I’m teaching Isaac the beginnings of swimming. He likes for me to stand in the pool, close to the edge where he is crouching, his arms outstretched toward mine, hands twisting, beckoning me closer Daddy, closer, and then he jumps and I catch him, letting his head dip beneath the surface before I pop him back up into the sunshine and my arms. Then we “swim” back to the steps, my hands on his hips while he splashes and kicks. When I first told him to swim like a doggy, he kicked his legs and went Woof! Woof! Woof! until I explained how doggies swim.
Once he slipped off the bottom step while I was helping Eli swim, and for a second he was suspended in the water, only his hair above the surface, his feet stretching and not finding the bottom. Then I had him in my arms, and he was sputtering and crying. He knows what “deep” means now. He jumps toward my arms every time, knowing that it’s deep water he’s hurling himself into. It’s stunning, if you contemplate it, how they trust us so completely. It’s stunning as well how many of us set about betraying that trust with our neglect, or anger, or perhaps a seemingly innocent desire to see them fulfill our dreams.
And yet this little boy still jumps, when I hold out my arms. I hope I never fall short. I like that “sin” means “falling short of the mark.” It suggests an immorality in what I see among too many parents, and often myself — the falling short. They set out meaning well, and hoping good things, but in the daily grind they — we, I — fall short of the mark. Our children jump, and we aren’t there to catch them. So they jump less and less, and then not at all, and their eyes take on that look of sadness or resignation you’ll find on an abundance of faces in any high school, so much so that many parents tell themselves that’s just how teenagers are.
It always fills me with a deeply peaceful feeling to be around our friends whose teenagers are happy and sociable, who don’t have that look of being set against the world as a consequence of having come to believe the world is set against them. It’s good to know parents who have stayed the course. It makes me hopeful. Are you staying the course?