Last Updated on November 29, 2023

“Mom, will she make me go under?”

I was trying to think fast. It was day six of swimming lessons, and my newly three-year-old daughter — who really does love the water — was strapped snugly in her car seat, complete with purple swimsuit, tearfully anticipating what lay ahead while we drove (late again) in our rockin’ minivan.

What should I say? (This was, to my chagrin, like the shot question. Do you tell them they’re going to get a shot if they don’t ask? When do you tell them? Which is worse: the shock or the anticipation? Since I don’t want to lie, do I try to divert their attention?)

“She probably will.” We’ve had a lot of minivan chats about courage lately, so I went with a “seize the moment” philosophy, taking a few minutes to chat about stuff that made us afraid, and what God says about that. Once we arrived, I cuddled her, and I prayed, whispering in her ear, for courage. (Again, like the shot: Is this harder on her, or on me?! For the love!)

Her first dip underwater was sprinkled with more tears. But then it was my turn to be pleasantly surprised by our answered prayers. By the end of the lesson, she was a pro, grinning in her instructor’s arms and celebrating, pouring yummy chlorinated pool-water “tea” from one pool toy into another.

My wincing now subsided. I ended up thanking her teacher for challenging my kids to do things that are hard for them. My mom had told me on the phone earlier, “I felt a little jipped when I paid that instructor by the half-hour to hold your sister on her hip­­, all because your sister kept saying, ‘I don’t want to.’”

This was good for me to think about as I watched each one of my kiddos making their own progress: to focus, to listen, to trust, to try — and especially — to persevere.

The instructor and I talked about how so much of life is doing things we don’t want to do. Things that are hard. Dishes. Laundry. More laundry. Diapers. Working out. Laundry again.

And what about when God asks my kids to do things that are challenging, even counter-intuitive (think Jonah)?

Will they be ready to lay down what they want to do that’s right or hard? Maybe it’ll be crossing some jungle to an unreached people group. Maybe they’ll need to stick it out with a foster child who tests their limits. Maybe it’ll be hanging in there in witnessing to a coworker. Or just getting up to fold another load of laundry.

Will their “perseverance muscles” be ready to stretch to the next level, or will they be the same puny ones they were born with?

Someone once wisely reminded me that kids aren’t born with self-discipline. Naturally, we’re not disciplined creatures. It has to be taught. But even though I won’t be the first one signing my kids up for “Mommy Boot Camp,” I do want my kids to experience the thrill of small victories, of overcoming and trying (even failing), and of becoming a lean, mean, fightin’ (swimmin’) machine. Okay, not mean. But ready.

I can’t foresee what my kids will face in life; a lot of times, I won’t even be there. But I am grateful for some swimming/character lessons to get ‘em ready.

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  1. Thanks so much, Janel, for sharing your heart on this topic. I so needed it. God bless you.

  2. Lots of really good take-away from this, Janel. Thank you!!