Monday, March 6, 2017

Fighting the Water

My three children are learning to swim. More accurately, they are trying to become better swimmers. Per our family rule, they need to take swimming lessons until they can confidently swim in the ocean by themselves.

Our oldest, Lorelei, is doing really well. She's got the strongest stroke and is confident in the water, and she's the only one who can tread water at all--and she does it well. She's in fourth grade and leans to less traditional sports such as horseback riding, sailing, and hiking, but she's smart and strong and I think there's more sportiness in her than she realizes. That's okay, it can stay dormant until she wants to wake up that sleeping giant and have fun with it.

Our youngest, Kiefer, has the biggest love of the water. He has always been the most daring, the one who put his head under the most easily when he was just a toddler. In the ocean, he's the one who wants to go out the furthest from the shore (with me and a boogie board) and has to be told it's time to return. He is comfortable, but he's not yet six, so there's a lot of coordination, maturity, and know-how lacking. It'll come.

That leaves our oldest boy, Ben. He is the most athletic of our three children. His moves on the soccer field turn heads. Often parents from the other team stop him or us to compliment his ability to read an opponent's move or slide past a defender. His performance in cross-country this past fall, winning all three of his quarter mile races, blew us and his coaches away. He raced effortlessly and joyfully, finishing strides ahead of the rest of the pack of second grade boys.

But in the water, it's a struggle. He doesn't feel comfortable, and the anxiety that sticks on the bench in other sports tangles around him and weighs him down. Or at least complicates things. Staying calm in the water--which is pretty important!--is a huge challenge. He's really doing great, but watching him swim is a challenge for me. I can feel little drops of anxiety enter my bloodstream as he tries his absolute best to listen to the instructor and figure out how to breath the right way.

I realized while watching him swim last week that he's fighting the water.

I'm not a rock star swimmer but I am confident and capable, and I was watching a show with my husband that involved weight training in the deep end of the pool. The instructor was telling the adult how to maneuver the heavy dumbbells safely. He explained, "You can't fight the water. You've got to work with it."

Honestly, I'm not sure I totally get what he means, but I think that's what's going on in Ben's head in the water.

And my mind drifts from the water to life, and I think that's a struggle for myself and maybe some of you: how much do we fight this life rather than working with the current and accepting it? I think of my grandfather's visit last fall and how this 93 year old man didn't complain once about anything--ANYTHING--while he was here, and how he just moved along effortlessly, happy to be here and happy for the new experiences at his advanced age. He just moved along with the current--my family's current--and went along with it.

Maybe Ben and I both have to move with the water a little more, and we can learn by example from each other, becoming a little bit more comfortable each day. Or, for him, each swimming lesson.


  1. As a lifelong swimmer, love the connection between life and your swimming ability. Loved the language you used...anxiety tangling around him and weighing him down. And as Dory and my 2-year-old would say..."just keep swimming, just keep swimming!"

    1. thank you so much...the Dory song comes into my head MANY times each week!