Timid child in the pool photo via Shutterstock.
When my son was about six or seven, he took swimming lessons from one of the moms we had met at the local park. She had taught several of the kids we knew how to swim, and we figured that she could help our son overcome his fear of the deep end of the pool. After several lessons, she made some headway but ultimately our little mule stood firm and refused to go in the deep end.
One night, she called and asked if we were interested in some company; she and her husband wanted to come by for a visit. We thought it was odd as we had never really socialized with them but thought why not, they seemed nice. When they arrived we offered them a drink and had a lovely time.
And then the conversation turned to our son.
Without any hesitation, she told us that we coddled him too much and that we needed to toughen him up. I guess we were so dumbstruck that someone we barely knew had the nerve to come to our house, drink our wine, and tell us how to parent our child, but we just sat there and listened to them.
“What the *bleep*!?” Was the reaction a good friend of mine had when I told her what had happened. “Why didn’t you throw them out? Who the *bleep* are they to tell you how to raise your son?”
Of course she was right. So why didn’t we throw them out?
Well, I can’t speak for my husband, but I can tell you that as a mom I had allowed my own insecurities to push me into the bloodiest of sports—competitive motherhood, aka my child is better than your child and therefore I’m a better parent than you.
I guess when she started to “give me some friendly advice,” she tapped into that little voice inside my head that told me that I was doing something wrong. That voice that said it was my fault that my son was afraid of the deep end, that I was somehow to blame and because of me, he would never amount to anything.
Meanwhile, as I spent my time worrying that I had somehow failed my son and that the other kids would ostracize him, he spent his time working it all out.
We were at a friend’s pool one day, and her son and some other boys had a competition to see who had the most creative way of jumping into the pool. They were seven or eight years old, and my mama bear instinct was to go over and entertain him so that he wouldn’t feel left out. But before I could get out of my chair, I noticed that he had made it over to the deep end near where the boys were jumping. And while he clung to the side of the pool, he was actually heckling them and had appointed himself the judge, telling them who had the best jump. What was even funnier was that the other kids accepted him in this role.
When they were done jumping, they all moved to the shallow end of the pool and had a great time tossing a ball back and forth.
Looking back, that probably was the moment when I should’ve realized that my son would be just fine. But, I’m a mom and mom’s worry. We worry that our kids will be different, that they will miss out, or that they won’t be happy. But most of all, we worry that we have failed them in some way and that we ourselves are failures.
It’s been six years since that mom came to my house to tell me how to raise my child. And I wish I could tell her not to worry because now my son is just fine with the deep end of the pool. It may have something to do with the fact that at 16 he’s close to six feet tall and able to touch the bottom and still keep his head above water—but that doesn’t matter. Because if I knew then what I know now, I would’ve had the confidence to tell her that my son would be just fine and if it was all the same to her, to please get the *bleep* out of my house
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