I’m forcing myself to tackle this question tonight. There are two or three other easy targets for today’s activities and interactions, but I realize that none of them would really make me face myself and my own fears.
We took our kids swimming today. We go to an exercise pool at our fitness club where the water is blissfully warm but five or so feet deep all around. We have friends that usually go at the same time, and their daughter is just a little younger than our son. She swims like a dolphin at age four! It’s delightful. Her parents toss her around, dunk her, and enjoy themselves while generally letting her do her thing. I on the other hand can’t let my boy out of arm’s reach. Swimming is just not even fun these days. Between him (without a life jacket) and my two year old twins (with life jackets) I have no idea why I put myself through this! I am going to die of either a heart attack (from watching him come up for air and sputter) or of embarrassment (from screaming my husband’s name every time my boy stays under water for more than a couple of seconds).
The superficial solution to this problem is easy: get the kid into swimming lessons (and have his dad take him–not me!). Get his sisters into swimming lessons shortly thereafter. This would be helpful for today, but I can’t help but think that this situation is just going to repeat itself until…well forever really, because you’re never done being a parent!
A friend of mine said recently that if her husband had his way, they’d wrap their son in bubble wrap. Not such a bad idea! Still, if our job as parents is to raise confident, capable children, we do them no favors by protecting them and never letting them take risks. But how can we get around our own issues and anxieties enough to let this happen in a healthy and productive way? How can we stand supportively on the sidelines while our children take the risks they need to take in order to learn and grow?