The world of children is a place of wonder and enchantment. It is also a place of sweet innocence and the testing of things unknown and scary.
Ingrid is almost 10 now, only a couple of weeks away. We are into our summer swimming routine at the White Rock Y. The pool is crystal clear and it’s never crowded when we are there, which is usually right around noon on Saturdays. Sometimes we go on Sundays, too, same time and hardly anyone is there. Most families don’t start to arrive until later in the afternoon. We like the privacy even if it is hot, which is what summer is supposed to be anyway. Besides, we put on plenty of sunscreen.
Ingrid has steadily learned to swim effortlessly and with great joy. I put her in classes when she was 2, 3, 4 and 5. But she really never liked any of them. The classes were often large and there wasn’t a lot of attention given to any one child.
When she was 6 she took private lessons, which helped build some of her confidence, but the young college girl instructor at the Y was often distracted or in hurry to get through or something, so Ingrid never quite got to where she wanted to be.
So we finally just started working on our own. Last summer she got her stroke down, learned to tread water, and launched off into the deep end for the first time.
Now she is learning to dive, which is a little scary, but she is doing great with it. What she really loves though is jumping into the 9 ft deep end feet first trying to touch the bottom with her toes.
The first time she tried it I swam out into the middle of the pool not far from the edge. I told her I wanted to see this great jump and catch all of it. But I was really there on standby, there for support and secretly, in case she needed me when she first jumped in, even though two lifeguards were only seconds away.
Her small body was going down a long way for her and I knew she might find that harder and scarier than she thought. Even Dads worry sometimes.
She practiced it over and over but never could quite hit bottom. Then finally a couple of Saturdays ago she made it and when it happened she came up staring at me in her goggles and screeching, “Poppy! I did it!” She was so proud of herself but not nearly as proud as I was. We high fived in the deep end and in seconds she was jumping again.
I thought of Lewis Carroll’s great line,
“Child of the pure unclouded brow
And dreaming eyes of wonder!”
Those simple achievements of children, those little moments of proving oneself and meeting what seems like such an important challenge to them, are the beautiful times of childhood that win our hearts and remind us how self esteem is birthed.
Whether we are 9 or 90 the conviction that we are loved fills us with a sense that we matter. We can face almost any challenge, we can step off into the scary deeps, we can dig down and find our courage, when we know we are loved.
We cannot do more for our children than this.
Oh, we can give them a comfortable home, the latest things their age is wearing, toys and computers and their own TV, an iPhone and private school and stuff galore.
But what breathes health into their developing psyches, what infuses them with feelings of worth, what causes them to say I can do this—is nothing more than our loving embraces, our trust in their divinity, our celebration of their individuality, our joy in their presence.
When we do this openly, honestly, caringly, consistently, they blossom into human flowers and their beauty brings us to tears and gratitude and to a love we were all meant to know.
© 2012 Timothy Moody