Went to the pool one evening this week. Aiden has been getting a little bolder about getting in the water, for which I've been grateful.
At the pool several weeks ago, we ran into his friend Joey, a couple years older than Aiden, and he proceeded to show off to Aiden how well he could jump into the water, and swim. I'm not sure if it was a male thing, or just a competitive thing, or a personality thing - maybe all three ( and maybe it is foolish to try to differentiate/separate these things)- but suddenly, Aiden's tentative movements in the water ( and pleas to get out and go in the kiddie pool) gave way to more daring ones, even going so far as to actually jump and submerge his head underwater. I was expecting more of the same this week as we trotted over to the steps that lead down into the pool...but shortly after his initial splashings were done, he got out and proceeded to launch himself, with radical abandon, from the edge of the pool...fearlessly flinging himself into the water over and over. He probably did this for over half an hour at least. Of course, he was wearing floaties and so every time he plunged in, he immediately popped up like a cork. But it left me totally incredulous and stunningly proud. At his age...well, I don't have many memories of my life at three and a half years old, but judging from my memories of a few years later, I know I was not this courageous. I liked playing in the water, but I hated "going under." I think I was 20 years old before I got up the courage to jump off a diving board. Even today, jumping into a pool takes some mental preparation. (Yes, I am a wimp.) Aiden wanted me to jump in with him, and if the pool had been just a little deeper, I don't think I would have. Being in water over my head just gives me the hibbly jibblies. But I did jump. Well, okay, not jump exactly...but allow myself to step into the water from the edge of the pool, next to my wildly flailing son.
Just thinking about it all now, I feel dazed...and a little breathless...but mostly grateful. Grateful that my child has already surpassed me in one aspect of courage. Grateful that he is already more comfortable in the water than I am.
It makes me realize in a fresh way that this child is not just an extension of myself. I once read something about child development that mentioned something about babies seeing their mothers as extensions of themselves...or maybe it was themselves as extensions of their mothers...I can't remember exactly now. But vitally connected as one entity, in any case. I don't know about him - but this experience revealed to me that I'm the one who unconsciously felt as if he was an extension or continuation of me. As I watched him repeatedly hurling himself into the water, I felt suddenly awakened to the fact that he is his own person - completely separate from me. He has strengths and abilities that I will never have. He will tackle challenges of which I never dreamed.
This has been a summer where his baby ties have been snapping left and right - from finally being successful at potty training to becoming a big brother. My heart simultaneously rejoices and breaks.