In my head, I had a picture of what parenting in the summer looked like. Sitting poolside, reading a book while my children happily swam in a neighborhood pool. None of those things really happened the way I thought.
There is no sitting at the pool with my crew. Ample splashing, yes. Sunscreen slathering, of course. But sitting? Only in the forced 15 minute family swim break from 2 to 2:15 pm. We don’t have a neighborhood pool, but when the sweltering heat makes our skin (and sin) boil, we fork up the cash to head into the SDSU Aquaplex. I don’t even bring a book with me these days, just swim toys and the few scraps of sanity I can muster up.
All that said, last week I had a profound parenting moment poolside. Thankfully, no one knew I was crying because I was in the process of being splashed by the zillion happy kids in the pool beside me.
No one would have known the profound moment, as I looked like every other mother in the pool, smiling through splashes and trying to focus on three kids at once.
In order to appreciate the story, you have to know that swimming has been a long process for one of our children. While he is confident in the shallow end, the deep end is akin to an abyss to him. He plays the role of brave boy pretty well, but his heart is petrified of swimming long distances and deep water. For years, I have worked with him, strengthening his strokes, building his confidence, talking through his fears.
This was the first summer when his big brother was able to pass the swim test with flying colors, leaving him in the shallows for the fun on the diving board and the inflatable obstacle course. I saw the embarrassment in his eyes, the deep desire to get over his fear and join his brother in the fun.
We worked in the shallow end for about 15 minutes, treading water and such. I watched my little man bravely walk up to the lifeguard to ask to take the swim test. You would have thought my son was Michael Phelps the way that I cheered alongside him as he swam his 25 meter length of the pool.
He passed. He glanced over at me with a smile that made my heart melt and then proceeded to ride his hard-fought wave of victory to the deep end. I did not see him for the rest of the afternoon, except as a little ant jumping off the high dive scores of times.
For everyone else, this may have appeared as a normal day. No one but he and I knew the profound moment that had just occurred. My heart swelled with joy and satisfaction; he gleamed all day. As I watched him take his place with the big boys, I found tears streaming down my eyes.
I cried because I knew that this was a picture of parenting. All those years of unseen, often unnoticed coaching and training and character building to the end that our children would become confident and leave us with a smile.
I cried because I felt, maybe for the first time, the joy that God must have felt parenting me many times. All the small victories that to everyone else most likely did not look like victories at all: overcoming anxiety, beginning to trust, opening my mouth to verbally share hope in Christ, staying home with my children.
I cried because I thought about all the unseen investment, development, training and coaching God has labored over in my life without my so much as noticing.
I cried because I realized that behind every conquered fear, every idol exposed and left, every truth clung to in my life, He has been behind me, strengthening me, cheering for me, celebrating our secret victories. He left His Spirit to far exceed my crazy running alongside the pool lane cheering.
As my chest swelled with pride for my son, I realized how proud my Heavenly Father is of me in even the smallest victories. And the tears piled up in the pool.
I am so thankful for the way that parenting provides transformative vantage points into the heart of our Perfect Parent. In parenting them, I see His parenting of me and am profoundly changed. I may not be propped up poolside quietly reading a book, but His version of parenting poolside is far better.