For our family, the local public pool is like an oasis, a welcome diversion and a life-giving place in the middle of an otherwise over scheduled summer. The pool serves as a meeting location for impromptu gatherings with friends and provides a time for Andrew and Natalie to get more deliberate attention from Dave and me as they work on their swimming skills. Both kids had their yearly 2-week swimming lesson sessions earlier this summer and have made notable progress, with 6-year-old Andrew now able to swim underwater and 4-year-old Natalie blowing bubbles underwater and kicking those legs.
Yesterday, in an attempt to beat the forecasted thunderstorms, we arrived at the pool early in the afternoon. Considering that it was the weekend, it was a quiet day there. Though unfortunate for pool business, I prefer days like this, when fewer swimmers means that I can easily spot my kids in the water and that we have the space to try new things. Noticing an empty spot in the deeper water next to two lifeguards and a ladder, at the far corner of the pool, where the shallow waters quickly become deeper, I jumped at the chance to get the kids out there to work on their swimming skills and to increase their confidence in the deep water.
“Do you want to come to the deep with me?” I asked.
Andrew wasn’t interested, but Natalie came willingly, hugging my neck and riding on my back, her leg kicks acting as her contribution toward our forward movement. With some effort, I was able to encourage her to jump into my arms from the poolside. After several jumps, I saw the depth marking on the side of the pool. Three feet, six inches. Andrew is at least four feet tall now I thought. I’m sure that Andrew can stand in this water.
I waved at Andrew, who was back at the other end of the pool, motioning for him to join us in the deep. He waved back at me, indicating that he wanted me to come to him. I waved with more force and enthusiasm. This time, Andrew started moving in my direction.
“Andrew, the water’s only three feet, six inches here,” I shouted. “I’m sure you can stand here.”
“No I can’t.”
Coming closer, I tried again. “But Andrew, you’re at least four feet tall now. I’m sure you can touch the bottom and keep your head above the water, even if it means standing on your toes. It will open up a whole new world of possibilities to you. Come on, let’s go and try.”
“I don’t believe you. It will be above my head.”
“Trust me. Come on, I will carry you.”
Reluctantly, he agreed that I could pick him up and carry him back to the deeper water, where I left Natalie hanging on the ladder. Andrew allowed me to slowly lower him into the water, his rigid body revealing that he was still very afraid. Chin down, he looked into the water and pointed his toes, hoping to touch the bottom. When he first sensed the bottom of the pool, Andrew smiled, and he laughed. His tension ceased, and joy emerged. He started trying out his series of swimming skills, stroking down to try to touch the bottom, then quickly swimming to the surface and grabbing the side of the pool.
“Now in the pool I can go wherever I want, right Mommy?”
The deep of the pool reminds me of my own deep, that vast expanse of unknown out there waiting for me. I see it. It’s just barely out of reach. I sit in the shallow end, listening to the joyful screams and laughter and gazing at the life happening out there. Most of the time, I’m content to watch. After all, I like the shallow end, which has its own charms. I can easily stand here, and things are familiar. But sometimes, I long for the opportunity to venture in to the deep, without knowing what exactly will happen there, but with expectation and hope that it will be something truly amazing.
When I receive invitations to the deep, I have my handy list of responses ready: I’m not smart enough, pretty enough, good enough, fast enough. I’m not capable. I don’t have enough money or the right skills or resources. I’m too busy. I don’t like being out there where everyone can see me. I have young children to take care of, and I’m tired. But sometimes, the right person or situation convinces me to say yes. I can make it to the deep with their help, and more than just make it, I can stand there, toes reaching the bottom. I can practice my own swimming skills, growing in confidence and finding new joy.
When I say yes to the invitation and travel to the deep, I feel alive. And I feel empowered to try new things too -- maybe say yes to the next invitation instead of relying on my typical excuses. I invite others to join me, longing to see their excitement when they discover that they too can play in the deep. I want my kids to experience this with me: my decision to say yes to invitations that aren’t safe or easy, my struggle in attempting things unfamiliar, and my joy in discovering new and empowering truths.