Children seldom misquote you. They usually repeat word for word what you shouldn’t have said. — Unknown
One towel covered me from head to toe. The towel beneath me absorbed water from my swimsuit. Protected from the breeze, I huddled under cover. With the sun above and the heated concrete pool deck below, I found quiet. I loved this part of swim lessons. This plus the popsicle we’d get on the way home made it all worthwhile.
My eight-year-old body was positioned far enough away from the splash zone of the pool, near the chain link fence and the moms. Save haven.
I woke up to their voices.
“It’s sad,” one said.
“I don’t know why she brings her,” said one mom.
I knew that voice, she lived down the street.
“Poor thing just can’t do it,” said another.
“She shouldn’t be in this class, it holds the others back. It just isn’t fair.”
That was Tucker’s mom. I’d never heard her talk that way before.
“You have a point. Everyone has to wait.”
“Of course I have a point.”
My throat tightened.
Then, “Hello, all! Thanks for watching her.” It was Mom.
Did she hear them?
“No problem. She sleeping. Probably so tired from the lesson,” Tucker’s mom said all sweet.
My eyes hurt. I lifted the towel, rubbed my eyes and reached for my mom.
Going in the big pool took every bit of brave I had. Some days I didn’t have enough. This day was one of those days.
After that, shame took control. At first it hurt. I wonder if they knew. That made it worse. By the next day, the fear of drowning was nothing compared to my I’ll-show-you-attitude. Shame drove me to mad and then to prove something. Strange. Shame led to mad and took over fear. Was it pride?
I survived the pool incident. And I remember. If you think that’s what I needed to get on my brave, think again. I overcame this moment, but it left seeds of doubt and scaring. I don’t always pull out from underneath the covers and approach my fear. Sometimes it’s too big or I’m too small.
This memory drives my thinking tonight as the start of the school year approaches. We need to be mindful. Not just of our talk when we think no one’s listening. We need to be mindful of how we think about children’s abilities. Our thoughts drive our actions and our words that young minds can see, hear and remember.
Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for this place to share our Tuesday slices. Read more slices here.