Warren took a two-week long swimming class this summer at our local high school. I’ve always taught him myself, thanks to my former stint as a private swim instructor during college, but felt that he needed more than I could give now with three little ones in tow. He knew the basics. It was time for a little more.
He loved it. He’s always been good in the water and this class gave him an opportunity to add to his skills. He can swim halfway across the pool and back, float, bob, and sort of tread water. Plus he’s got the beginnings of the back stroke (one of my events in high school) and is generally more confident swimming face up. I feel like he is relatively water safe now, which makes us both happy.
Poor Maddie, Jake, and Joey were dragged along to the lessons without being able to dip in the water themselves, but they were all very good during the 30 minutes. Maddie snacked on Cheerios and dried cranberries to keep her occupied while the boys soaked up all the noise and commotion of the pool. We made friends with other families waiting for their swimming child so it wasn’t all boring. Again, it’s amazing to discover how many people you know in common in this town.
The last day of lessons is a fun time where the teachers do different activities with the kids, including jumping off the diving boards. There are two sizes: barely above the water and 8 whole steps above the water, both in the deep end of course. Kids of all sizes, ages, and abilities can jump off, if they desire.
Warren asked the first day if he’d have the chance to jump off the highest dive and I told him he would. He asked if he should do it and I told him he should, but it would be up to him. He’s not the most daring kid in the world. On the contrary, he is the sort to feel out the situation, standing back to observe before he commits to any action. As much as he talked about it, I wondered if he would actually jump when the opportunity came.
He wanted to do it. I could tell that he genuinely wanted to be that brave and go for it. He mastered the smaller diving board, despite being scared to do it, so there was hope. When the final day came and the kids lined up behind that high dive, I waited anxiously to see what would happen.
He climbed up with fairly steady legs, got out to the middle of the board to where the handle bars ended and froze. People cheered his name and told him he could do it. But he didn’t think so. He burst into tears and said he couldn’t. He turned around and climbed back down the ladder, defeated.
My heart broke for him. I wrapped his wet body up in my arms and told him it was okay. I was proud of him for even trying. I told him he went farther than I thought he would! Through tears he said he still wanted to try, but when the last child finished and his swim teacher climbed out of the pool he knew his chance was over. He was crushed.
I know my children will experience failure. They’ll experience disappointment. They’ll grieve. It’s as it should be in order for them to grow and stretch and become better than what they, or I, can even imagine. This time certainly won’t be the last for Warren. But it was in this moment that I got a glimpse of how painful it is to watch, as a mother. With every girl that rejects him, college that doesn’t accept him, job he’s passed over for, I will see him break just a little bit. That thought makes me ache.
That said, I have no intention of shielding my children from failure. I know they will be better for it. I just hope that I can help them find the tools they need to never give up– to have the strength to try and try again.