The bedroom door was closed. As I approached, prepared to gently knock as I opened the door, I could hear her sobbing. It was my little girl, Andie. My 7 year old heroine was not having a good morning. She told me that she was upset because she was going to miss Amanda and I, as she was going to be away for the next week. Earlier in the morning, Amanda had to console her because she was having difficulty making up her bed. Yesterday, Andie had a bout of tears because her breakfast biscuit was too hot, and she was afraid that she would not have time to eat it before camp. None of these things were true. Andie was not upset about made beds, missing family, or hot biscuits. The tears coming out of my little girls eyes are tears of determination, combined with a bit of fear, as well as the anxiety that comes with trying something new. I hate to see my daughter cry, everyone does. But at the end of the day, I would not trade the character traits that are associated with her tears for anything in this world.
Andie Kate attends summer camp at the YMCA. A couple of times per week the campers have “swim day” where they get to play on the slides and in the pool at the local Y. Each camper must take a swim test so that the counselors may assign them a color based on their mastery of swimming. Green, yellow, and red are the colors, and I think the system sounds great. Andie is just learning to swim and received a “red” on her swimming test. It sounded like she panicked and was afraid to jump in the water when it came time to be reviewed (I feel as if most of us know what it’s like to be afraid to jump into something new and different). With the “red” score she received, she must stay in about 1′ of water while wearing a life vest, the duration of swim day. Well lemme tell you, she is none too happy about this set of circumstances.
I need you to know that I love this little girl. I love this little girl, not only because she is my little girl, but because I have so much respect for her. She is an excellent teacher who leads by example. She is encouraging, uplifting, and has the best attitude for just enjoying life and “taking it all in stride”. Another thing I love about Andie is this, she is ANDIE. She doesn’t need or ask permission to be who she is. She has her reasons for doing or wanting certain things, and feels little need to justify her reasoning. She is really a piece of work. She is pretty and polite, and very,very sweet, but inside there is that fire. What I appreciate most about her internal fire is that she feels the need to keep it stoked, solely for herself. When Andie decides she wants to do something, she doesn’t bring the world into it. She squares her shoulders, she lowers her head, and she gets to work. It’s a quality that comes with it some tears of frustration, some tears of fear, and misplaced emotions… but it also brings results and fulfillment. I’m so excited to watch her grow up.
As we left the house and headed off to camp this morning, Andie was still reeling, emotionally. We talked it out, and she decided to tell me that her desire to re-take the swim test is what had her bent outta shape. My 10 year old son Grayson, and I tried to throw out some positives and get a laugh, but she was pretty upset and fixated on the swim test. We talked about her potential and the heights that she could soar. I discussed with her how I have watched her tirelessly practice at her art, or skip-jump, or round-off. We discussed the picture, which was hung in her room just last night that reads, “Darling, You Can Do Hard Things.” As I did my best to nurture her condition, I threw out an option that I immediately felt guilty for suggesting, but her reaction to it, I will never forget. I said,
“Baby, you don’t have to take the test if it scares you that bad.”
My little girls head snapped upward toward me, while her hair shifted across her face. She looked equally confused as she did angry. Her eyes immediately dried and her brow furrowed with equal parts frustration, surprise, and disappointment that I would even lay this option on the table. She was insulted. What she said was,
“No way. If I don’t take the test, then I have to stand there, in like hardly any water, wearing a life vest… and that’s not gonna happen.”
But that is not what I heard. What I gathered from the look on her face and the tone in her voice said to me,
“Daddy, what you got doo-doo for your brains? I ain’t fixin to let this get the better of me. Now, it sucks that I am so afraid of this, but it’s not gonna stop me from trying. Nothing stops me from trying when I want something. Don’t give me the option to sit out of the sport of life, when you know I’m a competitor.”
I have had a smile plastered to my face all morning at just the thought of my little girls determination. I have so much to learn, and she has so much to teach me. I am not sure if she will go through with re-taking the swim test, and I’m not sure that they will allow her to, but I do know that what she has inside her will be nurtured and encouraged. To see a young girl who was so filled with fear, yet so willing to go through with her goal, is something that I feel fortunate to be a part of. It reminds me that fear is part of the gig. If there is no fear, there is no fun. I don’t want to stand ankle high in life’s kiddie pool, wearing a life vest to ensure that I’m 100% safe. There are ladders to climb, slides to go down, and deep blue waters available to refresh my soul. I have spent my morning thinking about what dreams and goals I am scoring “green”, and which ones am I suppressing to “yellow”, or even “red”. I want to know what that thing is that just popped into your head, how quickly you are going to stuff and have us both pretend that it’s not there, or when you are going to spit it out, take a step forward, and go down the water slide. I hope everyone has a good day, a nice weekend, and an overall fruitful life.