Last night, we swam again – under a full moon. We met up with our friends Karly and her mom Sara again. Karly swims exceptionally; she has been on a swim team, and this summer, swims every day with mom or dad. Lorelei swims well but not that well. She doesn't yet have the speed or skill Karly does, but still, Lorelei does well for her age.
Sara had some pool toys - two plastic neon sticks - and we would throw them, and the girls would swim to get them and bring them back: Pool Fetch, if you will. The girls would start off together, but Karly would get ahead of Lorelei and get to the stick first. Not everytime, but enough to where Lorelei realized Karly would get there first. After a while, Lorelei would start out with Karly, but then she would stop, giving up, and wait for Karly to return.
I know Lorelei was disappointed, and this made me hurt. She never said anything and didn't appear upset, but I know it bothered her. She's very competitive, and she hates to lose. (Who doesn't?)
Walking to the car together, I brought it up.
"It's good to be with people who are better at something than we are," I told my eight-year-old. "It helps us to strive for more and to improve our skills."
"I know," she said, but I don't think she quite understood.
"You swam well tonight," I said.
This is a hard lesson. It's hard to get out of our comfort zone and to admit there are others who are better at something than we are, especially when it's something we love and in which we take pride. I see this every day in my classroom. I struggle because I know I need to push my students. But, I want to keep them with me and not have them give up. But if I don't push them and have high expectations, I'm not really teaching. I'm babysitting. No thanks. I didn't go to school for two college degrees to be a babysitter, and I haven't invested 12 years in education to be a babysitter. I'll take the risk and push them, nurturing them all the way.
It's different, though, when it's your kid. Your baby. The need to protect is so overwhelming. But if all I ever do is protect, then she will never grow. And I sure as hell don't want that.