By Laura Moore
I've held my breath as I've seen his head go under water and his body sink.
And I've quieted my instincts each time he looks at me, desperately, his eyes pleading for me to swoop in, his arms extending toward me, begging for me to save him.
But I want him to learn how to hold his breath, roll over and float.
I want his body to know how to react if the unfathomable were to happen, if he slipped away from me, if he tumbled into the water.
I want him to be confident in the face of danger.
And because I want all of that, I've been sitting on the sidelines. I've had to relinquish control. I've had to watch my son struggle through each phase of the Infant Swimming Resource program. I've had to let a professional tweak his positioning and refine his instincts. I've had to let him test my son's boundaries. I've had to give him permission to guide little Z as he learns to try and fail, to overcome and succeed.
But watching is hard.
Even though my husband and I researched the program thoroughly, each time I hear Z melt down, I question our decision. I worry about choosing the wrong path. Our son hardly ever cries. He nails his head on the floor, he cuts his finger, he bruises his legs and he never utters a peep. But these lessons reduce him to sobs. These challenges cut right into his core. He wails mercilessly each time he enters the pool, each time he rises from the water, each time he's directed to float on his back. And as I sit there and watch, I feel like a horrible mother. I feel like I should stop it, like I should intervene.
But when I look closely, I notice open hands instead of closed fists. I notice he's floating longer and longer. He's holding his breath. He's rolling over. He's improving. And so even though his tears are heartbreaking, deep down, I'm quite confident he's okay. Even if he seems to hate it, I can't deny that he's stepping up to the plate. He's doing everything he's being asked to do, and the instructor compliments him relentlessly, telling me his right he's on track.
And so even if I feel a taunting urge to stop coming--to return him back to a world full of sunshine and rainbows--I suppress the temptation. I continue to drive across town. I continue to let him fight the good fight. I decide not to intervene, not to soften the road, not to get in the way.
I swallow the very real truth that life is full of falling and feeling and struggle. It is littered with opportunities to either sink or to fly. And so as tempting as it is to keep Z under my control--to perpetually put him in position to succeed--that's not my job as a parent; my job is to expose him to challenges, to teach him how to endure, to give him the space to overcome. It is to provide him with developmentally appropriate chances to test his abilities, to learn from his environment, and to grow into a confident, capable and compassionate young man.
And so as hard as it is to sit there and watch him struggle, as tempting as it is to pull him out of the pool, I know this is only the first of many times that I will need to sit back. The first of many times when I'll need to let go. The first of many times when I'll hold my breath as I take off the water wings, as I give him the chance to rise up from the depths, to lift his head and float.