“Here. Let me hand you my flailing child and then walk calmly away while I listen to him crying out for me.”
Easy enough, right?
Last week was my son’s second swimming lesson. The first time, he spent a few minutes clinging to my arm before he worked up the courage to step in. This time, even though he remembered how much fun he had had last week, he was even more apprehensive when it came time to get in. The teacher stoically told me to pick him up and hand him to her, in the water. So I did—flailing limbs and all.
I’m still feeling a bit conflicted about that, but more than anything, I keep thinking about how this is only the beginning. During his life, I will watch him tackle one scary thing after another. If anything, I’m lucky that right now the scariest thing he and I have to face is a small, 90-degree indoor pool with a dozen happy children in it.
As I sat on a nearby bench, handing my younger son snack after snack to keep him from pulling off his shorts and getting in the pool (seriously, he was trying), I imagined all the hard things I may see my children face. Standing up to a bully? Choosing not to be a bully? Getting cut from a team? Navigating the internet wisely? Taking the SATs??
I also thought of my role. Today I walked calmly (at least on the outside) to the other side of the pool, sat down, and gave him an encouraging thumbs-up the few times we made eye contact. Even though he desperately wanted me to step in and take away his fear, I knew I couldn’t. Slowly, he’s going to have to learn to trust himself and trust others. My heart beats fast at that thought—which reminds me that I’m going to have to learn to trust him, and trust others, too.
But when my boy comes up to me dripping wet after his half-hour lesson and says, “See? I found some brave!”—I think maybe it’s not so bad to have this little guy carrying part of my heart.
I hope you feel it too.