Parenting is hard. I don’t need to tell anyone who is a parent that, but I’m going to. It’s excruciatingly, break your heart three times a week hard. Everytime I think I have it right, I learn a little bit more of how I’m wrong. Today, again, I was reminded of that.
We are out of town for a medical appointment and after a long day of travel decided a swim was just what everyone needed.
Charleigh loves swimming. She was adamant that she would not be going down the big blue waterslide however.
When we got to the pool there were a dozen or so children already playing. Perfect! Charleigh hopped right in the pool with her daddy and watched them run, jump, and laugh from a distance. They went down the waterslide over and over again. We tried to talk her into going too. “You don’t have to go…but the kids look like they’re having so much fun”…”you don’t have to go but…maybe you’ll be able to make some friends”.
About 15 min later she pulled herself out of the pool, put on her goggles, and shyly said to me “mom, I’m going on the waterslide”. I was shocked. Me and her dad watched her gingerly tiptoe to the waterslide, then up the stairs. She gave us one quick glance, took a breathe, and down she went.
She beamed as she went down again and again. Giving us thumbs up. Racing up the stairs behind all the other kids.
Then I watched as she stood at the edge of the pool, the other children laughing and playing near her feet. She said, “is it okay if I play?” No answer. “Can I play please?” Shunned.
My heart sank as I realized what was happening.
She gave one last look at the kids, then climbed to the top of the waterslide stairs. A little boy sat at the top. She looked down and at him full of hope and said, “would you like to play with me?”
“No. You can’t play with us!”
And with that she burst into tears. Failure. Instead of taking the slide she walked slowly down the stairs sobbing. Her dad swimming towards her and me trying to contain my own tears that had welled up.
I realized quickly that she had not gone down the waterslide for herself. She had gone because she desperately wanted to fit in. She wanted to be a part of the club. She wanted to make friends.
And as a parent, I had fed her to the wolves. I didn’t tell her that she didn’t need a waterslide for other kids to like her. I didn’t tell her that you should face your fears for you, and you only. My intentions were good, my execution it’s own failure.
So as we laid down in bed tonight, her body tucked into my arms I got ready to tell her the truth. And as I did, the little girl I was once leaned in with her. A mother, who was once six, sixteen, twenty-six, and who still needs a reminder every once in a while that…
“We don’t go down waterslides for nobody babygirl.
We don’t swim unless we want to.
We don’t dive unless it makes our heart happy.
But most importantly,
we don’t go down waterslides for nobody.”
So from now on, you can catch us in the hot tub. We’ll make room for you. Show up as you are, with or without your water wings – because I’m learning to show up as I am and my girls are teaching me how to do it every single beautifully hard day.