I love that early bit of the learning curve, those first twenty hours, where each little bit of progress is a big fun step. And I love almost as much watching my kids in the same phase, as they test out new things and stretch their boundaries. On our vacation this year I saw my boys being hugely more confident around the water — they both experimented with some independent swimming, Ryan played around with being out of his life jacket, and Nathan?
He got into boats. This is the same boy who as recently as last year refused to ride in a double kayak with me. Not only did he go out alone in a kayak this year, but he tried sailing on a catamaran with me.
Watching them test things out can be one of the most exciting parts of parenting, but there is a tricky balance between encouragement and protection, and I don’t always nail it. One day at the lake Nathan wanted to take the kayak down a few docks from us and back. It was a windy, somewhat choppy day; I hesitated, expressed my reluctance; he still wasn’t a strong paddler and the kayak was light and could easily be blown about. In the end I agreed to the idea, but having so obviously expressed my doubt that he didn’t go. And even in the moment I was aware of having made a mistake. After all, chances were that he’d get onto the water and change his mind, or have a little trouble and come back early. Worst case, someone stronger would have to go after him, which we certainly could. But it would have been far better to let him challenge himself, test his own limits, rather than have me so obviously express my doubt in his abilities.
That is my challenge — to stretch my own boundaries enough that I don’t get in the way of my kids’ reasonable exploration.