Do as I say not as I do

I remember as a kid being petrified of jumping off the diving board.  The high dive was especially scary because if you went in straight as a toothpick, you could almost touch the bottom of the pool where it was 10 ft deep.  Of course touching the bottom wasn’t the scary part.  It was trying to get back to the surface.  I can still remember the panic I would feel.  Like I would never reach the surface but I would most definitely run out of air.  Very very scary.  Just thinking about makes me feel short of breath.

As an adult, not much has changed.  I still get scared.  So how do I convince my 3-year-old to do something that I might not really want to try myself?  How do I teach her to try something at least once even if I’m really afraid?   Jump off the diving board?  What if I look stupid in front of everyone?   Do I just put on a brave face pretend like everything is ok?

This weekend Lola jumped off the diving board for the first time.  I couldn’t believe it.  I’ve coaxed, pleaded, led by example and bribed (the last of which is a perfectly legitimate parenting technique).  Nothing worked.  Nothing.  She just decided that this would be the time.  It wasn’t like I jumped off the diving board right before she did it.   She just did it.  WOW.

It’s not like I’m expecting her to be a championship diver after this.  Really I’m just thankful that our pool experience is quite a bit more pleasant than about a month ago.  I practically had to pin the child down (this is NOT a recommended parenting technique) to get her bathing suit on before swim class.  That was only 30 days ago people!  30 Days!

I’m amazed.  Amazed how quickly things can change.  One second we’re crying and sporting the walk of shame off the diving board, the next it’s “Let’s do it again.”  I’m thrilled because she finally did what I knew she could do, what I secretly hoped she would do.  Secretly, I don’t want her to be paralyzed by fear.  Why?  Because I live in that world all too often.  I don’t take the picture, write the blog entry, speak up, lift more weight, meet new people, take a risk all because of a fear.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s ok to be afraid.  But all too often, it just an excuse not to act.  Think of how much you miss when you let fear get in the way?  I’m afraid to get my white pants dirty so I just won’t wear them.  A shame.  You don’t speak up at work.  No one knows how good you really are.  What if I can’t actually lift that much weight?  You’ll never know how strong you really are.

I both love and deeply dislike that simple acts like jumping off a diving board for the first time forces me to decide if I want to be a better person.   It would be so much easier not to push myself, not to work through the fear.  It’s not necessarily a better or more satisfying life, just easier.  Easier is ok, but not very fun.

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