My dad was once a competitive swimmer. He tried (in vain) to teach me how to swim properly, but I never mastered more than very basic skills. The pool we belonged to when I was little had a big float anchored in the middle of the deep end. There were easier ways to get there, but my dad liked for us to start at one end of the pool and swim all the way to the float. He'd flex his old swimming muscles and I'd do my best to keep up, mostly by kicking my legs and moving my arms in the general direction we were headed.
Sometimes we talked about things, sometimes we swam in silence. Always, though, when I felt that I didn't have any energy left and wanted to quit, my dad would swim in front of me and motion for me to climb on his back. He'd swim us both the rest of the way to the float.
I loved that time with my dad.
Looking back on such a tender moment with him brings tears of both gratitude and sadness. It is precisely how my dad parented me and took care of me through the years. He had high expectations. He expected me to always do the right thing and do my best. But always, always when the pressure got to be too much or I didn't have any energy left or I felt like giving up, he would motion for me to climb on, and his strength, encouragement, wisdom, and support would carry me through.
He challenged me. He believed in me even when I didn't believe in myself. He spoke to me in a way that made me feel important. He dared me to dream big. He taught me to work hard. He pushed me into unknown waters but was always right there if I needed him.
I miss my dad so much that sometimes I feel like I’m drowning. I know deep down he is always with me, though. When I need it most, I can hear his voice. I can feel his love.
He still keeps me afloat.
The other day, my daughter and I were at the pool. We splashed and played in the shallow end for a while, then decided to see how far we could swim side by side across the pool.
We talked a little. We swam in silence a little.
I looked over and noticed her struggling. I swam in front of her, motioned for her to climb on my back and swam us both the rest of the way.
I loved that time with my daughter.
Looking back on such a tender moment with my sweet girl brings nothing but tears of gratitude. I hope she and her brothers always know that while I have high expectations for them, I will always support, encourage, and cheer them on.
I will challenge them, teach them to work hard, and dare them to dream big. I will push them into unknown waters but will always be there if they need me.
As I grow in my own parenthood, I feel connected to my dad in a deeper and more intimate way. I learned so much about how to love my children from him.
Above all, I learned how to keep them afloat because he first kept me afloat.