One of those moments when you think, “I’ve done something right.”

I know it has been a while since my last post, but life has a way of demanding your attention. Here is a small story from this past Christmas.

Jake had received some money for Christmas. He asked me what he should do with it. I gave him some options to consider. 1. Put half into your savings and then with the other half you could buy yourself something that you want or you could get something for somebody else. 2. Spend it all

Jake thought about it and decided to save half of it. But wasn’t sure about what to do with the other half. He said, “I’ll have to think about it.”

Later in the day he came to me and asked, “Dad, do we own our house?” I then took the time to explain to him about a mortgage and how buying a house works. He got a thoughtful look on his face and said, “Dad, I want to take half of my money and help pay the house payment, then I want to take the other half and buy presents for mom and Cal (his older brother).”

I just had to chuckle and inside had a warm feeling spread. I told him, “Buddy, that’s very nice, but I think we are good on the house payment. Thank you though. How about you take the half that you aren’t putting into your savings and use it to buy presents for mom, Cal and yourself. I think that would be a good way to spend it.”

He got a big smile on his face and decided to just do that. I think the smile on my face was even bigger.

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How to support and encourage your kids, or “What the heck was I thinking!”

Wow. I didn’t really realize how long it has been since I wrote a story. Things have been hectic over the past couple of months with school, mainly high school, activities taking up a large amount of time.  I apologize to those who have been kind enough to follow my blog and read my stories that I have been remiss.

With that said, now to the story. In some of my other musings I have related about our experience plunging into the world of competitive diving, and I promised to tell the story of how I got started at such a late stage in life (I am no longer a highly mobile, fearless, lithe youth).

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Back in May, my youngest Jake, was trying to learn how to do a front flip from the 1 meter board. He didn’t quite rotate far enough and kicked out a little early and landed flat on his back on the water. Made a pretty good smacking sound. He was reluctant to get back up on the board and attempt it again.  Needless to say, he was afraid to attempt that dive again.

I said to myself, “Self, what can I can do? I need to let him know that it is O.K. and that he needed to get back up on that horse and try again.” The conversation went something like this (no, I do not have multiple personalities, the following format is for entertainment purposes only :)

Self 1: “I have to do something. I know Jake will not want to try it again.”

Self2: “Well, what do you think you can do? You know Jake won’t listen to talk right now.”

Self1: “I know, I have to set the example. That’s what dads do. We set the example. I have to show him that you can’t let something stop you from achieving something when you run into a little speed bump. You have to get back up on that horse.”

Self2: “Hmm, and what exactly are you thinking? How can you set the example. We aren’t talking about losing a game of basketball or something like that. Couldn’t you see, that hurt when he smacked.”

Self1:”I know. But he has to learn. I’ll start diving with them and when he sees me mess up and get back up there it will set the example for him. I know I can do this.”

Self2: “Are you nuts! You’ll break a hip!” (Ok, I’m not that old, but you get the point).

So, the decision was made. I started diving. I actually got several benefits out of it once I got started. First, I was going to get to do something with my boys. Secondly, it turned out to be good exercise. Third, I was challenging myself and learning something new. Lastly, I knew that eventually I would get to  set the example for Jake.

That day came about a month into learning how to dive. I had picked up the basics fairly well (not perfect, but well enough to gain some confidence and not get myself hurt). I had even managed to do some of the forward basic dives from the 3 meter board. Then I decided to really challenge myself and try to do a back entry from the 3 meter.

I climbed up the board and finally managed to bolster my confidence and overcome some fear (yes, it is nerve wracking to be standing backwards on the board with your heels hanging off and balanced on the balls of your feet up there above the water. From the ground it doesn’t look that high, to an adult, until you get up there then it seems like it is 10 stories high). My first few attempts weren’t all that bad. Then the coach decided that he wanted me to fine tune it and get it better. He told me to watch my feet longer when falling backwards to make sure I wasn’t pushing off.

I was standing on the end of the board, body rigid, hands in position and eyes focused on the far end of the board. Breathing became deeper as I attempted to steel myself for the fall. I had also been swinging my arms up into position as I fell backwards and now the coach wanted me to try sliding them up the front of my body then punching out. So, I was having to try to make multiple corrections. Ok, slide the hands, watch the feet longer and wait longer to look back for the water. I can do this.

As I raised up onto the balls of my feet and started the backwards fall, I kept my eyes on my feet. Falling, falling, wait, why isn’t the rest of my body doing what it was supposed to do? I continued to fall and couldn’t get it turned into a dive position.

