Her heart pounded as she waited for the starter’s signal, and so did mine. Early on, she sat quietly between events, reading her book or watching the others line up for their races. I kept checking, wanting to reassure her, but knowing the only way she’d find her place in this group was without her mom hanging around. Eventually, a few races under her belt, she made friends with the girls in line and at the end of the evening sat in the front row cheering on the relay racers. She survived, and even enjoyed, the first swim meet of the season.
We made it. During the days and hours that lead up to the meet she had the occasional admission of anxiety or fear, pleading for a reprieve from the looming unknowns of the event. My strength to help her face these fears came in part from the wisdom of a friend, given to me after the death of my mother-in-law. My daughters saw her dead body, attended the prayer service, wake, funeral and burial. My husband and I wanted it this way; still there was a part of me that longed to shield them from this sorrow. I shared this with my friend, who said, “It is important that our children learn they can handle such things.” Amen. So, facing a much less fearsome adversary, we jumped in (pun intended). I saw my girl grow right before my eyes, learning a life lesson that would have been lost by mom’s letting her off the hook or holding her hand.
Last night as I tucked her in, I reminded my daughter that “courage is not about not being afraid; it’s about being afraid and doing it anyway.” She was courageous, she knows she can handle it, and she inspired her mom to be brave when life presents her own “first swim meets,” too.