Two years ago, we took Kaleo to his swim class for the first time. It was really scary for him.
He cried, he clung to us, he begged us not to take him back each day.
Eventually, he got in the pool. He began to kick his legs. He began to splash with his arms. And over a few days, with the patient care and love of an amazing swim teacher, he began to move across the pool.
We were so proud of him because he stayed the course.
And he began to really swim. It was lovely to witness.
A few months later we took him to a friend’s house. They had a swimming pool. And we all got in their pool to play.
It was such fun. He would jump in and kick and splash as he swam into my arms.
Well, it was fun for me until the moment he said, “Dada, can you please jump in the pool like me?”
Oh my God.
I’m not a swimmer.
I can do a few laps. I can splash around and have fun.
But I don’t jump in a pool.
And I mean never.
I’d literally never jumped in a pool before.
But there was my little boy looking up at me, eyes wide, excited to see his dad do what he now loved to do.
I knew I couldn’t let him down.
So, I gingerly crawled out of the pool and crept around to the side.
No one had any idea what was going on.
But inside, my heart was racing, my stomach was in knots and sweat was starting to run down my back.
I stood on the side of the pool for what seemed like an eternity, both my little boys looking up at me expectantly.
The seconds crawled by.
My boys thought I was teasing them.
But I was frozen.
Finally, I gathered all the courage I could muster.
Doing it for my boys—not for myself—I jumped lightly off the edge of the pool and splashed into the water!
I surfaced, kicked to the side and held on tightly.
I was alive!
And I was relieved. I’d done it.
And I was so proud of myself.
I looked over at my boys who were smiling and laughing.
“Do it again, Dada! Do it again!!”
Fast forward to a couple of weeks back, we’re on a family cruise to Mexico.
We got off the ship to spend time on a beach.
There was a banana boat tied to a little speed boat that was racing around the bay.
People on it were laughing and screaming.
“Go on it, Dada!” my boys exclaim.
“Go on, Rich,” says Monique, “They’d love it!”
“It’s not my thing.” I reply casually.
Actually, I’m not an ocean kind of guy. A pool can be fun but I never really learned to swim in the ocean. I can sit and watch it all day long. But I rarely spend much time in it.
But there they were again. My two little boys. Wanting their daddy to have fun that they could enjoy.
I knew I had to do it. For them.
So I stood up and walked to the banana boat with my friend Annette.
I pretended to be relaxed but I was secretly calculating the grip strength I’d need to hang on when it turned fast…
And how—at the very same time—I’d manage to hold on to my prescription sunglasses with one hand so I could actually see where I was…
We got on the banana boat. The speed boat took off. And we sped around the bay at breakneck speed.
Well, it certainly seemed that way.
And then, probably no more than four minutes later, it was over.
I was alive!
In fact, no one even fell off.
And once again, I’d faced a fear—not for me but for my little boys.
Every night at dinner, Monique and I have a family ritual with the boys.
In turn, we each say, “The best bit of my day was …..”
And then we say, “The most challenging bit of my day was …..”
We want to model for our boys that we face our fears and we do challenging things.
We want to model for our boys that it’s OK to feel fear.
Everything I wrote above I’ve shared with the boys.
As much as I’d love them to see me as some kind of Superhero dad, underneath it all I want them to know it’s OK to be human. It’s OK to feel afraid.
And it can feel pretty frickin’ cool to do something that scares you!