Whenever You’re Ready…—by Jamie Levine
Jayda has a friend who is a few months older than she is, and at the beginning of this summer, Jayda’s friend started swimming. Just like that. She’d taken lessons all last summer, and a few during the winter, and has always loved the water, but she couldn’t exactly swim. Then, this June, she dove right in—literally.
I was hoping this would be the summer that Jayda learned to swim, too. Like her friend, Jayda loves being in the water, and she’s had lessons before—but my kid hates to put her head under the water. When I signed Jayda up for summer camp, I assumed the two lessons a day she would be getting would give her the push she needed to give up her water wings and start floating on her own. But my plans for Jayda weren’t exactly her plans. All summer long, Jayda and I have enjoyed our time at the town pool, but Jayda hasn’t swam on her own. Or maybe she hasn’t wanted to swim on her own. As my friend said to me when I marveled at her daughter’s seemingly-sudden transformation into a fish, “she had to be ready…and she was finally ready,” and I guess Jayda hasn’t been. Because pushing, praying, negotiating—none of that works if your kid simply doesn’t want to do something.
Deep-down, I’ve always known this is true; it’s the case with potty training and with learning how to ride a bike, as well as with taking other kinds of risks. This statement is also relevant to the behavior of adults. You can lecture a friend about how terrible her relationship is, and she may even agree with you, but if she’s not ready, she’ll never leave her mate. Or her dead-end job. Or go back to school. Or take any positive steps forward—if the time isn’t right for her. We all have our comfort zones, and they’re difficult to leave behind.
Lately, I’ve been marveling at my daughter’s independence; she insists on doing things like picking out her clothes every morning and putting together her own snacks, and my kid, who normally loves being close to my side, often announces that she’s walking to the ladies room at the library alone (she doesn’t know that I tip-toe behind her and make sure she gets there safely), and adores it when I let her spend time at a friend’s house without me. But she’s still a four-year-old—and she still begs me to pick her up and hold onto her tightly several times a day. And, as Jayda’s mother, I’m here to love her and encourage her by making her feel secure—not to force her into anything, or to turn her into someone whom she isn’t. Even if I think she can—or should—do something, like learn how to swim this summer.
A few days ago, Jayda and I were at a pool with my cousin—a shallow pool that likely made Jayda feel extra-secure—and just like that, Jayda put her head in the water and started moving her hands and kicking her feet. I was amazed. She was ready: My little girl was trying to swim. Her efforts didn’t last long—and she didn’t get far—but she did get started. And all it really takes for anyone to get where they need to go—into a better relationship, the start of a new passion, a rung ahead on the ladder—is to take the first step. My little girl is on her way.