We Just Keep Swimming
Today, I met up with you two and your mom at your swimming lesson. When I arrived, you were poolside and being introduced to your two swim instructors and classmates before your mom and younger sister went to their lesson. While your mother and I introduced you to swimming at age one, you are four now, and you are still fearful of water. In the bathtub, you splash and laugh, but going to the pool and sticking your face beneath the surface is an Everest you have yet to summit.
And of course, on your second attempt at swimming lessons, there is a mistake and you’ve been placed in the wrong class. We just don’t know it yet.
At first, I see everything go well. Each of the swim instructors guides you and a classmates across the length of the pool. Then when you reach the other side, I see you fiddling with your goggles. I glance to your mom, who is trying to pay attention, but she’s got your sister and needs to pay attention to her. So I look back and you’re sitting on the edge while one of the swim instructor is talking to a supervisor, but still I cannot see your face.
I’m behind a glass partition with other parents, who are laughing and waving to their kids. But, I’m on the edge of my seat, my heart starting to race and frustration growing. Why isn’t the swim instructor turning to get me? Why are they talking over you while the other kids are practicing?
Then the swim instructor moves, and I get a clean shot of you. You’re slouching with goggles in proper place, but your lips are quivering, and you look miserable.
My heart breaks. My four-year-old child is hurting, and I’m sitting outside like an idiot.
Then I realize the other kids are swimming much better than you. There is a confidence in them as they push off from the wall and glide with little support from the instructor. This is not your skill level. This is not be your class.
My heart slows, but you are still my child. You are still in pain, fear, something… and all I want to do is pick you up and hug you and rock you and make you laugh.
How can I fix this?
I can’t. I’ve entrusted you to these professionals. I’ve told you they are trustworthy and will protect you and guide you. Should I go back on that promise, should I run into the pool and save you, that trust will vanish. And so I sit back, swallow my frustration, and wait… but not patiently.
There is still twenty minutes left.
Then, I notice that the swim instructor has pulled out a flotation device and you glide across the length of the pool, kicking and focusing on your target. You reach the edge and give him a high-five. Then you float on your back and give him another high-five.
Slowly, I relax back into my chair.
Fifteen minutes later, I’m on the side of the pool, and you are smiling and the swim instructor is telling you how brave you are! Then he tells me you should be in a lower class. I play it cool. I smile. Then I help you out of the pool and we head to the showers. All the while, you are staring at me. Your eyes are searching for my response. And I keep playing it cool, trying to tell you that all is right with the world and mistakes happen.
Despite your fear of water, you love everything about water and Finding Nemo is one of your favorites. We watched it last week and while the scene was lost on you, there was a moment where Dory and Marlin are in a whale and their conversation goes like this:
MARLIN: No. I promised him I’d never let anything happen to him.
DORY: Huh. That’s a funny thing to promise.
DORY: Well, you can’t never let anything happen to him. Then nothing would ever happen to him.
There are times when I’m more like Marlin than I care to admit, but not today. Watching you struggle, overcome your fear, and then laugh at your accomplishment, I realized how unlike Marlin I actually am. And while you are four and have so many more milestones ahead of you that will cause me stress (dating, driving, to name a few), I’ll just keep telling myself to sit back and breathe because I’m raising you to be one tough kid that won’t let herself get caught up in fear and negative energy. I’m raising a kid, who will take struggle and failure as just another step in her long road to success. And should you need a hug along the way, don’t forget I’ll be sitting in the bleachers just waiting to come running!