Friday, March 29, 2013

Get wet

This is my biggest girl, yesterday, in the pool with her new swim instructor (fittingly named Ariel):


This was a big day, yesterday, the Getting in the Pool. My sweet E, she of the long ear surgery history, for so long she couldn't get water in her ears. She being the girl she is, she became terrified of getting her ears wet at all. She became terrified of swimming.

We tried lessons with an already-trusted babysitter who also happens to be a certified swim instructor. We tried letting her camp give her swim lessons (but that just made her dislike that camp). We tried patience. We tried waiting. But the fear never abated; instead it magnified.

Yesterday's lesson began with much difficulty, and ultimately I had to lift her into Ariel's arms who simply carried her into the water until she was wet. But by the end of 30 minutes my brave E was dunking underneath the surface. DUNKING UNDERNEATH THE SURFACE. She came out from the pool shaking, with adrenaline probably, and fear and relief and disbelief and maybe a little pride and a whole new dose of fear and realization, and also whispering, barely audibly, she's good. She's good. We found the right teacher.

And then came last night, when the adrenaline wore off, the fear refreshed itself, the enormity of what she'd done and what therefore she'd be expected again to do, hunger, exhaustion, all boiled together, my sweet, brave girl began to scream. Oh, did she let it all out. And most of it was yelled at me.

It wasn't just the swim. It was how I misunderstood her yesterday, a moment where I embarrassed her, how she wants Passover to be over so she can eat her favorite cheese and crackers, how I've wronged her and wronged her and nobody understands her. I held her as she sobbed.

When I could capture her gaze I said, "I respect so much how you told me all the ways I've upset you. I want you always to be able to tell me anything, even the bad stuff. So let's talk about all of it. But is it possible you can tell me all these things by just talking instead of yelling at me?"

And she began to scream again. NO! she insisted. And I held her as she yelled at me some more. The only person she can tell the bad things to is me, she said, and the only way to get them out is by screaming. So I have to let her scream at me, she told me.

I agreed immediately. I don't want her to feel she can only talk to me, but it's better than talking to nobody, which was always my childhood coping method of choice. And I wish she didn't scream at me, as it's really hard to absorb, but I'd rather she batter me with those words than try to swallow them herself. "So yell it out," I encouraged. And I steeled myself to withstand it.

And I know that feeling where it all can only come out through a scream or a moan (or fingertips to keyboard), don't you?

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I was talking with a friend today (hi, friend!) who is at the very beginning of pursuit of an amazing goal. I could not stop gushing over her, so well-suited is she to this goal and how proud I am of her for taking these first steps. "But why aren't you shouting this from the rooftops?" I asked her. And she can't yet. She's not ready to be publicly brave about this dream. I understand. It's so hard to say "This is what I want, World. This is what I can't yet do. But this is what I'm going to conquer." But the thing is, it shouldn't be hard for her to say those words, because know that she can do this. Just as I know that my E will learn to swim just as soon as she's ready.

Ladies of my heart, I believe in you.

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All of which made me think about me. I can full-fledged believe in my friend and my daughter, with conviction and without hesitation. But they each are having a bit of trouble believing in themselves. And I have trouble believing in myself. I have to treat myself no differently than my daughter. I have to recognize that I am my own biggest impediment and I have to coach myself to become my own biggest cheerleader. It's what I'm working on this season. It's time.

Maybe it's provident that E began her swim lessons in the middle of Passover. In practicum, we began this week because this is when the new session of lessons began, but as I'm overrun this week with redemption and renewal metaphors, I think they're all pieces that fit well together. The liminal space between the vastnesses of slavery and freedom was just a body of water. Standing at the edge of dry land with danger behind and the unknown ahead, maybe that doesn't describe our thousands-year-old story any less well than a girl with a fear to conquer. Freedom requires some bravery.

And the willingness to get wet.


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