I have always been an anxious person and becoming a mother certainly did nothing to decrease my anxiety. It took me until well into my 30’s to really start confronting my fears and doing things that I always wanted to do but was too afraid to take the leap.
By virtue of both nature and nurture, my kiddo also has her fair share of anxiety. And while I make light of situations such as when we were in the produce section of the grocery store and she told me she “needed” to fix that someone had set a garlic bulb randomly on a bunch of tomatoes, I am all too familiar with the inner dialogue that accompanies those behaviors.
It can be difficult to keep myself in check and have a “perfect” balance of challenging my daughter to push through her anxieties and not let them impact her life, but also listening to and respecting when it is too much for her to manage.
Which brings me to swimming.
We live in Florida. We have a swimming pool. We have a pond behind our house. Water and water safety are a huge concern for us, so naturally we put our daughter in swim lessons early. It was a great program and she definitely learned how to swim and how get to safety, but even after 3 summers of lessons and countless hours in the swimming pool, she would still cry when asked to swim any distance in the pool, or jump in, or anything other than sit on the steps. She would bargain with us about how many times she had to do a skill before she could go back to her float. She would cry and hyperventilate.
This summer, she and I were in the pool and I asked her to swim to the far side, which was where she deemed was the deep end and thus off limits. I reminded her that since she was swimming and not walking, it didn’t matter that it was over her head.
And then it happened. My scared 6 year old took a deep breath. She closed her eyes briefly and said to herself, “Don’t let your fear control you.” And she took off and swam across the pool.
Now she is a regular mermaid. She jumps in the pool and will swim and swim and swim. She is the coolest kid. I want to be like her when I grow up.