I have heard that in Jewish tradition, fathers are responsible for teaching their sons to swim. Is that true?
A father's responsibilities to his son are outlined in the Talmud, Kiddushin 29a. According to the text, a father is obligated to circumcise his son, to redeem him if he is the firstborn, to teach him Torah, to find him a wife, and to teach him a trade. Talmudic scholars added that a father must also teach his son to swim.
These directives are all intended to help a child grow into a successful and independent adult, one who will be part of the Jewish community, establish a household and find meaningful work. While teaching a child to swim may seem less important than other items on this list, the sages interpreted this as an essential survival skill.
Today, we think of these instructions as incumbent upon both fathers and mothers and applicable to both sons and daughters, as appropriate. Many modern Jews also no longer feel obligated to help find a spouse for their children, though parental meddling is a tradition that seems to endure.