Tuesday, June 12, 2012


My kids have been taking swim lessons this summer at our city pool.  There are a bunch of classes for varying levels and age groups that take place simultaneously around the pool with different teen instructors.  It has been a great experience so far--despite having to broil in the Arizona heat while the kids splash around.

The lessons take place during the daytime on week days.  Most of the parents in the bleachers are moms.  Just an occasional dad brings his kids solo.  And a couple of families have both a mom and a dad sitting in the bleachers together. 

I have been really tickled to watch this one family during the swim lessons.  The first week, they never made it to the bleachers because their daughter was terrified by the water and screamed hysterically at any attempt to make her put a toe in the pool.

This family is apparently part of the local South Asian community.  Some of the moms in that same community have children in my kids’ classes, and we tend to sit near one another in the bleachers.  These moms chat in a good-natured way about this little girl, so I’ve learned a bit about the family simply through osmosis in the bleachers. 

Apparently the little girl has just turned 3.  She is the light of her parents’ lives.  From what the other moms have said, this little girl apparently attracts some attention at mosque as well.  She can be a bit precocious.  They seem to be a somewhat older couple.  It appears that they had this little girl later in life when most couples are no longer adding to their nest.  I could be wrong, but I am guessing that as a result of the timing of their parenthood they really dote on her.  Often when parents wait a long time to have kids, they cherish the experience all the more.

The first day of swim classes, I couldn’t help but notice this family.  The mom was holding the little girl’s hand as they walked to the pool area.  The toddler was in a fuchsia suit with lots of big ruffles.  Her dad was near-by dutifully holding a Dora-the-Explorer umbrella and a pink beach bag with a towel and other pool accoutrements.  There were not many dads at the pool that day.  And as a generality I don’t think many dads would be down with holding cutesy umbrellas and pink beach bags.  I admired this dad from the start! 

What really got my attention was how he handled the next few classes.  His daughter screamed bloody murder at any attempt to get her near the pool.  I don’t think she even got wet the first day.  The manager of the pool normally supervises all the teens teaching, but this one little girl was such a handful and a distraction.  During the second class, the manager devoted himself to acclimating this little girl to the pool.  It took a lot of strategizing and patience, but the manager eventually got the girl in the pool.  Both of her fully-dressed parents had to sit on the edge of the pool to make this possible.  And the manager had to hold the little girl in his arms at all times.  She clung to him hysterically with all the strength a 3 year-old could muster. 

That day there were occasionally screams and tears from this frightened little girl, but it was overshadowed by other sounds from that side of the pool.  The mom and dad kept cheering the little girl’s progress.  Her dad was particularly audible. 

In the sweetest, most encouraging tone, he kept cheering his daughter’s every little accomplishment.  Getting a bit wet.  Yeah!  Yippee!!  Letting the manager walk with her slowly away from the side of the pool.  Oh, boy!  Terrific!!  When the little girl eventually unwrapped one arm from the manager’s neck to tentatively touch the water, the dad was clapping and cheering with wild abandon.   This was clearly the most amazing act of bravery this guy had ever witnessed.

His wife was initially cheering and applauding too.  But the cheerleading went on for quite a bit of time as the little girl made tiny bits of progress over the course of the 45 minute lessons.  Eventually the mom seemed to think the dad was being too expressive of his enthusiasm and she elbowed him with a “shhh!” 

I don’t know about anyone else at the pool that day, but I thought this dad’s enthusiastic support was so sweet.  This man just kept clapping and encouraging his daughter with his words.  As she began to overcome her tremendous fear of the water, he reacted like his daughter had just won a gold medal or invented a cure for cancer.  It just melted my heart.  This dad was clearly so proud of his little girl’s accomplishments that he couldn’t contain himself.  

Having such a cheerleader in her corner has helped tremendously.  By the second week, the little girl was more or less participating like everyone else in her class.  Her mom has been able to sit in the bleachers with her friends from the mosque.  Her dad has sat on a bench a bit closer to the pool and can be heard periodically clapping encouragement when the little girl blows bubbles or practices her kicking.

Psalm 103:13
As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him.

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