We have a problem with fear in our house. I take full responsibility for it. I know fear intimately. Fear was practically my family legacy. I say “was,” not “is,” because I decided early in my “Mom-hood” that I was not willing to pass fear down to my children. I know what these spunky kids are made of, what they are/could be capable of, and I’m not going to let fear stop them from doing what they want/need to do. I know some fear is natural and normal, of course, and sometimes you have to respect their fears and concerns. Sometimes they’ll come around on their own with time and experience. But other times you have to give them, quite literally, a push.
When my daughter was little, she was too frightened to go down the slide (even when her baby brother would zoom right past her and slide down). She’d stand up at the top, wanting to come down but too scared to do it. After weeks of this, I finally climbed up there and pushed her down. It wasn’t easy for either one of us. But, after that, she gladly went down the slide. She had to get past that initial fear and it seemed that no amount of coaxing was going to help her do it.
I’ve been reminded of this again thinking about the progress she’s made with her swimming and the struggles we’ve had to overcome to get to this point. Throughout her childhood, she mostly hated going into the swimming pool. I knew she could do it and I really wanted her to get past her fears. I believed, and still believe, experience is the only way to learn what you’re capable of. So, I would put on her life jacket and put her in the deep end of the pool. It took some tears but once she realized she wasn’t going to sink down to the bottom and that she was safe, she’d relax and start swimming around. No amount of talking through the issues resulted in progress. She needed to know for herself.
The problem was, there’s a long break between summers and when summer rolled around again we were back to square one. Last summer, I decided to put them in swimming lessons because I knew it might be an issue for both kids to get back in the water with confidence. It was one of the best decisions that I’ve made – within a week they quickly realized how comfortable they actually were in the water. They had so much fun swimming at the pool all summer and they both continued their swimming lessons throughout the winter. As summer started to approach again this year, I strongly encouraged them to join a summer swim team. There was mixed feelings of excitement and, our old friend, fear. They finally agreed to do it and I have been blown away by their progress. I almost can’t believe these are the same timid kids that were taking lessons and learning the basics of freestyle swimming just one summer ago. As I’m standing on the sidelines at their swim meets, watching them power through a freestyle race or watching my daughter compete in butterfly, I can’t help but to think of that little girl, secure in her life jacket and surrounded by loving adults, crying in the deep end. I delight in how far she’s come.
It’s in these small moments of parenting realizations that I start to understand (in part) what God the Father is doing with me. I love when He uses my parenting experiences to teach me a bit more about what His character and love is. How many times have I been that girl in the deep end of the pool crying my eyes out, failing to realize that I was safely secured in a “life jacket” of God’s love? As a loving Father in heaven, He sometimes pushes us way past our comfort levels…because that’s where the growth is. We aren’t called to easy situations. We’re called to “deep end of the pool” living.
And, in the same way, I think as parents it’s our responsibility to urge our kids into challenging situations. It isn’t an easy thing, but I think it’s the right thing. What if I hadn’t pushed my children out of their comfort zone? Would they be competing in races (and doing quite well, I might add!) or would they still be sitting on the edge of the pool, afraid?
With God’s help and wisdom, I’m seriously determined to push my kids out of the grip of fear and onto the sure footing of confidence. I think as parents we have to help them work through their fears. And, as I make this realization, I hope that I can remember it the next time that I’m in the deep end of the pool.