She stepped up onto the diving block, took a diving stance – and the whistle blew.
But she didn’t jump into the water like the other kids.
She hesitated … stood up, and I watched crippling fear grab ahold of my child. She hadn’t jumped. She was standing there, alone, scared to dive. She quickly climbed down, flustered.
After a week at the YMCA Swim Camp, playing and learning, I was sitting on the opposite end of an Olympic-sized pool from my then 8-year-old, watching the final-day fun and activities.
She began to walk away from the diving block.
I felt myself standing up by pure, gut instinct.
I was going toward my child in trouble, my little girl who lives within my heart, my baby. I was, without any thought, in motion when the whistle blew.
Her coach, standing to the side, blew the whistle that got both of our attention. He said to me (whispered to me?) under his breath, but commanding, as he moved forward toward her …
“Sit down, Mom.”
I paused, hesitating, sitting back … not so much like I had just been scolded to sit, but more like slowly taking in what was happening here: me jumping to save her and him telling me not to … handing over my trust, in his trust, that she could do this.
I sat down.
She looked like she would start crying. Her eyes, pleading with me from across the pool.
He blew the whistle again.
“Henna!” he yelled, walking slightly to her, eyes locked with hers. “You. Can. Do. This.”
Slowly, she stepped back up onto the diving block.
She wavered. Took her diving stance. Broke it. Stood there, wringing her hands, fighting back tears.
I was as frozen as she was. Sitting, but completely leaning forward, watching, barely breathing, not sure if I wanted to blow my own whistle on the whole scene or … let it all happen.
His hand stayed out, motioning me to continue to stay back,
knowing I was fighting my very instinct as a parent—to protect.
He blew the whistle again, long and loud like a warrior cry. Encouraging without words, the whistle said clearly, "The time is now."
And … she began to steady.
I watched her inhale deeply, her body language changing completely. She took her stance. At precisely the right moment he blew the whistle—and she dove!
She did that.
We did that.
She moved through her fear.
I sat down.
I let go of my baby girl.
And she gained an experience, a triumph, she’ll always remember. It would have been a different memory if I had saved her, if I had jumped in and protected her.
As we’re readying and steadying them for school this year, we’ll all be the parents on the other side of the pool, wavering, fighting our urge to protect, trying to trust that They. Can. Do. This.
They’re about to experience.
And in order for them to gain, we have to let go.
“Sit down, Mom.”