Teaching a Little Girl to Swim
What’s the point of all this? Why should someone scrimp and save? Drive old cars? Cook dinners at home? Not buy the most expensive house they can afford? You only live once and you can’t take it with you, so why shouldn’t you just enjoy your money while it’s coming it?
For me, it all comes down to one thing – I got to teach my daughter to swim this summer.
My wife and I officially left our corporate jobs in San Francisco earlier this spring. We moved to Kansas, bought a house, and went on a few adventures. But for the most part, over the long days of summer, we have done very little. We settled into our house, started exploring the neighbourhood, and caught back up with friends and family we’d neglected for a long time. But my biggest project was located just a few hundred feet from our house – a small little community pool.
Baby Bear is about 2 1/2 now. She’s at the age where 1) She’s curious about everything and 2) she wants to do everything by herself. She’ll start screaming “By Myself, Dada!!” if I even think about helping climb up the slide on the playground. Her mother and I do our best to encourage her, but it’s like watching your heart climb around outside your body and then decide to head up a ladder 10 feet in the air. She’s at the age where when she saw a group of kids swimming in the pool she had to be next.
We decided to venture in for the first time a couple months ago. She was decked out in a new swimming suit carrying a small plastic bucket with a turtle and seahorse – a gift from the grandparents. I was wearing an old pair of board shorts I’ve had for god knows how long. She was a bit hesitant at first – the water was cold – but a few minutes after wading in she was dunking her head under and attempting to paddle around. I held her up as she tried to move through the water, little feet and hands churning a mile a minute. That first trip ended earlier than expected – she swallowed a little too much water and threw up most of her lunch on the side of the pool. She was most upset that we had to leave early.
Nearly every day after that she’d invariably ask, ‘Go ta pool dada!’ and we would deck ourselves out again and make the short walk down the street. Bucket, turtle, and seahorse in tow. It gets hot in Kansas, and even a short walk can be sweltering. But every day she wanted to make the trek. Every day she got a little better. Put her head under for a little bit longer. Swam a little further without me supporting her. Last week she swam all the way across the shallow end without any help from me or her mom. She stood up, beaming with pride, laughing and jumping, screaming “I did it myself!”
More so than any other accomplishment in my life – bronze star in the army, Stanford, Princeton, promotions at work, bonuses – I’m most proud of that moment in a small little community center pool a block away from my house. No one but our little family saw it or marked the occasion. There will be no awards or accolades. No recognition. No money. But that moment of sheer joy on a little girl’s face as she accomplished what once seemed impossible was miraculous.
That’s the reason. That’s the point of all this. I do this because it means having time to spend with my daughter. A stranger giving her lessons didn’t teach her how to swim, her dad did. Her dad had time, time to spend holding a little girl up in the water as she took her first hesitant strokes. Time to spread sunscreen on a little, upturned face. Time to wrap her in a towel and carry her home, exhausted after a couple hours of swimming. That time is more precious than anything else that money could buy. Treat it that way.