Thursday, November 1, 2012

Afraid of Something for Far Too Long

My son is in wrestling for the second year.  It is a group of K-5th graders in a very short 4-week introductory session.  It gives the kids an idea of what wrestling is about, gives parents an inexpensive activity for the kids to try and find out if there really is interest. Last year my daughter also participated but chose not to this year.  We are hoping for dance lessons.

During a wrestling game called "Sharks" boys are grouped by height in rows of 7 - 10 boys.  The smallest starts the game wrestling the next boy in line.  Whoever gets the first take down wins and takes on the next in line.  There was a boy (I will call him John) who had been hurt during one of the matches, he is probably one of the older kids.  I did not see how he was injured.  I only saw John fighting with himself to hold back the tears.  One of the other boys (Mikey) reached out to comfort him, but was slugged for his efforts.  This surprised me.

My previous interactions with John had been only positive.  During practice they often ask the parents to help out.  I try to watch what they are learning closely so that I can help during practice and later at home with my son.  John had been unexpectedly polite when I was helping them learn some of the moves they were practicing.  I thought "what a good kid".

When John slugged him, Mikey appeared a little hurt by John's response, but seemed to put it behind him.  Mikey even tried to get another friend to see if John would accept comfort, but his attempts were shaken off as well.

Why refuse to accept comfort?

It was during wrestling practice that I was reminded of something from my childhood.

When I was a kid, my school had a swimming pool.  Everyone had swimming as part of the Phy.Ed. curriculum.  I even had swimming lessons outside of school days.  There was one day during a free-swim period that I dove in.  It was too shallow for me to have been diving or my technique was off.  Whatever it was, I hit my head and found myself disoriented on the bottom of the pool for a moment or two.  The memory does not include me breathing in any water or having to be pulled out by someone else.  As I recall, I shook it off, got out of the water and continued through the rest of the swim time.  To this day though I avoid putting my head underwater if I can.  I still adore swimming but cannot get past the fear and panic that overwhelms me when underwater.

It was some time after this incident that I was standing in line to dive into the deep end with a group of classmates.  We had to dive.  I was scared.  I knew how to swim.  I knew how to dive.  I just remember standing there wanting to run away or cry.  I may have been crying, but I do not recall.  A friend reached out to comfort me.  Instead of opening up, accepting the comfort, and confessing my fear, I pushed her away.  I did not want anyone to know I was afraid.

Watching John and Mikey interact made me wonder if I could have let go of my fear all those years ago if I had just confessed it to someone else.  Naming something and saying it out loud to someone usually is the very thing needed to move past it, get over it, and live a full life.