On a recent Friday I watched my 4-year-old nephew take his first steps toward the end of a blue fiberglass diving board.
He walked about a foot away from the board’s edge, suspended over ten feet of water. A swim coach below, and one standing behind him, prompted him to move forward after he began to hesitate. Inch-by-inch his little toes crept closer to the black line at the board’s end.
The fear on his face was palpable. He looked over at me, cheering him on from the side of the pool, then back at the coach standing close behind him.
The coach asked, “You want me to help?”
Without a verbal response, my nephew nodded yes and then squeezed his eyes closed. The coach cupped his hands under my nephew’s armpits and gently swung him off the board and into the water below where the other coach waited.
They both went under. My nephew came up sputtering water. After catching his breath, he looked over and smiled as I told him how proud I was of him.
My nephew has had many of those moments this summer. He swam in a life vest in a lake, danced and sang before a large audience while “graduating” from pre-school, and found himself facing fear scaling playground equipment.
I would lie if I did not admit to chocking up, and maybe gushing just a little too much to people who probably don’t care, about these little life events.
Watching my nephew grow, face fears, discover new abilities, and beam when he knows he’s accomplished something, is a life refresher course for we adults who see him. Watching him act dissolves adult excuses for not trying new things. And yes, his smiles and looks for support remind us to be a little more supportive and free with our compliments to each other.
My nephew is at an age where it only takes a little gentle prompting, along with some well-earned trust to get him moving.
I think too often in life we adults forget those lessons learned as a child, of letting go of the fear and discovering the reward in just taking a chance and doing. It’s so simple too.
I hear excuses all the time from adults about starting their journey, be it in running, a new career, or anything else that is different.
“I just don’t think I could run that long.” Or “I’m not interested in running/cycling/swimming/insert-activity-where-there-is-effort-and-a-fear-of-failure-or-worse-here.” Some people are limited in their ability. Too often though the real translation is “I’m too afraid to try or ask for the help in getting started.”
Seeing my nephew jumping off a dive board, the same dive board I jumped off when I first learned to swim as well, reminds me that yes, there is still room, and great rewards in leaping before one looks (even if it takes a gentle pick up and push from time to time).