This story is a repost. You can find the original post on Growing Good Families.
His splashing started to look a little desperate as his head disappeared under the water. I reached out to pull my littlest to the water’s surface before it was too late.
He turned to face me and smiled. Not the reaction I expected. “I almost did it!” he declared.
His elation at “almost” swimming made me shift my mindset. He wasn’t drowning, he was learning how to swim. Instead of saving him from drowning, he was asking me to teach him how to swim.
First, I showed him how to kick himself forward. After a few attempts where I had to fish him out after he disappeared below the surface, he started moving through the water. I watched in awe. Fear was far from his mind, rather a sense of challenge and adventure, of accomplishment was driving him along. I tottered on the edge of stepping in before it was too late, and holding back enough so he could try and grow.
Second, as I watched him take on short distances, I realized he needed to know how to take breaths in order to swim farther. I modeled how to lift his head, tread water and take a quick breath before kicking forward again. Again the first few attempts looked more like drowning, but eventually his little head emerged from the water so he could take a breath and then continue on.
Third, without my instructions, he started using his arms. Forward and back, he pushed the water aside so he could cut through the water. This one he added without my help.
“I’m swimming!” he declared, hands raised, smile plastered on his face.
His pride in accomplishment made me realize, sometimes we have to step back just a little bit more that we are comfortable to allow them to spread their flippers and fly through the water. And what they need most from us is belief that bolsters their own.
Little lessons from my little boy that is now swimming away from me on his own.