Keep Your Skeptics in the Stands, Then Jump In

I wasn’t ready!

My seven-year-old daughter tested into level three of the youth swimming program at the local aquatic center. She can swim, but needs to learn technique. On the first day of her swimming lessons, we met on the same deck of the four-foot pool where she tested. She got into the water and practiced some moves. Then an employee came to me and said they are moving to another pool and parents should proceed to the stands.

As I looked at the employee confused, two other mothers came to me assuring me that everything would be alright. “Don’t worry. We were scared the first time too. It’s deep, but she can do it.” I was even more confused. What were they talking about? They continued, “17-feet sounds like a lot, but it’s okay.”

“You mean 7-feet of water!” I exclaimed. “No, 17-feet,” the mom, who I later learned is DeeDee, said. I was in disbelief as I headed to the stands with these women. I usually don’t allow my daughter to swim in more than 5-feet.

By the time we got to the stands my baby had just jumped into the water and was swimming from one end of the pool to the other. I sat with my eyes bulging, heart palpitating and stomach churning. I just wasn’t ready for that! I thought that she would have gotten a prior pep talk. I wished that I was close enough to whisper some affirmations before she jumped in.

My daughter swam with all her might. When she reached the other side, she looked up to the stands where I smiled and gave her thumbs up. But I was still very scared. I wondered if she knew she was in 17-feet of water. I wondered if she would have the urge for her feet to touch solid ground. I wondered how skilled the lifeguard on duty was at rescuing children. I wondered about the expertise of the young instructors to recognize if she had lost confidence and needed to leave the pool.

When she motioned to me that her goggles had fallen to the bottom and that she was going to get it, I almost lost it. I stood immediately, wildly motioning “NO!” with my mouth, head and hands. An instructor soon got it for her.

After they had done some swimming, they came on the deck to practice diving. I could see her little face. She was so excited. I kept clapping, giving thumbs up and blowing kisses. She was really having a great time. And I had to go along with it for her benefit. But I was an emotional wreck for the entire 50 minutes.

I couldn’t wait until it was all over – for my own nerves and so that she could share her experience with me. The first thing I wanted to ask was, “Weren’t you afraid?” But I resisted. Instead I asked, “How was it?” The water was cold at first, it was tiring, it was fun – that’s how she described it. Afraid, scared, frightened – the words that expressed my emotions, did not enter her mind. When we made it to the car I cautiously asked, “did you realize the pool is 17-feet deep?” At first she didn’t, she said, but when they went on the deck to dive, she noticed. “That’s the deepest water I’ve ever swam in mommy!” she said excitedly, assured of her skills. She was never fearful.

As I thought over everything on the drive home, I realized that my position in the stands was the best thing for my daughter’s progress. I am my children’s biggest supporter. I love them with all my heart. Yet, I almost became my daughter’s main skeptic. I was cautious, fearful, doubtful and worried. Had I been closer to her, it’s likely that I would have unintentionally transferred these same feelings to her.

Thank God they sent us parents to the stands!

Here it was that I invested my time and money in swimming lessons, yet, had it not been for the distance from her, I could have sabotaged my daughter’s entire learning with my uncontained emotions.

So imagine your skeptics. The ones who have no vested interest in your development or growth.  Imagine if you allow those people close proximity to you, how their own cynicism, fears and negative energy can influence your progress. Imagine if you allow any and everyone access to your life, how their perceptions, based on their personal baggage, can slow your growth. Imagine that even the people who you love and mean well, may have unchecked emotions that stunt your growth.

I ask you to examine your life. Identify your skeptics. And place them in the stands. Let them watch you swim from afar, but never close enough to negatively affect you. Surround yourself with instructors, coaches and lifeguards – people who are already experts in your field – and let them guide you.

After you have properly prepared yourself for something, placed your skeptics in the stands, and surrounded yourself with the best – don’t look back, don’t hesitate, don’t doubt yourself – JUMP IN!

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