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December 19, 2014

BRETT BUCKNER: Lessons from the deep end

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Posted: Sunday, July 27, 2014 5:00 am | Updated: 4:20 pm, Tue Jul 29, 2014.

As with most things of emotional import, I will defer to My Lovely Wife, who said, “It’s the very definition of bravery – to be afraid and do it anyway.”

That’s just what Jellybean did.

Standing on the concrete with the sun baking her toes, she stared down into the murky blue water of the deep end of the swimming pool and mustered up every ounce of courage she had in her tiny pink-and-blonde body before diving in.

Granted … it was more of a belly flop that made me wince from the sidelines, but it wasn’t the entrance that mattered, but the exit. The kid with the “Frog and Toad” obsession swam like the protagonists from her favorite children’s books, from one end of the pool to the other, even remembering to breathe a couple of times along the way.

I can’t say the same for myself.

It was a riveting few seconds packed with so much excitement that it made Auburn’s Kick Six feel like an afternoon nap. At one point, I swore I could hear the guitar bursts from “Eye of the Tiger” as Jellybean kicked and paddled her way toward the steps.   

When she finally stepped out of the pool, shivering and breathless, I wrapped her up in a towel. Before I could tell her how proud I was, she looked me square in the eye, grinning, and said, “Can we go and get a doughnut now?”

Accomplishments rarely come without bribery.

It had been quite a nautical journey, and this was the finale – or the “graduation exam,” as Jellybean’s instructor called it. In addition to the doughnut I’d promised her, Jellybean would receive a popsicle if she did everything her teacher said.

Honestly, I wasn’t sure we’d make it. Jellybean was not thrilled at the prospect of learning to swim. “I could just never get in a pool,” she’d say. “That way I won’t need to learn how.”

But as parents it’s our duty to make kids do things they don’t want to do, and she was going to learn to swim. Or at least learn to NOT drown.

The lessons started out slow. First putting a face in the water, then kicking, then paddling, then swimming across the shallow end, then across the deep end and finally the length of the pool.

Jellybean is a violent swimmer. It’s like she’s mad at the water, with all that slapping and thrashing. She’d make an excellent victim in the next “Sharknado” sequel.

It was the jumping in that was the true test. She’d stand at the edge of the pool and get so worked up, pacing around and flapping her arms like a penguin trying to take flight. Then she’d run over to “tell me something” only to mutter, “I don’t want to.”

I wanted to scoop her up and take her home. But it wasn’t just about swimming.

It was about not quitting.

It was about showing her that it’s OK to be scared, but not to let that fear control her life.

It took some time and more than a little coaxing, but Jellybean was so brave. And when she got out – gasping for breath and grinning like the Cheshire Cat – all she could say was, “I did it! I did it!”

Who knew NOT drowning could be so much fun.

 

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