The Father's Promise

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One writer talks about teaching his son to swim. He started when he could barely talk. It was a chore. He says that the little guy didn't like getting water in his face in the bathtub, much less the massive ocean of a pool. At first, "teaching him to swim" meant getting him to splash around a bit on the top step, and maybe putting his lips in the water enough to blow bubbles if he was feeling really brave.

Eventually Dad convinced him to walk around with him in the shallow end. Poor little guy did it with shallow breathing and a death-grip around his father’s neck. Then it was time for jumping off the slide. His father lifted him out of the pool, put him on the slide, and said, "Come on, jump!"

Of course, at that moment, his one-year-old son wrote him off as a crazy man.The look on his face, in about two seconds, went from confusion to dawning understanding, to amused rejection, to outright contempt. His little boy frowned and said, "No. I go see Mommy."

But his father chased him down and, with various bribes, got back in the pool, put him on the slide and said "Come on, kiddo," I said. "I'm right here. I'll catch you. I promise!" His son looked at him half skeptically, did one more little wind-up, bouncing at the knees, and then fell into the pool with what was more a flop than a jump.

And his dad caught him. That did it. At that point they were off to the races. "Doot 'gain, Daddy! Doot 'gain!" And so commenced half an hour of jump, catch, lift, reset, jump, catch, lift, reset.

When he says that his wife and he started to worry that maybe their son had gotten a bit too comfortable with the water. What if he wandered out to the pool when no one was there with him? Would he remember all the times he'd safely jumped into the water and decide he had this pool thing whipped? Would he jump again?

Over the next few days, though, they watched him around the pool, and what dad said that what they saw both comforted him as a parent and touched him deeply as a father. Never once did his little boy think about jumping into the water—at least not unless he was standing underneath him with his arms out, promising to catch him. And then he would fly!

You see, despite all his apparent successes, my son's trust was never in his own ability to handle the water. It was in his father, and in his father's promise: "Come on kiddo. Jump. I promise I'll catch you."

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