We were in Lake Tahoe last week celebrating the Fourth of July. All of the adults were jumping and diving off of the dock into the shockingly freezing water. And when I say shockingly freezing, let me hit you with the Tahoe fact that even in the summer, the water temperature average is about fifty degrees. I personally hate jumping off of the dock, but the peer pressure thing lingers even into your thirties.
As we’re goofing around, I see my three year old turn around and start hoofing it back into the cabin. Grabbing a towel and following her in, I ask her what she’s doing. She tells me she’s putting on her swimsuit so that she can jump.
I love the water. I really, really, really want her to love the water. And based on that desire, I was pretty sure this wasn’t a good idea.
She suited up and marched out, and I trailed behind her asking her if she was sure she thought she really wanted to do it, and reminding her that the water is really cold, and telling her that it wasn’t something she had to do. She turned around and said, “You don’t have to worry mom, I’m going to be brave.”
As she headed out to the dock, my husband was on the side telling her maybe she should practice jumping into the shallow end. She ignored him and kept going to the very end. I fastened her life jacket on and told her that maybe she should just look to see if it was really something that she would want to do. And then volunteered her dad to do it with her. But she told me she wanted me to jump with her, and that she was really going to do it.
We held hands at the end of the dock, and looked down. As her toes creeped to the edge, she looked down and said maybe she would try it later. Relieved, I told her that sounded like a plan. And four seconds later, she was saying, “No, let’s just do it now.”
As I stood there with her, an internal war was going on in my head. She had a life jacket on and was jumping with me. She wasn’t in any danger. But I also knew it wasn’t going to be something that she would enjoy once she hit that fifty degree water. She loves the water, but I know how a bad experience at this age could change all of that. How do you support and encourage your child’s adventurous spirit when you know they’re heading towards something that may be too much for them?
We held hands, and I told her that when we counted to three, we were going in. Worried that she might not jump out far enough, when we got to three I tugged her little hand and out we jumped. We went underneath the water, and when we surfaced I saw one shocked little face.
We climbed out using the ladder and she cried. But she made it very clear that she was crying because she was cold, not because she was scared. After she stopped crying you could hear the pride in her voice as she talked about her leap.
And then she told us that she would try it again when she was twenty.
How do you encourage your child’s bravery?