Courage and my 4 year old

(Mandatory yet unrelated update: we think I have Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome. Boo Hiss. Might be more on that in a future post. Maybe not though. We'll see.;-) )

Every summer and family vacation...well, any chance we can get...our family gets in the water. We also feel that "real" swimming is a valuable gift to give to our children, not to mention a HUGE safety issue. Elasia is old enough (turning 5 in a few weeks) and we found a class that was 8 sessions long with an opening down on 14th street at a very nice YMCA and took the jump financially.

And that's how Elasia began swim classes.

This was her first time taking "real" classes. She qualified for the class where I don't have to get in the pool with her (which was wonderful, because what would I have done with my little monkey a.k.a. Zaqarah? I'm sure the YMCA staff would've had to call 911 within the first 10 minutes of class because she had managed to slip away and gotten herself stuck on the roof. I'm sure of it.) Elasia is very cautious by nature, and has never been in a pool with out us. I was pretty apprehensive leaving my little scrawny green bean alone with a handful of kids and 1 instructor.

I watched from the nearby giant window.  The whole class lined up by the side of the pool. It was then I realized that the odds were stacked against Elasia being able to get through this class with out a royal "freak out".

1. Everyone was older than her.
2. Everyone had taken swim classes together last season at this same YMCA and knew each other. Elasia didn't know any of them and this was the first time she stepped foot in this building.
2. She was the only girl.
3. The kind lady she thought was the instructor went into the office. A man she didn't know jumped in the pool and motioned for the children to get into the pool one at a time.

I saw her legs tremble.  I saw her wring her hands. She looked up, bottom lip trembling, to where she knew I was watching, looking for some kind of reassurance from me. I waved, gave her a thumbs up and a smile. (Truth: it took EVERYTHING in me to not crash through that glass, run across the pool deck and scoop my little girl in my arms and tell her we'll wait 'til next year.)  I had to steel myself and see what she would choose.

And then it happened.  She took a deep breath, knees still knocking, wrinkled her little nose with determination and willed her body to sit at the edge of the pool.  Every other kid slid right into the pool, as if they had the process memorized. They held on to the side of the pool and started kicking. 

I watched her wipe a tear that had snuck out of her eyes and down her cheek. Her nose still wrinkled in resolve, she looked up again and smiled at me. (smiled?! I still can't believe it.)

She tentatively slid into the pool and held on to the side and....... began her kicking.

With the other moms and their "been there, done that" expressions, I knew I couldn't really just scream with joy right there. But I really could've flown to the moon and back!!  I had just watched one of the most courageous people I've ever known make a really brave choice!!!  I know my little girl. I know what situations are difficult for her, and those same situations might not even be an issue for her little sister - or even anyone else.

Because of things we couldn't have known or foreseen, this swim class was set up to be one of the single most difficult things for Elasia specifically.  And she was brave. She chose to look her fear, her discomfort, her insecurity...all of it in the face...and she chose to go through with it. 

Now, would it have been okay if she had a melt down at the side of the pool, crumpled up in sobs and I had to sit with her in the lounge until she calmed down. Yes. (because she IS only 4, people.) I would've been set back a large chunk of change, as the classes are non-refundable, but I wouldn't set my daughter up for unnecessary torture. And of course, I wouldn't have shamed her. I would have been disappointed, but I'd have understood. I know life is going to present so many more of these same moments. I honestly would have been okay with "no way, Mommy" on this one.

But she chose to be brave. And her little determined, tear-streaked face is etched in my memory as a permanent book mark...a reminder.... for me to make similar choices.

When I'm tired and frustrated and it is easier to scream, yell and demean my children - I must choose to be brave, and be their hero. To lay down my own emotions to help them through the tricky paths of childhood.

When I'm intimidated by potential for failure, I've got to choose to be brave and take risks.

When I'm afraid of the consequences that my choices may have on the relationships I hold so dear, I need to be brave, to choose honesty and transparency - to live with integrity, as this is the only way to true intimacy.
I learn so much from my precious Elasia Hope.  From her sensitivity to others feelings, her care for the overlooked, her quick wit and list could be a mile long. (And she's only turning 5!)  But what I needed and what I've learned from her these past few weeks going to swim class is:

It's possible to choose courage, even if you don't "feel" it. (and if you cry when your scared, it's okay.)