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Swim Lessons

The boat was packed full of family and friends on a perfectly warm and clear summer day of outdoor activities and fun. The older kids had been skiing taking turns with the adults, and we all had our turn at being properly slung off of the tube countless times. That is until a handle or two were torn off, proving that we could outlast the most durable of tubes. Mama wasn’t in the boat at the time, which is important to note. The boat was off allowing us to drift with the breeze not too far from the shoreline. Music was on, people were laughing or reapplying sun block, one of us kids was hungry, again. Before we made our next move Daddy wanted to cool off one more time and he invited me to do the same.

Hey, let's jump in one more time before we go, but shuck that life jacket. You take it off this time and jump in without it if I'm right with you. You have to put it on back on in the boat, no taking it off if I don't know and we don't need to tell Mom that you took it off, deal?

You bet it was a deal! I had wanted to take the damn thing off all day and it made me feel like I was a baby and I was not! I unbuckled it as I heard Mom's voice in my mind and her insistence that I never get in the water without it.

You sure Mom won't get mad? At me....or you?

Nah, she knows I wouldn't let anything happen to you and you won't be taking it off unless one of us tells you to, so we are good. But we also don't need to make her worry about something that she doesn't need to worry about, don't ya think?

I do, but don't let me get far from you, ok?

I will be right next to you, besides, I bet you swim better than me by now, anyway.

Standing on the edge of the boat, life jacket-less, grinning holding Daddy's hand we counted down, and with a wink on one, we jumped in. Our faces emerged with laughter as we looked around to get our bearings. I don't remember getting the heads up that when Daddy yells to the boat "we're good" that it also means, start the boat and you may go now, but that's what happened! My first thought was that we were going to be in so much trouble with Mama, she would never have allowed this, not on her watch! Which is also exactly why Daddy seized this learning moment, but it was many years later that I recognized that was the plan all along and it was about more than learning different swimming techniques. I have no doubt that my eyes were filled with terror treading water asking what do we do now? I will never forget his grin or the sound of the calmness and loving humor his voice.

Slow down little girl. I am right here. You are fine. Breathe and keep treading water, dog paddle or whatever feels better for you to get your bearings. Ok? You are good, we are ok. Focus, now look around you. See where you are. See where the beach is.

I did exactly as he instructed and I really did want to burst into tears or throw a fit, but knew that wouldn't do anyone any good, pushing that to the side I bucked up to do what he asked and do it well. I was doing ok and we were fine. I could do it and I know where we are. He must have seen this thought process take place because when I looked back at him, he grinned and nodded in a nonverbal, attagirl.

Ok, see we are good. Alright, so we can't just stay out here all day, so we would need to get to shore, right?

I nodded in approval and agreement, already feeling more confident in the task at hand and our team work to make it happen.

So you know where you are and where you need to be. Remember, you don’t have to make a move until you know these things, no matter what the situation is. So now, pick a spot on shore. It can be any spot and that's where we are heading. You pick where your gut tells you to go.

I felt like we were miles from land and scanned the shore and glanced around for anything that would be a threat in between. I pretended to be as confident in this moment as Daddy and looked for the closest and clearest area. I knew which one to point to, but I started to second guess it and think, which one would he pick and that feeling of anxiety started creeping in.

You know what you needed to know to decide, so don't get stuck. It's not worth rehashing or wasting energy, you may need that between here and there....Young lady, pick your path, and let’s get going. I will not leave your side. If we get tired, we stop and catch our breath and get going again. The longer you second guess your instincts and worry, the more energy your waist. There is not a wrong decision and we WILL swim to shore together.

With determined confidence I pointed to a nearby beach, Daddy nodded with approval and a chuckle of loving pride that I worked it out on my own. In one fluid motion Daddy kicked away and reached over the water, so I instinctively imitated him and we were on the move. We went at a slow but steady pace toward the chosen destination, along the way Daddy taught me different swimming techniques. He encouraged me and stayed right with me as I gained confidence. I felt sand beneath my feet before I realized it and was unbelievably proud of us. Walking up the shallows we pinky swore not to tell Mama, and vowed for it to be our secret. They pretty much couldn’t keep me out of water from then on.

Holiday Confession Time

A few years ago we gathered for either Christmas or Thanksgiving, after dinner we were telling family stories and laughing at our different perspectives, then compared to now. I had the brilliant idea to ask how they decided to teach me so many life lessons disguised as a swimming lesson with Daddy, and thanked them for the choice to do that instead of taking me back to the ridiculously cold city pool for more. Dad shot me an alarmed glance, and Mom did too. I broke the pinky swear. We giggled as the truth came out and I was enlightened to a little secret of Mom’s. This whole time Mom had never indicated or hinted that she was afraid of the water. It wasn't exactly easy for her to say right then, but I had no clue! Tears welled in my eyes as she told us that she was terrified of lake water and didn't know why it was so hard for her, but it was a real fear of hers. I thought of so many times we were on lakes and tried to process how hard that had been for her. She kept it completely, aside from the over emphasis of the importance of life jackets, it had been kept her secret. I could not believe it and asked how miserable for her those fun times for us must have been. She took my hand, which means heads up, this is important in our family.

Honey, what kind of a parent would I have been to allow my fears to become yours.

I now understand why Mama was so serious about lifejackets and the terror she would have felt if she saw Daddy and I jump into the water like that without having more experience swimming. All of those lessons would not have been possible if Mom had been on the boat. Daddy knew it and was doing the best he could to take care of both of us.

I have learned a lot from each of them and have plenty more to go. Daddy showed me not to panic, to assess the situation and make a plan, and then to follow through with the plan. Mother showed me the lengths she would go at her own expense just for us. They both showed me that there is more than one way to handle and obstacle, but taking care of each other was most important.

Our parents do a lot of badass things for us, many that we may never know about. If you are fortunate enough to hear the whole story, like I was in this instance, you think about other scenarios a little differently. I wonder how many other times in life this is truly the case and also contributes to misunderstandings if we aren't careful. I have made it a point to recognize the things that others do for me, not for recognition or any other reasons, but because of love.

It’s still a mystery to me how the stars aligned or the powers that be, gave such amazing, strong, and giving souls to me as my parents, but I remain eternally grateful. I have a Mother who shows no fear and a Daddy who wins at pinky swearing.


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