It happened just a few weeks ago but it is forever burned in my memory. I took my children, 4-year-old Gabriel and 2-year- old Eden to a local water park. While there, we walked to the area where the big kids were jumping off a diving board into 12 ½ feet of water. We sat on the edge, cheering and enjoying their antics when Gabriel looked at me, brown eyes shining and said, ‘Mama, I wanna try!”.
There was a deafening internal silence that took place and drowned out the laughter, screaming and exuberance of the families around us. I sat there, looking into his eyes…this child of mine who only 8 weeks prior was afraid to jump into the 4 foot pool and had only recently begun swimming. I had a mini crisis. Right there, in the middle of the park, I was forced into making a decision that would forever alter all 3 of us. In that moment, I was confronted with two choices: Say no, disappoint him and keep him safe... or say yes, let him jump & risk his safety. Images of me having to jump in and save him flashed across my mind as I said, “Sure!”
As he walked to the diving board, only 3 feet 10 inches tall and at least a foot shorter than anyone else in line, I situated his sister in a safe place far enough away from the pool’s edge and I stood on pins & needles, waiting for his turn. He climbed up the stairs…walked to the edge…looked at me for reassurance & bounced a few times. Then, he threw his little shoulders back & with one last glance at me, he jumped. My heart was pounding as he hit the water and surfaced and I stood there cheering encouragement and instruction whenever he came up. When he finally reached the edge, he looked up at me with the most triumphant grin I’ve ever seen and said “I did it! I did it!”. Tears filled my eyes as I cheered for him & his sister did a victory dance.
Had I said no, even though that’s what was safest, I would have inadvertently taught both of my children that it’s safer to stay on the sidelines and watch others enjoy life. Gabriel would have felt defeated, as though he didn’t have what it takes. They would have lacked trust in their own abilities. Gabriel wanted, and NEEDED to know that he could do this. He needed to have that milestone moment & a victory that was all his own. He needed to know that he does have what it takes.
It really wasn’t only their lesson that day, though. I grew as a parent, a teacher, a friend, a therapist and as a woman during my private crisis. I wondered how many times I’ve stayed on the edge, doubting my own abilities and watching others live because I was afraid. I wondered how many times I’ve allowed myself to stay stuck in the safe zone and missed the opportunity to achieve a victory. So I made up my mind that day…I left my fear at the edge of the pool and I renewed my commitment to savor life. I am determined to live a life where I fear less and live more. I choose daily to make life matter. I wonder if you’ll join me.