Jump: Deep-Water Parenting

Swimming poolby Julie at ProgressiveKid

I cried yesterday when my 5-year-old daughter took her first jump off the diving board into the deep end of the pool. For months now she has taken swimming lessons with four other kids her age, and twice before she has not jumped, once out of fear and last time because just as she was getting up to the diving board the pool was evacuated because someone threw up in it.

This time around, things looked iffy, and I smiled expectantly, heart on my tongue, watery eyes beaming her courage, bracing myself to accept whatever she decided to do. When her turn came around, she climbed the ladder and began the twenty-foot-long walk forward, slowing as she reached the part extending over open water and inch-worming her way to the end. And there she stood looking cold and small, feet stone-heavy and stuck in place, deaf to her instructor’s encouragements from the water below, A full minute passed, then two, until she edged halfway back down the diving board, letting the last kid behind her move past her and walk steadily to the end, leaping off without hesitation. Class was ending for the day, and in my daughter’s final moment she walked slowly back down to the end, paused briefly, and without further ado jumped in butt first, taking her place among the initiates.

It was a happy moment of triumph, but part of me knew I was crazy to think so. What was wrong with those kids who leaped into twenty-five-foot-deep water without a moment’s thought? And why would I want my daughter to jump, and in jumping move that much farther away from me? I was happy for her for taking the risk, and I was just as happy that she considered it carefully beforehand. She had been smart and brave, albeit motivated also by peer pressure. And so it is that as much as I want my five year old to continue to be who she is now—the fiercely loving, honest, curious, world-wondering, uncensored self—I know she won’t and can’t stay that way. She has to move along her path, growing into the selves that await her. And for me that means continually loosening the grasp, letting go gradually as she requires. It means countless more bittersweet conversations, like the one afterward at the pool when she told me she loved jumping and couldn’t wait to do it again.

Julie Hall is the author of the new book A Hot Planet Needs Cool Kids: Understanding Climate Change and What You Can Do About It and the founder of the green online store ProgressiveKid.

©2008 ProgressiveKid

Image by fdecomite 2006, Creative Commons license

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