Column: Summer fun filled with deep meaning

Jul. 13, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Ben and Olivia are on a local summer swim team, and we go to practice a few mornings and afternoons a week. Olivia is 5 and is finding her first year on the swim team a great adventure.

We had some down time the other day and went over to the diving board together for the first time. She climbed up, saw how high she was over the water, and promptly announced she was not going to go off. I decided not to encourage her further, and she stepped down and told me she was going to jump off the side into the deep end of the pool.

There she went into the deep water with not a care in the world. She came up to breathe, smiled, and continued to swim until I got her out to go home. Swimming in the deep water was a breeze for her because even at 4 feet tall, she had no idea how deep the water was. She stayed on the surface and swam to the side because she knew safety rested on the wall.

As a parent, there are moments when watching children offer pause and thought. Watching Olivia in the large and deep part of the pool, a few things darted through my mind.

Encouraging kids to do things is a powerful tool to help them grow and mature. Yet, there is a great divide between encouragement and enforcement. I do not want my kids to become afraid of the water because I foolishly do something stupid and push them too far. Allowing Olivia to jump in the deep end her own way probably kept some of the good mystery in the moment when she does decide she wants to go off the board. Plus, I think there is some merit to "good apprehension" or "good fear." It may keep us out of trouble for a time when we are better suited to handle it.

Sometimes, I think parents make a mistake and try to live their childhoods again through their kids. It can happen. I am fortunate my children want to participate in a sport that brings me so much joy, but my wife and I will not force swimming on them. If they do not want to swim next year, it would be okay.

We live in a world spilling over with competition where simply the goal of winning is often put ahead of the desire for competing. Practice, hard work, integrity, and sportsmanship are much more important than just winning. More than anything, I want my children to gain positive learning experiences from the activities they do.

As coaches and parents, we do make mistakes. I have certainly made a few. One of the best pieces of advice I have ever gotten about fatherhood and coaching is to admit to my children when I make mistakes so they can see the honest character in being accountable and responsible. I heard a parent say once that when he made a mistake, he sat on his son’s bed and apologized and explained why he was wrong. What a great way for an older man to teach a younger kid about character. Those principles could certainly help a lot of our leaders today if they were practiced more.

Nothing happens without the power of family. My wife and I recently attended a retreat where we had the opportunity to be with other couples who experience the challenges of family life and coaching. I sat in some sessions and was comforted knowing some of the struggles my wife and I face are experienced by other families from different parts of the state. We laughed and cried together in an effort to strengthen and encourage one another to be the backbones of our families, but also to the children we teach and mentor each day. It was an awesome experience.

Sometimes we are all in deep water and need the blessings of comfort and encouragement. There are fewer things more uplifting than helping others find their way out of their troubles and reach safety once again.

The deep end can be different for each of us. Life can often sweep us into a whirlpool of doubt and into the deep waters of the soul. We can be blinded by many things and challenged in so many ways.

The Bible instructs us in the first book of Peter to cast all of our care upon the Lord because he cares for us. At the edge of the deep, he is our ultimate comfort and strength. His words keep us afloat and ready to face the next challenge. His careful watch confirms the promise: We’re going to reach the wall safely.