One of the best parts of being a parent are the little lessons in inspiration that seem to come out of nowhere. For me in the latter half of this summer, I got one of those lessons at our favorite hangout, the neighborhood pool. Finances had forced us to forego swim lessons this year, but my kids are decent swimmers already and our almost daily trips to the pool have helped them become even stronger swimmers, even without the official lessons. But, they were still restricted to the shallow side of the pool. Separated from the depths of the deep end by a simple rope. Over the course of the summer my kids became increasingly interested in being able to cross the rope and swim the deep end. I told them they could if they wanted to, they just had to practice and then pass the deep end test for one of the lifeguards. The deep end test is simply swimming from one end of the Olympic sized pool to the other without grabbing onto the side or the help of an adult. For a few days both my 8-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter debated taking the test. One moment they would say they were ready, then they would change their mind.
I chose not to push them either way. This is one of those things that I felt they had to face themselves. Making it to the deep end was not something they had to accomplish this summer in my mind, so if they wanted to tackle it they could, if they didn’t I wasn’t going to push them. I let them be their own judge. Which, for whatever reason, turned it into an even bigger challenge for them.
Finally one day my son swam up to me and said, “Mom, I’m ready to take the test.” I could see him mustering all the bravado he could as he swam to the lifeguards and said he wanted to take the test. He then proceeded to swim all the way across from the shallow end to the deep end. Venturing across the rope. The lifeguard applauded, I applauded and he came out of the pool beaming with pride. Then he walked back to the shallow end and jumped back into the pool. “Don’t you want to swim in the deep end buddy?” I asked. “Nope, he said. Not right now. I just wanted to know I could pass the test.”
The very next day my daughter decided that she too had to take the test. She took a deep breath and nervously told the lifeguard she was ready. Being that my daughter is on the young side, the lifeguard walked along the edge of pool watching closely as my little swimmer swam, paddled and made her way all the way across the pool, just like her brother had before.
And just like her brother, after beaming with pride and acknowledging congratulations, she walked back to the shallow end. She too didn’t actually care to swim in the deep end; she just wanted to know that she could.
I love this lesson. Sometimes the challenges we tackle in life aren’t about anything more than simply knowing that we can tackle them, versus actually changing something. The way my kids play or swim at the pool hasn’t changed. They still spend 98% of their time playing on the shallow side of the rope, both knowing that they can cross that rope if they want to. And that’s good enough for them.
So the next time you feel a little overwhelmed by a challenge you are facing look at your kids. Be inspired. And remember that in life, sometimes we just need to take a deep breath and cross that rope.