FORT JACKSON, SC -- He leaned forward, his head precariously near the water, seemingly anticipating the coach's instructions. Nearby, another set of bodies- mother and child - did the same. Then came the words we'd all been awaiting: "Kick, kick, kick!"

The other child shot forward; mine didn't. I stole a glance at the other child - our adversary in a swim diaper.

Four lessons into the swimming class in which I'd enrolled my son and I was competing with a child who wasn't yet 2.

A couple of months ago, I decided that I wasn't doing nearly enough with my child. There were no mid-day walks to the park; no baby sign lessons; no Mommy and me classes.

Each day, it seemed, my window of bonding time was growing smaller. So, I decided I'd kill two birds with one stone with swimming lessons. Not only would it get my toddler familiar with the water, it would provide a bonding experience for us both.

The first day of lessons went better than I expected. He objected to getting his hair washed in the bathtub, so I knew he would resist having water poured over his head.

What I didn't expect, however, is that we would be teaching our toddlers to hold their breath underwater the first day. We practiced "dolphin dips," in which the children merely got their faces wet, kicks (both forward and backward) and safety steps, in which we instructed the children to grab the side of the pool. It was all very terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. In photos, the other mom and I are holding our babies, both our cheeks puffed out. It's as if we were attempting to hold our children's breath for them. Only when their little noses and mouths broke the surface of the water did we relax.

The second lesson went even better. With Daddy nearby snapping photos, it's as if our little swimmer were on a photo shoot. He kicked, he moved his arms, he clapped for himself when he did a good job.

But during his next lesson, it seemed he decided that he had enough. No more kicking. All of my - and the swim coach's - high-pitched pleas to kick were ignored.

And that is when his cute, little swim partner became our No. 1 opponent. Never mind the fact that she is five or six months older than my child; as she moved on to more progressively difficult tasks, I took him over to the side, where I willed him (mentally and verbally) to kick.

Neither my coaching, nor my silent prayers, had any effect. But, last night, as we sang our final song, and he laughed as I bobbed him up and down in the pool, I realized that it really didn't matter if he could kick his legs or swim unaided at the culmination of the class. I signed us up so that he could spend some fun time with Mommy; I didn't think he would actually learn to swim, I didn't even think he would put his head under the water so soon.

So, even though he may not "win" the competition I'd created within my own mind, as I look at my computer screen-saver - a photo of him smiling, face wet after a successful dolphin dip - I know that he still came out on top.