When we were little, my father tried to teach my brother and me how to swim. He was a boss swimmer himself; watching him take on the rough waters in Great Head Bay was awe-inspiring. In teaching us to swim, my father would extend an arm in the water and would have us lay across it, our own arms and legs out stretched. He would encourage us to paddle our arms and legs, and to trust that he would not let us go. My brother was the braver of the two of us. He took to those swimming lessons with ease and daring and soon was able to swim on his own in the choppy seas down Sion Hill Bay. I, on the other hand, was the opposite.
I clung to my fatherâs arms, not trusting the water. It wasnât helped by the fact that I often could not see the horizon because of the waves. To my little self, the sea felt too large, overwhelming, like something that could swallow me whole in one gulp. I was afraid and that prevented me from learning to swim at the hand of an excellent swimmer.
Suffice it to say that I am acutely aware of the irony of teaching my own daughter to be comfortable in the sea, to be brave enough to learn to swim. When we first introduced her to the water, she was terrified; she cried and despite our assurances, it took repeated trips to the beach to get her to her current level of comfort. Even so, and with floatation devices, she hesitates at the initial dip and clings to my neck for dear life.
I persist. I see her fear and awe of the water, and remember my own. I see her curiosity about the water world: the smooth rocks that she picks up and tosses into the surf, the little silvery fish that sometimes dart into the shallow pools around her feet, the sand between her toes. I see also that she wants to learn and as much as possible, despite my lack in that department, I will oblige her.
Getting over your own fears is often difficult. However, getting over your own fears so as not to transfer them to your children demands even more of you. In some cases, it may save their lives.