Yesterday Finn jumped off of the diving board for the first time.
I use the term jumped very loosely. Maybe, “gently lifted down off of the diving board by the life guard into the waiting arms of his teacher in the pool” is more accurate. You would have thought he won an Olympic medal, that’s how proud he was of his diving board experience. He jumped off of the side of the pool like a pro prior to the diving board, but I know he wanted to try the diving board. I could see it from all the way up in the bleachers how he watched some of the other kids jump into the pool.
I watched him watch them while he decided for himself if he was going to try, too.
He inched his toes across that diving board, he waited for the life guard and his teacher to reassure him that he would be okay; I wanted to yell down that he was doing an awesome job! That I knew he could do it! But the words were caught in my throat. Sink or swim, literally, this was his choice to make. I watched as he made up his mind to jump, gipping his pool noodle with one hand and plugging his nose with the other. He made barely a splash and his teacher swam him safely to the side of the pool, still gripping that pool noodle and his feet fluttering furiously.
After class he told me how scared he’d been; he gripped my hand tight and looked at me for reassurance that it’s okay to be scared when you try new things and I gave him that gift. Yes, I said. I’m often scared when I try new things. Like crafts? he asked. Yes, I said. And other things, too. Sometimes the first time is scary, but each time after it gets less scary. Tomorrow, he said. Tomorrow I’m going to do it without any help. I squeezed his hand tight and told him I believe in him and I believe he can do anything he sets his mind to.
This morning I had to wake Eleanor up from her nap to go to swimming lessons and we were already running late. I sent Finn ahead of me to get changed in the locker room. I told him I’d wave from the bleachers as he scooted across the hot asphalt and I wrestled with Eleanor’s carseat buckle. We walked fast toward the school, waved at Finn as he ran down the hall and I lugged her up to the pool bleachers, where she proceeded to channel her inner monkey by climbing up and down and all around without any fear or regard to her own unbalanced nature. She’s such a complete opposite of my overly wary, very cautious boy. My attention was divided between watching Finn’s lesson and making sure Eleanor didn’t face plant down the stairs or throw her toys (or herself) over the railing and into the pool.
And then Eleanor pooped.
With 10 minutes left in the lesson, I walked Eleanor out into the hall, thinking I’d change her real fast in the van (where I, of course, left the diaper bag) and then we’d be back in to meet Finn by the locker room doors, but I knew, I just knew, that they were going to practice jumping into the deep end and I wanted to see him. I wanted him to see me seeing him, supporting him. So I scooped up stinky El, and we darted back into the pool bleachers just in time to see him strut to the end of the diving board with none of the fear I’d seen yesterday, purple pool noodle still gripped tight, oversized goggles fogging up, nose pinched closed.
I watched as he jumped right into that big pool just like he said he was going to. And I wanted to clap and cheer and yell that I knew he could do it! Instead I just stood there, grinning like a fool, so proud of that brave human with the big goggles swimming like a boss in the deep end.
I hope that he’s always equal parts curious and cautious. I hope that more often than not he weighs the pros and cons of the situation he finds himself in. I hope that he alone decides when he’s ready to do something and not when someone else pressures him or when “society” says it’s time. I hope that he always realizes that he’s far braver than he thinks he is, that he’s got it in him to do the thing that scares him, and that sometimes, when he does the big scary thing, he learns a little bit more about himself.