Swim

swimming-poolk

“Put your face in the water. Blow bubbles. See? Like me!”

I immerse the lower half of my face and push air through my nostrils. I raise my face from the pool in an expression of excitement.

My son copies me once, then refuses to repeat the action.

He needs to learn to swim. Sure, it’ll take years before he’s close to mastery, but the process should begin early for his safety’s sake.

Did I mention that my four-year-old has a history of hysteria whenever he gets the teeniest-weeniest splash of water on his face? I’m sure swim lessons will be a piece of cake.

Oh, my sweet son…you teach your baby sister sign language, you rise each morning with a helpful and cheerful spirit, your drama keeps the house warm and noisy every minute of your waking hours. Your heart is big, colorful, tender.

A part of my cynical adult self mocks you when you howl at the water on your face, and another part confesses my own fears. I’ve just learned to hide them better. I do the things I know I’ll be good at. I make myself too busy to take time to experiment.

I’m afraid to ask for favors. I hate the thought of inconveniencing the rest of the busy world. I’m afraid to compromise my thought-out schedule in favor of beautiful spontaneity. I’m afraid of the work and hassle it takes to travel with little ones in tow. I’m afraid of getting insufficient sleep to function.

Perhaps my son would mock me if he knew. Or maybe he’d hold out his hand, like he sometimes does to his little sister and say, “It’s okay! Come with me!”

I miss the bygone days of mentorship. My mom gave me pep talks every night. One-on-one encouragement. She bought me private writing lessons. She read all of my earliest stories.

Many of my friends wonder and marvel at my desire to homeschool my kids. I know. I know. The time investment and the challenge is huge. But I also know what it did for me—and I want to nourish my kids in similar ways. I don’t frown on parents who put their kids in school. I just can’t ignore my own compulsion, drawn from the well of my own memories.

I wish I could still be homeschooled. That someone who loves me as much as my mom could walk me through this daily mess of being a mother and a writer. I want individualized worksheets and weekly goals. Sure, I do some of this for myself and my husband is a wonderful life coach when I ask it of him.

Maybe I’m tired of being an adult.

What do I do now that I don’t have a parent to put her face in the water to show me it’s okay? Sure, there are self-help workshops and motivational speakers to fill the need, but I want it to be more spiritual and ancient. I want to sleep on someone’s hearth and wake in the morning to walk through dewy grass as I listen in a sleep-daze to my mentor’s thoughts on life’s most important truths.

Elise, will always be a hopeless romantic.

The only way I know for sure that I am growing is that I’m brave enough to do things that scare me. I may not have the mentor/sage I dream of, but I can let my heart point me, quivering compass arrow that it is.

I will allow myself to get dinner cooked late, even though it scares me to think I may be a less-than-adept homemaker. Especially if it eases my mind and heart with the extra time to breathe.

I will actively think of things that would make my life better and easier and I will ask for them. Childcare. Friends to visit me when the going gets tough. Simpler meals.

I will purchase a YMCA membership and use the included childcare for my mental health before I use it to work out. My mind is teetering on melt-down on a daily basis and I would be an idiot to ignore the warning signs. I’m afraid to commit money to this kind of self-care. I’m afraid to make the visible stance that says “I’m worth it.”

I’m going to put my face in the water. And it’s going to be okay.

I’ll learn to swim.

About Elise

Elise Stephens began her career in writing at age six, illustrating her own story books and concocting wild adventures. Stephens counts authors Neil Gaiman, C.S. Lewis, and Margaret Atwood among her literary mentors, and has studied under Orson Scott Card. She dreams often of finding new ways to weave timeless truths into her stories. Her novels include Moonlight and Oranges (2011), Forecast (2013), and Guardian of the Gold Breathers (2015), a finalist for the INDIEFAB Book of the Year. She lives in Seattle with her family. Follow her on Twitter @elisestephens and Author Elise Stephens on Facebook.

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