Belly flops and Lessons in Failing ❤

He passed his swimming test … first born, my ultra sensitive eight year old passed level 3 in swimming. It has taken two years and four eight week blocks of classes. That’s a lot of tries and a long time of feeling like “you can’t do it” when you’re little. He’s a stereotypical first born, an achiever, a people pleaser…so we’ve had a lot of discussions around this “hurdle” he’s had…this thorn in his side….this thing he just couldn’t conquer.

I’m fortunate that he still shares alot of his inner dialogue with me….especially when he’s sad, usually disappointed in himself for the way he’s handle a situation or challenge. Always thinking he could have done better. These are the some of the things he shared….often through lots of painful tears and loud sobs.

  1. I hate swimming
  2. I am no good at it
  3. I don’t want to do it anymore
  4. The instructor didn’t like me
  5. I’m never going to get this
  6. I tried so hard and she didn’t notice
  7. My friends get it the first try
  8. It hurts like a belly flop
  9. I’m embarrassed
  10. Please don’t tell anyone I failed again

We were all sure he was going to get it on the third attempt….but much to our surprise he didn’t….so close… but just not quite good enough to pass. After that third attempt, I almost allowed him to quit. He looked so defeated…the hurt in his eyes…the sobbing, the feeling of not being good enough. I wanted to take all that disappointment he felt away, but I couldn’t, that’s not my role. My job is to listen, support and give him the courage to try again. Swimming is a life skill, a safety issue….a skill he must learn how to do….so we forced him to attempt it a fourth time. All the while telling him it’s good to fail…it builds charater…you can’t always get what you want, you need to work hard, look at the things you’re learning. You know all the lip service that one pays to another soul when they’ve had something go wrong…when they’ve experienced the sting of a belly flop.

As we walked home from swimming ….basking in the warm sun and excitement of him passing I asked him how he was feeling…..

He said he was proud, proud that he worked hard because the other levels were easy and he didn’t really have to try hard.

He said he was glad he was forced to try again, he knew what we meant now when we said it feels better if you’ve had to work hard for it.

He said this was the time he had the most fun, felt the most like he could do it and just enjoyed being in the pool.

He said he can’t wait to try level 4 and it’s ok if he fails the first time.

And then he ran off ahead of me and his sisters, around the corner and up the street, out of sight, no longer wanting to talk to his mom about it. He had run off to tell our neighbour,the one he shares everything with, the one who had been working in his yard earlier that day…

I continued to walk home, at a snails pace with the girls, reflecting on the things he had just said and wondered if maybe the belly flops and lessons in failing weren’t just for him….❤

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