Thursday, August 15, 2013


At the beginning of the summer, I often watched Elijah longingly look toward the deep end of the pool. He'd watch his sister and friends as they leapt off of the diving board, emerging up the ladder with glee ridden faces. I could tell he really wanted to be joining them on that diving board. At our pool, the rule is that a child must swim a complete lap of the pool, in order to be allowed on the diving board in the deep end.

Elijah had one big problem. It wasn't that he couldn't swim the required lap, it was that he didn't think he could swim the required lap. We had seen him swim equal distances, just not all at once, and all by himself. We knew he could do it, but that wasn't enough. He had to know he could do it.

We tried several tactics to entice him to take the swim test. Knowing that getting something more expensive that a snow cone, was a luxury not often afforded our kids, we offered Elijah anything he wanted from the snack bar. We also tried to enlist a little peer pressure, positive reinforcement from Abbey, by telling her that when he accomplished the test, she could also get anything she wanted from the snack bar.  John and I would take him and make him swim to us every time we went to the pool. John promised Elijah that once he took the test,  John would leave him alone.  Bribery, peer encouragement and promise of no nagging, all worked to no avail. Every day, I'd ask, "Do you want to take the test?"  Every day, I'd get a negative response. He even watched his good friend, Daniel, take the test, pass it and begin playing in the deep end. Much to my chagrin, he was genuinely happy for his buddy and didn't show any signs of jealousy about his relegation to the shallow end of the pool.

Coach and older brother, Daniel, finally got our little landlubber to move. During one of the six and under practices, there were only a few kids attending. Daniel knew they could all swim, so at the end of practice, as a reward, they all got to go off of the diving board. (There were older swimmers waiting just outside the deep end in case any little ones struggled.)

First he watched Abbey do a flip.

Then he climbed up

and took a leap

With a great big smile on his face!

Then he swam to the side.

He thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the deep end. That afternoon, when we went to the pool. I made my usual inquiry, but this time, he said, "Yes!"  So I got one of his favorite lifeguards and we went to watch him swim the whole pool. He did so quite easily and was given the coveted "yellow band"

while enjoying a Nutty Buddy from the snack bar.

Abbey got hers also

It's hard to know what will motivate kids to do things. We can lead them to something and make it attractive, but in the end, it's their call whether they will do it or not. Anyway, I'm proud of Elijah for conquering his fear. In return, he's enjoyed many days this summer swimming in the deep end and jumping off of the diving board.


1 comment:

  1. There is not much I enjoyed more than watching Elijah and my Daniel jumping off the boards together this summer. Their excitement and pure joy were contagious!