We arrived at the motel too late last night to do anything more than share a frozen pizza and tumble into bed. “We’ll swim in the morning,” I told my tired crew.
“Okay, Mom,” they said.
Of course, this morning, it was raining. The kids were crestfallen.
We had another long day of travel ahead of us. Ken and I knew the kids needed to play.
“Well, we are going to get wet anyway. Who wants to go swimming?!” We all donned our suits and went outside.
I’m not gonna lie. I felt ridiculous walking across the rainy parking lot while other, more sensible, travelers packed their cars and hit the road. This feeling was compounded when we arrived at the pool gate only to discover it all chained up.
The kids looked first at me and then at Ken. “Sorry, you guys,” I said. “It looks like the pool is closed.” Rain-soaked, Ken led us back under the motel awning.
Katie was the first to speak. “That’s okay,” she said. “I didn’t even really want to swim anyway.”
Katie had very much wanted to swim. All of us had. But she was convincing herself she did not want to because she did not want to be sad.
A big part of parenting is helping kids deal with disappointment: plans that are canceled; changes that must be made; hurt feelings when a swimming pool is closed. Situations do not always go as we wish. We want our kids to learn how to appropriately deal with frustrations and setbacks.
But an even bigger part of parenting, I think, is agency: teaching kids to take charge of their world, to determine their own outcomes, to make their own luck. The world will put plenty of walls in the way. It is our job to help our children find the ladders and windows. To teach them possibility.
Instead of heading back to the room, we all marched into the front office. The kids asked if they could swim, and a kind woman named Tammy assured us that, of course, she would unlock that gate around the pool.
We tromped back into the rain and, one by one, jumped in — looking even more ridiculous all together — and laughed and splashed and carried on in that age-old way about how wet we were getting in the downpour.
Sometimes defeat is accepting disappointment.
Sometimes victory is swimming in the rain.