My daughter Meghan was a late bloomer in the water. As a toddler, she stood on the sidelines watching the other children splash and play in the water fountains, but didn’t let herself get wet. If we did convince her to get wet in some water feature at a park, it was usually followed with tears. As she grew older, her fear of the water didn’t diminish.
Swimming pools were okay, as long as she could wear a floatie and keep her head above water the whole time. Last summer, as a five year old, she was the only five year old I knew who would not get into the pool without a floatie and refused to get her face wet. Jumping into the pool? Forget it.
Swimming lessons were a nightmare, but we tried. Different places, different instructors, different formats. We finally found a place where she started to make progress. Last summer she took swimming lessons 3 days a week until she was at least more comfortable in the water. We continued the lessons through the school year and after a lot of months, a lot of tears, and a lot of frustration, Meghan did learn to swim. It was an exciting accomplishment.
It was a relief when she was able to consistently get into the pool without a floatie this summer. The deep end was still a source of fear for her, so she tended to stick to swimming in the shallow end where the bottom of the pool was always within reach of her feet. Still, to see her jumping in, swimming under water, and doing handstands in the water was a huge change and made me happy.
Although she’d made great progress, she hadn’t totally conquered her fear. The deep end and the diving board were huge obstacles that seemed unsurmountable to Meghan. That deep, deep water, where her feet couldn’t find the bottom and push her back up, was terrifying.
At the beginning of the summer she made a huge step in the direction of conquering that fear by jumping off the diving board. With her floatie on. Although I was happy she’d taken that step, I knew she could do it without her floatie. She’s come so far and now swims well. I knew she could swim from the diving board to the edge of the pool. She had the skills she needed, but lacked the confidence. She was content keeping her safety device on, knowing that it would keep her from sinking to the bottom in the deep, deep water.
Every time we went to the pool, I talked to her about trying to jump off the board without her floatie on. She mostly dismissed me and said she was fine using it for the diving board jumps.
One day she decided she would practice by jumping in to the deepest part of the pool from the edge instead of the diving board. She made sure I was close to her, and then she jumped. She came up crying, saying it was too deep and too scary.
“I’m not jumping off the diving board without a floatie until I’m 23!”
Have I ever mentioned how dramatic she can be?
I know I can only push so much, so I let it go. Surely she wouldn’t still be wearing a floatie off the diving board as a teenager.
This brings us to the last weekend of summer, Labor Day weekend. The temperatures reached into the 90s and we took advantage of the last weekend the pool would be open. Without prompting, Meghan announced, “I’m going to jump off the diving board without my floatie!”
And just like that, she did it.
She believed she could, so she did.
After she spent two days of nonstop jumping off the board with no floatie, she looked at me and said, “I shouldn’t have waited until the end of summer to do this!”
She learned an important lesson about fear and I was reminded, too. Sometimes, our own fear holds us back from accomplishing what we are capable of. Fear makes us wait. Fear can grip us tightly, paralyze us, and not let us do what we should be able to do.
There’s no better feeling than conquering a fear. But now I am remembering not to let fear hold me back in the first place. There are so many things I’m afraid of that I’ve spent the last week asking myself if it’s holding me back. What can I accomplish if I let go of that fear?
Is there anything you can accomplish by letting go of fear? Don’t wait.