I was going to finish my post today for the Writer’s Process Blog Tour Project (I was tagged by Tiffany Clarke Harrison and Sylvie Morgan Brown months ago, but summer intervened and I went skipping out the door for a spin around the season). So that post will be coming later this week.
I found myself over at Hands Free Mama this morning, and as I read Rachel’s post on Knowing Where Your People Are my eyes started to fill. (I’m having one of those days where I feel less than. Less than the mother I should be…less than the wife I should be…less than the daughter/friend/sister/writer I should be, so my emotional wiring might be easily affected today.) The part in Rachel’s post that really got to me was the description of her daughter’s fear at swim practice. I know that fear. Mia still has that fear. After countless lessons and undeniable proof that she can swim, she still lacks confidence in her abilities. She’s still afraid of going under.
As I read Rachel’s words my own brand of fear began to nudge itself into my thoughts and wrap its spindly fingers around memories of past swim lessons until a teeming list of questions invoked defense, and I began to check them off.
Had I assured her that I would be there, right there, watching her, waiting for her? Had I pointed out the life guard and coaches who would be watching her too? Had I told her that she was brave and capable? Had I made eye contact with her when her eyes appeared above the surface of the water and searched for mine? Had I wrapped her in a towel and kissed her cheek and told her how very proud I was of her and how much I love to watch her?
Yes. Yes, I had done all of this at every swim lesson because I knew she needed to hear it. And she got the basics down if somewhat slowly and reluctantly. She can do it. So why am I so overcome with guilt that I’m not able to appease her fear, to raise her confidence?
Because I am not her. It’s an obvious answer but one that I still need to be reminded of occasionally. I can ask questions and tell stories and lift her up and soothe her with kisses and open my arms when she needs shelter, but there will always be parts of her that I can’t reach. She won’t always know how to tether and name the whir of joy-sorrow-passion-fear-ardor-grief-concern that shifts and turns within her. I can hold her hand, but I can’t quiet her mind. I can stand at the edge of the pool and cheer her on, but I can’t take that breath and submerge below the water. I can tell her “I’m here” — your people are right here — but the swim needs to be hers.