Thursday, October 21, 2010

Helping Conquer Fear

Sometimes, the biggest success is inspiring other people to succeed.

This year, I am coordinating the Second Grade Swim program at the YMCA for my sons' school. Despite an hour and a half in cold over-chlorinated water, it is easily my favorite thing all week. I find it amazing to figure tactics to get kids who are scared to swim to be less afraid, to help their tense little bodies loosen and relax and enjoy the water. I love being their biggest cheerleader.

It is for both safety and sanity that kids should learn to swim. Floating in water, that feeling of weightlessness if you allow it, is amazing. It is only the gravity of fear that will keep them down.

This week, I focused on one little boy from the special needs class who, with a smile on his sweet dimpled face, nods no whenever first asked to do something. But I just smile and gently prod him.

He has been afraid for the last few weeks to put his face in the water. He watched enviously as other kids dipped down and back up, but, still, he was scared. Bobbing in the water, I started coaxing him, showing him how he could do it just so fast he wouldn't even know he was doing it. Over and over again, I dipped face first into the water, fast, blowing bubbles like a fool to show him how easy it was. He laughed at my silly antics and, sure enough, did it himself a minute later. All of a sudden, he was a show-off, putting his face down in the water again and again, amazed at his own ability.

My heart soared. His success was greater than anything I could do myself. To help a kid have confidence in himself, in his ability to do something he is deathly afraid of? That is the best reward. I wanted to give him a gold star but it seemed unfair to all the other kids, also trying their very best. I told him, though, that he won most improved for the day and gave him a big high-five. His little smile was my gold star.

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