“Give and do what is necessary for the child to act for himself –Maria Montessori”
We stare each other down. She stands at the edge of the pool, and I am in the water with my arms stretched out to catch her. Fear paralyzes her, and she refuses to jump. Every day is like a frustrating reset because any progress is erased. I see her fear as she nervously backs away, and my heart breaks.
Finally, I heave myself out of the water and squat down eye level in front her. I quietly say, “No one is going to push or pull you in, and no one is going to make you jump. Nobody can swim for you. At some point you’re going to decide to jump and I’ll be right here to catch you. You can trust me. I’ll wait till you’re ready.”
I’m not sure if my words have made a difference, but it’s all I have to offer. Words of confidence and patience. I wish so badly that I could do it for her. Every part of me wants to bribe, cajole, threaten, or sweet talk. Something. Anything to make her. But I can’t because it’s not my job. All of parenting is a series of learning to let go and teaching them to jump. There are so many things that I can’t do for them. Reading, eating, swimming, making friends, going to school, sleeping, talking, and the list goes on. But nothing is more thrilling than watching their transparent faces as they master a fear or learn a new skill.
I dig in and wait as she inches to the edge of the pool again. She closes her eyes and a tear rolls down her face. How many transitions are marked by tears? But I wait. I can see the bigger picture and know that if it’s her choice, she will have the confidence. As the minutes tick by, I watch her work out her fear on her own. At some point she has to do it herself, and I must master my own impatience in order to let her.
So when she finally decides to jump, my heart soars. The look of pride on her face is priceless. It is allllllll her and her joy becomes mine. I’m not sure if she’ll do it again tomorrow, but I’ll take today’s small victory.
Life is learning how to jump when you’re ready. And today she jumped.