Push and Pull (and a budding romance?) on a Northern Lake


This is the second in a series of holiday “reprints” of blog entries which, although written several years ago, still hold some significance for me, my family and my learning. Today, from the summer of 2013, a reflection on how my oldest son–six at the time–accepted the challenge to “go beyond”. At the time, we weren’t really talking about growth mindset (Carol Dweck’s TED Talk didn’t hit the ‘net until November 2014) but, looking back, both Zoe and I recognize that Luke could easily be a poster child for this way of thinking. 

I’m posting this today because, just yesterday, our youngest son, Liam, encountered the exact same challenge, on the exact same lake, with the exact same older woman gently pulling him to a new “I did it.”  A turning point for Liam but, perhaps, more of a turning point for me as a dad!

Yesterday, I wrote about how our first day of vacation on this northern lake saw both Luke and Liam move the edges of what they believed they could do just a touch. I’m happy to report that this boundary-shifting continued into day 2 with Mom and Dad gently nudging from behind.

Interestingly enough, for Luke this parental “push” was accompanied by a little bit of a pull from…well…an older woman. Six year old Luke spent a lot of time today down at the water’s edge, inserting himself into the games that some of the older boys here were playing: catch, lacrosse and those summer games that are just kind of made up on the spot. Luke isn’t shy about asking whether he can join an activity—he just grabs his equipment and jumps in.

I watched with interest, however, when an eight year old girl walked up to Luke and invited him to swim with her to the second of three floating trampolines, just a little further than the raft that challenged him on his first day here.

Luke looked at me, seeking approval and quickly agreed to the challenge. The two donned their lifejackets and headed out on their adventure. I watched from the shore with two thoughts running through my mind. First, their was no PFD that was going to save Luke from the real dangers that lay ahead for him and, second, life for Luke was never going to be quite the same! (I know some of you are thinking, “For God’s sake, its only a trampoline!”)

Luke confidently followed as Samantha led the way, having done this many times before. Followed, that is, until he realized that, in order to make it to the structure successfully, he would have to give up the security of being able to touch the lake bottom, if only for a few feet. He stopped to ponder the situation while Sam continued on to the trampoline.

“Are you coming, Luke?” she called as she climbed up onto the steps of the trampoline.

Those of us watching the drama unfold from the shore held our collective parental breaths to wait for the answer.

Luke hesitated for just a few seconds more before committing to the final swim. A few strokes and he was there, greeted by an encouraging, “You made it” from Samantha and a round of applause from the shore!

The two kids spent just a few minutes bouncing on the trampoline before Sam decided that her final jump would land her right back in the water. Although she encouraged Luke to do the same, I knew that this might be just a little too much for him to attempt today. Instead, he used the ladder to slide back into the water.

Most of the families that come this little cottage resort have been doing so for decades. In some cases, second and third generations gather at the same time every year to continue their summertime traditions.

I don’t know if Luke and Samantha will remember today’s journey to the trampoline ten years from now, but I have a feeling that I will! In fact, for me, it was one of those days where a familiar parental push was exchanged for the gentle pull of a girl and I think that, deep down, I know what that means!

Or do I?

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