1 through A6, and its associated color armbands, red, blue, green, yellow orange and bronze. All beginners start in badje A1 with red armbands. As they begin to better coordinate their movements and master the required skills and techniques of each badje, children receive the ‘reward’ of a new colored armband — much to their pleasure and excitement — before progressing to the next badje.

All this culminates in their ability to swim at least 50 meters using both breast and back strokes and swim 3 meters underwater through a large ‘escape’ hole. Those requirements increase to 75 meters and 6 meters under water for the B certificate. The C diploma requires 100 meters of surface swimming with a few additional obstacles.

The NRZ (The National Board of Swimming Safety) publishes a list of requirements (in Dutch) for each diploma.

Time and money

When we decided to inscribe our daughter, we had no clue how long it would take to achieve completion of ZWEM-ABC. It took us almost 4 years!

Ok, we did not attend during summer holidays (which can be a really good way to speed up your diploma). Our daughter also had ear tubes, so she suffered intermittent ear infections. Either way, I shudder to calculate how much her diplomas cost in total. However, be prepared to invest some time and money. The swim school we attended suggests, “the average duration to obtain the A-diploma is 50 hours, for B- diplomas it’s 10-15 hours and for C-diploma it’s 12-15 hours.” DMM’s recent “Get Out!” blog lists the various swim schools in Delft. Check around to find out more about various types, times and costs of swim programs.

A tropical oasis

So every Thursday afternoon we gathered the swim gear, our daughter and her little brother to head to the swimming pool.

Now that’s some heat and humidity for you. It is literally like entering a sauna!

During the winter, you have to remember to dress in layers, and then proceed to unload yourself of those endless layers as you enter the tropical environment that is the swim school. Then in the summer, you observe the children with envy wishing you too were able to spring in the water to cool off just a bit.

Oh, and let us not forget the entire pre- and post-preparation and seating to contend with. Parents and children alike converge upon the changing room entrance 5 minutes before class time in anticipation. Once the green light flickers to ‘signal go’, everyone enters to help their little 4, 5 and 6 year olds change into their respective swim clothing. Should your session start as another ends (or vice-versa), that means there’ll be as many as 30 – 60 little swimmers and their parents — some like me with younger children in tow — trying to find a corner to maneuver.

Finally, after 5 minutes of rushing to get little arms and legs in and out of clothing, you emerge (more often than not, sweating) from the changing rooms in search of a place to sit and observe your budding swim aficionado, while in my case — also entertaining another toddler. Thank goodness for the well-positioned contained play areas on offer at most of Delft’s swim schools, provided specifically for the welcomed distraction of non-swimming little siblings.

Oh the pomp and circumstance

“Afzwemmen” another Dutch word one becomes well acquainted with in the journey towards ZWEM-ABC completion.  Once your child progresses through their respective swim lessons, they are then invited to ‘pass’ for their diploma. Time for them to demonstrate their newly acquired swim prowess before receiving each of their swim diplomas. It’s also time for fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, grandparents, siblings and the entire list of proud friends and family members to come together in a hot, humid swim school to celebrate the accomplishment (and let’s not forget freedom) of completing a swim diploma.

The whole event is actually a bit of a show. By the time your little swimmer gets cleared for afzwemmen, they have already passed everything necessary in the lessons. Afzwemmen just serves as a final step to acknowledge the investment made by all.

Respect 👊

To be honest, despite the sarcasm and slight inconvenience, I have been impressed by the way my children learned and mastered different swimming techniques at their individual pace. The instructors were nice, some very funny and popular. They always had a little time of “grappig” (fun and laughter) during the lesson, and they knew our kids well. I could always ask information about their level and their competencies.

I admire the kids being so strong and courageous for such an intensive hour, and I am so pleased that they learnt to swim in clothes, which in this country — maybe more than others — makes absolute sense!

