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Boy Doesn’t Trust Ability to Handle Water; Trusts Father to Catch Him

I started trying to teach my son to swim early on. It was a chore. A year or so old at the time, the little guy didn't like getting water in his face in the bathtub, much less this massive ocean of a pool he was staring at now. At first, "teaching him to swim" meant getting him to splash around a bit on the top step, and maybe putting his lips in the water enough to blow bubbles if he was feeling really brave.

Eventually I convinced him to walk around with me in the shallow end, with a death-grip around my neck of course. Once we mastered that, it was time for the Big Show—Jumping Off the Side. Fulfilling my God-given duty as a daddy, I lifted him out of the pool, stood him on the side, and said, "Come on, jump!"

I think at that moment, my one-year-old son wrote me off as a crazy man.

The look on his face, in about two seconds, went from confusion to dawning understanding, to amused rejection, to outright contempt. He frowned and said, "No. I go see Mommy." Again acting faithfully on my solemn responsibility as a father, I refused to surrender, chased him down, and eventually convinced him (with various bribes) to come back to the pool.

And so we came to the moment of truth.

I jumped into the water again and stood in front of him with my arms outstretched, watching him bob up and down in his swimmy-diaper as one-year-olds do when they kind of want to jump, but not really. "Come on, kiddo," I said. "I'm right here. I'll catch you. I promise!" He looked at me half skeptically, did one more little wind-up, bouncing at the knees, and then fell into the pool with what was more a flop than a jump.

And I caught him.

After that we were off to the races. "Doot 'gain, Daddy! Doot 'gain!" And so commenced half an hour of jump, catch, lift, reset, jump, catch, lift, reset.

When it was over, my wife and I started to worry that maybe our son had gotten a bit too comfortable with the water. What if he wandered out to the pool when no one was there with him? Would he remember all the times he'd safely jumped into the water and decide he had this pool thing whipped? Would he jump again?

Over the next few days we watched him around the pool, and what we saw both comforted me as a parent and touched me deeply as a father. Never once did my little boy think about jumping into the water—at least not unless I was standing underneath him with my arms out, promising to catch him. And then he would fly!

You see, despite all his apparent successes, my son's trust was never in his own ability to handle the water. It was in his father, and in his father's promise: "Come on kiddo. Jump. I promise I'll catch you."

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