Every weekday for the past month, I’ve taken my four-year-old to these intensive swim lessons at a local university. When the instructors come out of the pool area to gather the kids, several start to cry. The instructors gently but firmly peel them away from their parents and whisk them into the water. It’s not easy to watch, but the instructors encourage us to stick with it, even if our children are upset. The result—an independent swimmer—is worth the tears, they remind us.
The lessons are carefully choreographed affairs. The instructors start by teaching the kids to swim on their backs, which feels strange and disorienting, especially to a small child. But until they’ve mastered it, there’s no flipping over. My two older children went through the program, so I know to trust the process. By the end of two weeks, most kids are able to swim across the pool on their own.
The other day, while watching my daughter glide through the water on her back, furiously kicking her little legs, I thought about times in my own life when I tried to cut corners or skip a crucial first step. It never ended well. (This is especially true for IKEA furniture.)
When I graduated from college, my mom gave me a copy of “Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life,” by the wonderfully wise Annie Lamott. In it, Lamott shares a sweet memory of her older brother, who at age ten, sat down at the kitchen table to write a report on birds that he’d put off until the very last minute. Near tears and paralyzed by the enormous task ahead of him, Lamott’s father pulled up a chair, put his arm around his shoulders and said, “Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird.”
Trust the Process,