My daughters all began swim lessons for the first time this week. They are seven, five and almost three years old so it is different for each one of them. They each have their own fears, physical capabilities and limitations as well as their own comfort zones which seem to be unique to their personalities. The littlest refuses to put her face in the water, the oldest nearly refuses to jump into the water and the middle one does pretty much whatever she's told to do. I struggled for a long long time with fear of water and swimming after a near drowning experience as a child so I can relate to those fears and how paralyzing they can be. For a long time I only did the minimum necessary to enjoy being in the water by using arm floaties and holding on to the edge of the pool. Through repetition of beginner swim classes over the course of many summers I learned the basic skills of floating, stroking and kicking. It wasn't until college that I really attempted to do much more. Determination got the better of me and I went into the deep end without holding onto the edge and without a flotation device. I still don't feel totally comfortable in deep water but I make it work.
Watching my daughters and recollecting my own troubled history with swimming drew a parallel with the grief I carry over my sons' deaths. Initially I struggled just to keep my head above water. I learned to dope with the feeling of drowning by doing some sort of free float through life, just skimming the water and not feeling too much. After some time I began to want more, to go in my own direction not just where the water took me so I began to move against the water. Eventually I became comfortable enough to make it work which is likely as good as it will get. Just as my daughters have successes and more often, failures, in their lessons so have I in my grief. At some future date they will reach a point and want to go no further, it will be enough for a while. That is where I am now.