In a previous post, “The comfort of childhood,” I’d written about my niece and her confidence that someone would rescue her anytime she needed rescuing.
My niece and nephew overwhelm me with emotion and wonder and pride every time I’m with them. This weekend, we all spent a lot of time in the pool. My niece is about 3 1/2 and she demonstrates such bravery and determination in the pool, I wonder if I ever was that daring. Anytime she’d get water up her nose or swallow water and choke, she just brushed it off and kept going. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes she gets frustrated with things she finds difficult, but this swimming thing was important enough to her to keep at it.
Saturday we started with her leaping off the side of the pool with reckless abandon into our arms. Sometimes she had such abandon she’d leap before making sure we were ready. She wanted to go down the slide into the pool—we’re some of the fortunate few left to have a pool slide—and as she climbed up the ladder, me behind her and Mom poised to catch, she’d say, “I can do it! I can do anything!” Toward the end of the day in the pool, it was just the two of us. I had her put on her goggles—which she calls glasses—and after another leap I had her plug her nose and look underwater. That was sufficiently interesting to get her trying to go underwater and from there, she just kept going under again and again in various experiments for the rest of the weekend. Sometimes she’d hold her nose, sometimes not. We had underwater tea parties, grabbed sunken toys, and waved at each other.
Sunday night I got a call from her telling me she could now swim underwater and without plugging her nose. As we age, that reckless abandon fades as we realize there’s not always someone there to catch us. I suppose instead we catch ourselves!