Lessons in Perseverance

A little more than a week ago DS2 passed the green band swim test at our Y’s water park.  With the green band, he can go in any area of the pool — the 4 ft zone, the 9 ft, and (most importantly) the water slides. Even better — he can do it all without an adult tagging along.

The green band did not come easily.  Going into the summer, DS2 was not a strong swimmer.  He could swim for short distances, but couldn’t tread water, was afraid to jump into the deep end, and didn’t have the stamina necessary to swim the entire length of the pool.

As soon as school was over, we started hitting the pool at least two or three times a week.  At first, he was content to play with me in the four foot area and wasn’t too concerned about improving his swimming or taking the green band test.  But, every time his older brother swam off by himself into the deep end or climbed the stairs to the water slides, DS2 wished he could follow, and before long he REALLY wanted that green band.

He started actually practicing — swimming longer distances, treading water as best he could in the four foot area — then started taking the green band test every chance he could.  For almost a week straight, he took the test every day — sometimes twice a day.  Each time, he’d be SURE that this was the test he would pass … only to fall short.  He’d stop half-way for no particular reason … he’d freak out when asked to jump into the deep end and would walk away … he’d be THIS close to treading water for 60 seconds, and then grab the side.

After failing the test, he’d walk away from the pool, completely dejected, plop down on a deck chair, and cry a little bit.  Then, the very next day … at the very first opportunity … he’d go back to take the test again.

Finally, after taking the test seven times in three days, he passed, and there was much rejoicing!  I posted about it here, celebrated it on Facebook, and got the boys ice cream to celebrate what DS2 called, “My greatest triumph!”

That same day, DS2 got an email from his Godmother that read: “Your Mom told me that you passed your green swim test today!  I know you are SOOO excited about that.  Your Godfather and I are too.  But for us, it’s not the passing that is most important, it’s that you kept on trying and never gave up.  That’s more than I can say for most adults I know.  That attitude of dedication and drive to reach your goals, even when they are tough is what will get you whatever it is you decide you want in life!  Sooo proud of you!”

Leave it to DS2’s brilliant Godmother to point out the big lesson of the whole swim-band test experience — the lesson in perseverance –the lesson that some accomplishments DON’T come easily.  Some goals aren’t reached on the first try.  Sometimes it’s going to take a lot of effort, a lot of frustration, overcoming a lot of set backs, and a lot of dedication to achieve what you most desire.  The work that went into getting that green band showed DS2 this …. and showed him that HE can persevere.

Her email also got me wondering: Will this experience stick with DS2? Will he remember it? Will it become part of the story he tells himself about his life? As he gets older and comes up against other challenges and frustrations, will he remember to say to himself, “This is like the time I had trouble passing the green band test. I just have to stick with it — if I don’t give up and work hard, I’ll get there.”

And, what about the times when the work and effort DON’T pay off — sometimes, no matter how much we persevere, we DON’T reach our goal.  Sometimes hard work and dedication do not get you the results you wanted — this is only too clear to me this week, as we have been watching Olympics competition almost every moment of the day and have watched countless determined, hard-working, persevering athletes fall short of their goals.

When and how will DS2 learn about the darker side of perseverance? When will he fall short despite all his hard work? And how will he incorporate that experience into his story about himself?

By mkkendrick