I’m presently sunning myself poolside at the Siena hotel in Reno. There’s an adorable family: a mom, dad, two kids, and a great-aunt all swimming together. The older child, who is the very distinguished age of four, is paddling around the pool in his arm floaties and learning to overcome his fear of the water by dipping his head in for…about…half a second at a time. Maybe.
When he does this, the whole family shouts “Woohoo! Look at you!” And he grins with pride in his death-defying accomplishment.
There’s a tiny part of me that wonders if my childhood self had that kind of encouragement, if my family shared that kind of pride over my age appropriate accomplishments.
The boy is now gagging on water – learning an important lesson about the side effects of pushing beyond his current limits. His aunt says, “You might want to relax on that (head dunking),” while his dad comforts him and talks him through the burst of water spewing from his mouth and nostrils.
I’m here for a wedding. My husband’s gorgeous cousin and her very sweet fiancé are tying the knot later today. As they dunk their heads for the first time into deeper commitment with each other, their family and friends will be there, saying, “Woohoo! Look at you!”
Our need for support doesn’t change as we get older, the stakes just get higher. Our accomplishments and failures begin to affect our loved ones in real ways: financially, emotionally, even physically.
Eventually, there will be little ones who depend on the couple saying their vows today. They’ll need their parents to feed, house, clothe, comfort, protect, understand, encourage, and unconditionally love them. And without someone cheering them on in the direction they should go, how will they know if they’re doing it even close to right?
I know. It’s a lot of pressure. But when we have people in our corner, talking us through the inevitable gush of water we take in from our over zealous attempts at learning to swim, it makes things just a little more tolerable, and helps us embrace adventure, rather than shrink in fear.
Hey kid, thanks for the life lesson. Cool water wings, by the way.