today i watched my one-year old niece go swimming for the very first time. there she was in her little lilac swimsuit, eyes roving all over the place as she took in the sight of her two older sisters and several other children playing in the pool. her mother, holding her chubby little hand, walked her to the edge of the pool, whispering words of encouragement, telling her how much fun it was. as she stepped on the tiled edge, she dipped one tiny foot into the warm water and squealed. it took all of her mother's lightning skills to keep her from jumping headlong into the laughing, floating tangle of children and colorful inflated floaters.
i sat all evening watching her splash and scream in delight. she refused to be put into a floater and protested angrily when she was hoisted onto one of those little inflatable boats for babies. she wanted to be IN the water and she was happiest when she was allowed to kick and splatter on her own, her poor "nanny" of the moment (whoever among the adults present taking care of her while she was in the pool) left to hold her by the straps of her little swimsuit -- the only way she let anyone hold her while she was in the water. when i got in to swim a few laps, we played a little game of peek-a-boo with me dunking my face under water and popping up after a few seconds. she watched me intently as i did this and surprised me and her mother when she dunked her head under water, popped out after a few seconds, and squealed a giggly "BOO" when she surfaced. when she discovered that jumping off the pool's edge into her mother's arms was a fun game, she spiced it up by running off and jumping from ANOTHER point a few steps away from where her mother stood waiting for her. needless to say, that little trick caused everyone to scream and her poor father almost dove in fully clothed..
fearless. totally fearless. that's what she is. her young mind had quickly surveyed the scene, tested it and she plunged with nary a care straight into this new experience. i am certain she wasn't sure how it was going to turn out, she didn't know if this new thing called a swimming pool would cause her harm or good. yet, she did not hesitate to try all that it offered. she watched those who were more experienced at this new thing (in this case, her older sisters and their friends) and did as they did. she wanted to dive right into the whole thing. not for her the little dips and mini-splashes of water on the face from the relative safety of a baby floater or inflatable boat -- she wanted to feel what is was like to kick and splash herself, to decide the direction she wanted to go in the pool.
i love this little girl so much. one year old and already she taught me several valuable lessons: to never be afraid of new things or situations as long as you give it a quick but careful study, look to the more experienced for advice, find a way to make it yours and more fun and to never forget that the direction it will take will be entirely up to your own making.
you go girl!