She is my first born. She is cautious and thoughtful and is always, “Eli! No!”-ing to keep him out of harm’s way. She is a brave little diva and has no problem grabbing the mic after Sunday services to entertain the stragglers with a front-and-center song and dance. But when she’s in new situations she approaches humbly. You can see her analyzing and dissecting the situation before her. And she does so with such enthusiasm, she is often beaming even in her calculating. It’s an honor to see.
So when we told her about the pool her face lit up and she fed off our excitement. She was giggling and dancing around as we put her swimsuit on her. And when we walked out to the pools she was smiling that big, broad, delicious smile.
But she didn’t just jump in.
She studied, she waded, she squealed back to dry ground, she dipped her feet, she hurried away from the current in the lazy river, she looked to Gabe and I with such sweet pride… We were happy to indulge in shouts and applause. She clung tightly with the biggest grin while I carried her deeper. The whole time she would stop to blow bubbles like we have in the bathtub and was mostly just unsure about the feeling of water over her nose and eyes.
She was fascinated. And watching her was fascinating.
We took her to another set up the other day and I was kind of surprised at her response. She faced them with a little more familiarity this time. She was still thoughtful, but this time she remembered that the weird feeling you get when the water hits your tummy is okay. She remembered that when your arms are in the water they move differently. She remembered that eyes are okay getting wet.
Then she got really brave. She decided to push her comfort zone and wade deeper and deeper into the gradual pool.
So I stayed back a little and watched her. I was ready to hold her and soothe her if the water got too deep or someone splashed her or swam too close. I was ready to go rescue my cub. But what I found was that she didn’t really need me – at least, not as much as I would have assumed. She waded to her chest and giggled to herself as she felt the water float her arms. She stayed near the wall, but didn’t clutch it until a group of kids swam by and made her move about. She was a bit terrified – her eyes got big and her mouth went “oh!” and I was quick to offer her lots of “it’s okay”s and “good job!”s but she didn’t really need them.
She grabbed the wall and regained her bearings. On her own. Then she set out again.
She did this a few times. When it was about time to leave she made one final push and held onto the wall as she went further than she could reach with her feet. I stood right next to her watching her impress herself and her parents. She let her mouth go under the water and took my instruction to keep it closed. She splashed around and let her legs kick underneath her a little. She was doing it. She saw all the other kids like human fishies and she thought, “if they can do it so can I.”
She was confident. But careful. She was magnificent. I am daily impressed with her beauty, her courage, her life. And that day was no different. This sweet child who doesn’t know any better than to think it will all be okay and at the same time full of wonder at the world around her.
And in watching her I got to soak in the light a little bit. She was a channel for something Greater; something holy. Her pure joy, her wonder, her courage remind me of a God who is joyful, wonderful and brave. Who inspires those things in his creation. My daughter carried the image of God – the Light, the Love, the Hope. And she saw it, too. You could almost see her heart swell as she pushed her limits further and further. Oh, I loved that! I loved seeing her make herself proud. I never want to squash that in my attempts to teach her meekness and humility. I always want her to be impressed with the way God made her because He made her just breathtakingly beautiful. And I got to be the one she looked to for affirmation in it.
Where I acknowledge and celebrate this revealing she will learn to do the same. Where I miss it, she will learn to miss it. Not only in herself, but in everything around her. What an honor and a privilege and a responsibility… and what a gift.