The power of words

Last week my six-year-old started all-day summer camp for the first time.  While a little nervous about the length of time he would be gone, I looked forward to a new routine.  Routine usually means I can find time to write during the day.

Then my son and I had a little chat in the car on the way to camp.  For years he had taken swim lessons at our local YMCA with a flotation device called a bubble.  Four floating pads strap to the child’s back.  Each pad can be removed as the child gains confidence and ability.  My son was down to the last pad.

“They may not use bubbles,” I said.  “They may have a different method.  But I know you’ll pick it up quickly.  You’re such a good learner.”

I thought I was preparing him.  I thought I sounded supportive.  He didn’t respond.  I thought we were cool.

We parked the car and walked through the woods to his camp’s cabin.  He dragged his feet and his face showed terror.

He wouldn’t let me leave him alone there.  Even after we met the three really nice counselors who did their best to distract him with his favorite activities.  The truth finally emerged.  The idea of swimming in a strange pool without a bubble terrified him.

If I had just kept my mouth shut, he would not have known about the bubble-less swimming until he got to the pool.  But would that surprise have been worse?  Or would he have rolled with it?

We struck a bargain.  I stayed to watch him swim, as he begged, then I left for the rest of the day.  He did great with a noodle instead of a bubble.  Now he’s talking about trying to swim without the noodle.

Now I’m terrified.  But I’ll keep my mouth shut.

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