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The Womanhood Studio

The Womanhood Studio in Delft is moving to a new location and will be filling a hole in Delft’s current offerings for families. Tami, the Womanhood Studio’s creator and owner, has been serving women in the Delft community as a doula. She opened the Womanhood Studio two years ago, expanding her services to offer massages and classes for pregnant women and new moms. Now Tami’s moving her studio to a new home at 28 Schoolstraat in Delft, bringing the studio closer to Delft’s public transportation connections.

The Womanhood Studio was a centerpoint for my pregnancy in Delft. I was able to enjoy several massages with Tami and discuss the best way to alleviate my aches and pains. Tami was there for me when I was overdue, worrying about an induction. Once my little one arrived, we returned to the Womanhood Studio for baby massage classes. The studio also offers baby sign language classes. At the previous small space on Vlamingstraat, the studio services often ended there – then came news that Tami had found a new, larger location and would be able to expand her offerings.

My experience is not unique. Jules, who used Tami as her doula had wonderful things to say about her experience. “The Womanhood Studio is a unique concept that celebrates women ,and I feel fortunate that I had the support and care of Tami during my pregnancy and labour. Tami was our doula – her calm spirit, cheerful personality, positive affirmations and can-do attitude gave us a lot of confidence as first-time parents. My birth was filled with laughter and Tami’s presence really empowered me to have the birthing experience that I had dreamed of. I am so excited to see that the Womanhood team under Tami’s guidance is going from strength to strength and moving to a bigger historic Delft location. Tami’s big smile and hospitality will welcome you. Make sure you check out the Womanhood Studio. You won’t regret it.”

If you have never been lucky enough to meet Tami, you should rectify that right away. Her mere presence puts you at ease. She has a particular soft spot for expat parents and classes at the studio are often taught in English. (I can promise you she will make sure you feel comfortable no matter what your language or home country.) She encourages everyone to stop in and say hello to see what the Womanhood Studio has to offer for you! I am lucky enough to be Tami’s neighbor. I invited her over for tea to chat all about the exciting changes and what it means for families in Delft.

The name Womanhood Studio came from her desire to serve women in the community at all stages. Although many classes focus on children or pregnancy, the studio is designed to be welcoming to all. The new studio space will even enable Tami to offer Pilates classes for men or mixed classes.

All the classes at the Womanhood Studio are small, usually under 10 participants, so that they can have an intimate feel. These gatherings are designed to provide community and connection. Tami encourages participants to come early and hang around afterwards to chat up with her and other participants.

Photo Credit: Womanhood Studio

The new space means an expanded range of options. I don’t want to spoil all the surprises she has planned, but Tami was off to be certified to teach Arial Yoga after our chat. She’s also ordered some lovely swings for a special class for children and plans to offer other classes that help older children with body, mind and emotional connections. I cannot wait to have my kids try out these classes. Previously you would have needed to head to Rotterdam or The Hague for offerings like these, but now they will be available in Delft center.

If you still think the Womanhood Studio has nothing to offer stop by, meet Tami and let her know what you would like to see. The Womanhood Studio is a service to the community and wants to be responsive to the community’s needs. Feedback on classes, be it times or format, is heard and adjustments are made. If you have a group that is looking for something specific, say Pilates for moms with young babies, stop by and she will see if she can make it work. Since classes are small, it’s often feasible to start a class with enough interest.

The studio will also be available for other gatherings. If your group is looking for a place to gather and meets the mission of the studio, get in touch with Tami. This lovely new space can be a gathering place for the community.

Make sure you follow the Womanhood Studio on Facebook and Instagram to stay up-to-date on all the exciting changes. I hope to see you there!

 

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The tao of running

One foot in front of the other. My thighs are burning a bit, my breathing is regular. My whole body feels like in some kind of a trance. I keep on going and I feel good. It seems there comes no end to this Indian summer, the colors are amazing, the sun is soft. I look ahead to see which turn I will take in Delftse Hout, and without much thinking I just follow my internal compass. Leaves, branches and acorns are cracking under the soles of my running shoes. I take another deep breath and I brace myself. Another 10 minutes to go. I can do this.

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