Excuses, Excuses

My son is considering taking lifeguard lessons to boost his summer job marketability. He's not on the swim team, but he's a confident swimmer. I find this amusing considering his rocky initiation into the underwater world.

I am a terrible swimmer. When I took swimming lessons the custom was: If you didn't jump in by yourself, they threw you in. Sink or swim, baby.

I sank.

To this day the smell of chlorine makes me nauseous.

Not wanting my children to be equally as traumatized, I sought out kind, nurturing swim instructors who would introduce my children to the skill of swimming in a gentle, loving manner. Mrs. H. taught private swim lessons in her own pool each summer. I signed up my daughter Ashleigh first. Within six lessons she went from barely getting her hair wet to executing a lovely front crawl. Mrs. H. was perfect! She was nurturing and kind, yet firm—in a loving way—when she needed to be.

Anxious for my son to benefit from this woman's incredible teaching skills, I signed Joshua up the next summer. Secure in her embrace, he did gentle dunkings beneath the surface of the water, just as his sister had done, and held onto Mrs. H.'s arms as he happily practiced kicking his little legs. But when the day finally came for him to jump into the pool on his own…


His little arms clung to the side of the pool in a death grip. No amount of kindness, gentleness, cajoling or bribery would pry that kid loose. Then loving, gentle, nurturing Mrs. H. uttered the words that sent me spiraling back in time and I experienced my own personal version of Posttraumatic Stress Disorder.

"Sweetheart, if you don't jump in on your own, I'm going to have to throw you in."

What?! Was she serious? My gut clenched.

Josh just shook his little head and held on even tighter.

I sat, frozen, as Mrs. H. climbed from the pool. I wanted to stop her. To say something! But my mouth and throat went dry as paper towel.

"I don’t want to jump in. NO! Noooooo!" my little guy cried.

"Yes, sweetheart."

I could feel my own heart race as she detached his skinny arms and lifted him from the pool.

"Hold your breath, honey."



I leaped to my feet, complete panic galvanizing me into action. Although I lacked swimming skills, I prepared to dive in and save my baby when his dark head suddenly bobbed to the surface and he dog-paddled the few feet back to the edge.

Mrs. H. looked down at him.

Josh wiped his nose and looked up at her, grinning. "Can we do that again?"

I sank back down, slack jawed, he LIKED it?! Was he nuts?

Mrs. H. dropped him in several more times that day and he LOVED it. The nut!

Remembering this story got me thinking metaphorically again. What happened with Josh is what happens to a lot of us when it comes to our private goals and dreams--like my desire to write novels (published novels!). Maybe you have the same desire to write, or you'd like to go back to school or make a career change. We happily kick around in that dream stage. But when the moment comes to actually dive in, we balk. Sure, we've got loads of great excuses. Life is too busy. Now is not a good time. We don't have the money right now. But what it really boils down to is fear. Fear of failure? Fear of success?

So we procrastinate.

I was blessed with the equivalent of a psychological toss into the pool from a writing class I took. Now I've got a finished first draft of my novel to show for it and I'm swimming my way through revisions. What about you? Do you have a secret dream you've kept tucked away, hidden from everyone's view—including your own? What's stopping you from jumping in?
Image by: Grace Family


Susan R. Mills said...

My son was the same way. He loves swimming now though. And, I've got the same dream as you! :)

StephanieinSuburbia said...

Oooh I would have trouble with someone threatening and throwing my kid in. Wee 'Burb had an easy initiation, but largely because she was only 6 months and it was just one big tubby to her :)

Heidi Willis said...

My son's experience was about the same as yours. It took five more years before he'd even get his face wet in the shower. Eventually, he came to love it on his own terms, though.

This is a great post because it's exactly where I feel I am. This summer I took the dive to apply to get into an MFA program. Am I too old? Not smart enough? I honestly didn't even think I'd get in, so I didn't consider all the details. When I'd bring up problems and conflicts my husband would say, "Just apply, and when you get in we'll figure it out."

So I feel like I jumped off the side and now I have to figure out how to swim. Scary, but very cool!

Ivy said...

Great post!! I agree - when it's sink or swim in life, it seems the obvious answer is to wade and wait to be forced or (worse yet) we're just left to sit their with a death grip on what could be.

For me, this post couldn't have come at a better time. For me, my dreams are to lead/take part in worship at a large church filled with the spirit of God. I've let a lot of people hold me back from moving on what God is telling me to do. I dream of singing songs I've written to a crowd of thousands and hearing and seeing them praise the Lord, be healed, and learn who they are in Christ.

I went to a conference this week that really helped me regain control of that dream. Thanks for this post, it just reinforces all of that!

Annette Piper said...

A brilliant story Holly! I think being a boy he actually like the throwing part ;)