Tuesday, March 29, 2011

the face of fear

Today was the kids' first day of swimming lessons. Bryn started the pre-school group, Sea Stars, while Abi & Kai started Level 1. (except, Kai had to miss out after his MRI......more soon...) This is Abi's 2nd time at this level, 3rd time attempting swimming lessons altogether. All of the kids were very excited to start this!

In the Older's group there is a boy who looks to be about 10 years old He's the biggest in the group, with a head of sandy brown hair. I was happy that the class size was small (only 5 students) and of various ages (I'd say average age was 8 or 9), so that the kids wouldn't have to feel that they were "too old" to be in the very first level, knowing that most of their friends are already in level 3 or higher in swimming. I stood and watched their class for a few minutes as the Instructor asked them all the put their faces into the water and blow bubbles. (an activity taught in each swimming level, I've found) One by one, the students followed, and I grinned with pride as Abi did as well. A year ago and she would've hesitated and only dunked the tip of her nose to give the appearance of submersion. Then I noticed the older boy. He hadn't participated. When the Instructor asked him to, he turned away to face the outside of the pool, with tears in his eyes. And my heart broke for him. I understood his fear, or rather, I remembered his fear. I remembered the many years Hunny & I tried to coax our children to put their faces into water or to allow water to run down their foreheads. I remembered the tears and their cries, and I wanted to go to that boy and tell him things would be okay, that it was alright to be afriad, but it would get better over time.

But, of course, I didn't. Instead, I walked away, letting the Instructor deal with her student, and observed Bryn's class as they learned to blow bubbles in the shallow end of the pool. Bryn timidly placed his face into the water, but came up sputtering. He looked so tragic as tears flowed along with drips down his little cheeks. It was all I could do to not call out to him, to gather him up and wipe his face and comfort his fears. But I needed to be brave and so I looked the other way, trusting the Instructor to allay any fears these small children had. When I looked back a few minutes later, Bryn was all smiles again. He looked like he was having the time of his life, and my heart swelled.

I wandered back to the Olders to see how they were faring, and I saw the boy still with the Instructor, attempting one-on-one teaching. (another volunteer took over with the other kids and they practiced kicking and submerging their heads) The gangly child still had a face full of fear, and tears flowed from the corners of his eyes, yet I watched him as he tried to relax and rest in the Teacher's arms and lay his back in the water. His body was stiff and he was fighting with the task. But he was doing it. He has his arms outstretched, the cuff of his neck was in the water now, and his knees up, so not a complete follow-through, but he was doing it. And I was so proud of this boy. And I don't even know him! I wanted to encourage him, let him know of my support, tell him how awesome he was doing, but I kept quiet and observed. And smiled.

This boy looked miserable. You could tell he really struggled with the lesson and that he didn't enjoy it. But to me, he was the bravest boy out in that pool. He hated what he had to do and he feared it, but he did it anyways. And I was so proud of him

I hope that tonight, at home, he had someone to tell him how brave and strong he was. I hope I see him at the next lesson, and I hope that over time, he begins to see his strength as well. And I hope that I can instill in my own children a sense of bravery to fight their fears as well.


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