A beautiful lesson my son taught me as he learned to swim in a single day
Fair side-question: Do we use our kids to fulfill our own dreams? Or do we encourage them to go their own path without letting our ego get in the way…
Regardless the answer, later on we can measure ourselves by how much they have learned from us. Whether we have given them a positive and realistic view of the world and how well they can cope in life. It’s bigger than us. So what truly matters?
Last Sunday some pieces of the puzzle were exposed.
When we had breakfast, we already knew that we wanted to swim that day. At that point, neither of us would have imagined what we will accomplish before afternoon. Accordingly he was nervous. I said to him: “Look you are already able to swim. Do not doubt. You already do swim.” Committing to something new is scary. This is also true for swimming.
Once at the swim centre, we went to the flatter outdoor area where children can splash around more freely. After a short warmup, in which we practiced the movement, we removed the swim belt. We started with a swim of two meters and increased it with each attempt until he managed a few meters. That was enough to get to the next stop or poolside. For lifeguards it is important to see that a child can keep his head above water. Thus, it was the only criterion on which we focused. That was a great first success. He played with his sister for the first time without water wings. From now on he was independent. So I asked him to bring his swimming bell back to our clothes and to be fully aware about what he is doing now. We agreed that we would never bring them out again. He brought them back with great pride.
Next we went to the large pool with the 25 meter long lane for advanced swimmers. At one end he could just stand but with each step less. We just jumped inside. We played, till we reached the deeper area in the middle. Standing was no longer possible. Then he saw, that kids are jumping from starting blocks on the other end of the swimming pool. We made a deal. He gets to jump, if he swims all the way to the end of the lane by himself. And yes, he managed doing that.
Because of his goal, he never thought about fear. Having a reason and a goal did not let him think about the deep water. If you don’t worry about “how”, but just do it, you find out along the way how things work. So we had a lot of fun jumping into the water. I was impressed. I would have expected that to scare him. But since I never told him that it was something to be afraid of, something to be careful about, it was easy for him.
Spontaneously, we asked a lifeguard what is expected in the exam to get a seahorse badge. The required distance for swimming is 25 meters. He gave it a try, started and finished. He also did it a second time. In the morning he started as a non-swimmer. Now he managed the distance for the seahorse turnoff twice.
It’s the small victories that we tend to ignore. The small recognition that proofs you’ve done something special. It’s a new perspective on learning as fun. The embrace of the unknown. The confidence that we can do something with pure trust and instinct.
He wanted to take off the swimming belt himself. The consequence was, you have to keep your head above water. In return, he was able to swim freely for the first time. He wanted to jump from the starting block himself, because it looked like fun. The consequence was: show me that you can swim there. This allowed him to celebrate his success with water bombs without fear.
We can help them take the first step. But then we can get out of the way. The moment when his good was above mine. I did not want to instruct or control, instead he found his goal by himself. I was able to let him go and let him reach his goal himself.
We give so much of ourselves. The good and the bad. Each of us has our worldview, believes things work one way or another. We hold on to the fact that there is one right way to do things — our way. By only wanting the best, we exercise control. It gives safety to ourselves, but prevents children from going their own way. We should be very sensitive and take our time and really listen. Talking about the why helps us both to understand it better and it is easier for us to get our egos out of the way. Finding your way in this world — finding yourself — God knows it’s not easy. Our children need to celebrate their own successes. So they can find their freedom bit by bit. Let’s rather make sure that they learn and celebrate a lot.
Later that day, while going to sleep, my son explained me the seahorse badge requirements. This he learned from the lifeguard. He confessed to me his fear of diving. What a great opportunity, I thought. Today he jumped from a starting block into deep water. He can already dive, he just doesn’t know it yet. What a beautiful lesson for life. Can’t wait for him to explore this for himself.
Thanks for reading. What are your thoughts about these lessons?