“Let me see you do that again.”
“Look at you, you can do it!”
Usually when I am at a swimming pool I hear what the children are saying. Over the sounds of water slapping the deck after the boom of cannonballs I can hear their proud voices shouting things like: “Watch this!", “See what I can do!” and “Look!”
During my vacation I was enjoying a beautiful, clear, blue pool during a 100-degree day, but I wasn’t with any children so I happened to notice what the adults were calling out to the children in response. I was struck by the positivity in the comments.
The parents and grandparents who were with the children were paying attention to them. Their eyes, and oftentimes hands, were on the child and they were listening to what the child was telling them, even when it was complete silliness. Perched upon a neon pool noodle and holding a "toypedo" on top of his head, a small blonde seriously declared, “I’m a seahorse unicorn!” before bursting into giggles. The adoring grandmother giggled with him while complimenting his clever imagination.
Picture what this would look like outside of a swimming situation. What if a person started a new job, school, relationship, gym, project, or any endeavor with the excitement and confidence of a child who has just mastered a handstand, somersault, or any other new trick in the water?
Can you imagine how that excitement and confidence would grow if those around them responded with the same enthusiasm as a proud grandparent watching a grandchild blowing bubbles for the first time with a fully submerged face?
Accomplishing whatever feat a child sets out to do is so thrilling they want to keep doing it over and over again. They want to show others how fun it is that they have learned a new trick, and the thrill of it increases with the acknowledgement, affirmation, and interest of others.
The encouragement from others increases one’s feeling of accomplishment of a new “trick.” It is fulfilling to have mastered or completed whatever it is one is attempting, but to have someone else understand the importance to you increases the reward.
I also spent some time in a lake with my 3-year-old grandson who loves being in the water as much as any fish does. I was happy we were at a lake with clear water because he would flop under the water without any kicking or splashing and then pop up in another spot. I liked that he wasn’t submerged in dark, murky water.
When he wasn’t playing catch with his big brother and papa, he spent much of his time doing this version of bobbing in the water. He would emerge from under the surface with water falling off his ear-to-ear smile and laugh up at whomever was nearest to him. Hearing the person’s encouragement, he might take time for a high-five, then disappear below again.
During one of his bobbing escapades, he realized that he was actually swimming. He popped up in front of his dad to proudly proclaim, “I swimming!” He immediately dove back under the water to swim some more. Now that he knew he could swim there was no stopping him. Nobody pointed out the fact that he was swimming, he could feel the difference on his own. He was no longer flopping and bobbing, he was now diving and swimming. He reveled in his newfound ability.
The entire time he was flopping and bobbing there was security, encouragement, and excitement from the people who were with him.
Once again I thought about the correlation between life and swimming. Once you know you can do life, there’s no stopping ... we just keep swimming.