It takes a big man to admit this. Or, at least, I like to think it does: I’m a wimp. There. I said it. No, it does not feel better to get it off of my chest.
If you’re one of my friends from school, this does not surprise you. I have never been a fan of physicality. I wasn’t athletic. I sucked in sports. The one season I played football I was the biggest kid on the team. I also wore more pads than anyone on the team. You couldn’t even see my skin because of all the pads. But I was afraid to hit a fly. Even more afraid to hit the other boys. Never blocked anyone. I was like Sam Baker but in grade school. It drove my coach crazy.
I also didn’t really like to get into fights. As a kid from the “rough part of town,” this is not a good characteristic to have. But it is one that didn’t go unnoticed. I got picked on and even bullied a bit. There are fights that were started with me in school that, to this day, I couldn’t tell you what they were over. It was just the age-old tradition of finding the weak kid and picking on him. I didn’t lose every fight. But, most of them. My dad only had two rules about fighting: never start a fight and never lose a fight. Well, I at least got one right!
Now I’m a father and am determined to not let my kids follow in my footsteps. There’s only one problem. No. 4 is exactly like me. This kid looks and acts like he could be me. On the one hand, it makes me very happy to see that he gets such an enjoyment out of life. Like me, he loves to make people laugh and loves to be the center of attention. But, like me as a child, he tends to shy away from certain aspects of being a boy.
This was evident last Sunday when we met my cousin and his family at Clark’s Hill Lake for some fun on the water. Shortly after we arrived at their campsite, we took a ride on the pontoon. When we stopped for a dip in the water to cool off from the hot summer sun, my son was hesitant. He was excited about the idea of swimming in the lake, but that’s where the excitement stopped. Like his daddy at his age, he’s not the biggest fan of swimming in deep water.
Even though he had a life vest on, he didn’t want to let go of the ladder on the back of the boat. When I finally convinced him to grab onto my neck and float with me, he quickly panicked and wanted back on the ladder. My cousins urged me to use the ol’ tried and true southern method, the way they taught their kids: just throw him in and let him figure it out. While it obviously worked for their kids — my cousin’s six-year-old son Alex was doing cannonballs over our heads off of the boat platform — I just didn’t want my son’s first introduction to deep-lake swimming to be terrifying.
I still remember fishing with my dad and older brother at a young age and they let me fall in the water, knowing it was too deep for me to touch. Then they laughed. Hysterically. Butt-heads. I don’t have a great memory but I remember that like it happened yesterday. I was beyond terrified! Scarred for life! I’m still apprehensive to this day about what could be below my feet in the murky water.
So I continued to urge my son along as I’m secretly a little freaked out about what mysteries hide in the abyss, my cousins all helping as well. And wouldn’t you know it, the kid let go of the ladder on his own and swam across the open water to me. He eventually just let go altogether and enjoyed swimming in the open water. It’s not only a proud moment for Daddy, but a proud moment for him, too! He loves hearing me tell that story to people and reminds me to tell the people who haven’t heard it yet.
I’d say our Sunday venture to the lake was a success! My five-year-old son now loves swimming in the deep, open water. So, while his daddy may be a wimp, there is hope for him yet.