Now, have you ever had the chance to interact with a raw side of beef? You know the sound it makes when you slap it testing to see how firm the beef is and imagining it on the grill? That wet, smacking sound as you slap your hand against the slap of beef? Well, that was the next sound I heard, and so did everybody else.

As I landed flat on my back on the surface of the water, needless to say a large splash was made and the smacking sound of my body hitting the water reverberated like a shock wave all the way across the pool down to the far end (at least that is what I was told).

HOLY COW!!! My entire body jolted from the impact and my entire backside felt like it had been snapped with a wet towel. You remember those days, when at the pool as kids you would roll up a towel and get the end wet and snap your friends’ legs or behinds. It stung and left welts. Well, that is what it felt like over my entire backside. Like I had been hit by one big, wet rolled up towel. IT HURT!

As I sank below the surface of the water the only thoughts I had were, “OUCH! This hurts.” and “What was I thinking? I’m too old for this.”

Then I realized, hey knucklehead, you need to get back to the surface. I then began to swim back up. As I broke the surface of the water, the only thought I had was that I needed to make it to the side of the pool. I slowly made my way there basically dog paddling because I was too much in shock to try any other stroke. When I reached the side of the pool, I noticed that it was silent. As I hauled myself out of the water I looked over to the life guard to tell them that I was alright and saw the look on their face that said, “Ah man, is this old guy going to die on me?”

My body ached from head to foot. My back felt like a million little needles when sticking in it and my brain was raddled. Jake came over with a look of concern on his face and asked “Are you alright Dad?”

The moment of truth had arrived.

Self1: “Man that hurt. But now I have to put my money where my mouth is. It is time to put up or shut up.”

Self2: “Are you crazy! You almost died. What are you thinking.”

Self1: “But Jake is watching. He has to see to not let something like this stop you. You have to try again.”

Self2: “You’ll break a hip!”

The decision was made. After a few minutes to gather myself together, I ventured back up the ladder to the 3 meter board. The stinging in my back had subsided to a tolerable level much like a sunburn.

With trepidation I stood at the end of the board, attempting to push down my fear and gather my courage. I raised up onto the balls of my feet and began to fall backwards hoping for a better result.

Have you ever heard the sound that is made when you slap a side of beef?

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( Better outcome)

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“Danger Will Robinson” and the lack of social filters?

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I have been remiss in my writings lately; not to make excuses, however it has been busy around the household with football season having started up (my oldest son plays in the Marching Band) and diving season having started back up also.  Needless to say, parents are just as busy as the kids.

I read some very funny posts on some fellow bloggers’ sites (I apologize that I can’t remember them both, but I do recall one, The Hilarity of Parenting; for the other site, please let me know if you had posted a story about filters so I can post a link here to your posting to give proper credit for the inspiration) that reminded me of a story from our own experiences that highlights this topic.

Now, to be honest up front, I wasn’t there for this incident; my wife was. I just got to enjoy the humor of it after the fact.

Now for the story:

My youngest J.T. was only 3 and a half when he accompanied my wife to the elementary school that his brother Cal was attending. This was the year prior to when he would be starting pre-K at the same school.

As parents, we all pretty much realize that kids, especially at a very young age, have no social filters.  They tend to comment on the world exactly as they see it, whether in just a matter of fact manner on observations or in a very humorous way that reflect only how a child views the world.  However, as parents we tend to FORGET about this amazing quality in our young children and it surfaces like a breaching whale to smack us right in the face. “Hello, I don’t mean to be blunt or brutally honest, I just call them as I see them.” (Sarcasm here :)

Ok, back to the story: My wife, with J.T. in tow, was standing in the office at the school talking to the receptionist about something (she was involved with PTA, so was in the office quite often) when this cute little voice from down next to her calls out, “Excuse me.”

Alright, the picture needs to be painted a little further for you, so you can appreciate the coming horror and train wreck of a situation that my wife was to find herself in.  The receptionist was an older lady, who would be described in a polite way in parts of the South as being “healthy.”  My wife had FORGOTTEN about that quality in young kids to tend to leave their filters at home or that they tend to view and comment on the world in a very matter of fact approach.  So, she had no warning bells go off, no flashing lights and horns screaming “Danger, Danger Will Robinson” (Ok, I dated myself here), when that small voice called out, “Excuse me.”

The lady stopped talking to my wife and looked down at J.T. “Yes?” Now, who can resist stopping what they are doing when you have a cute, little child so politely requesting your attention (“Excuse me”).  Now, I have to say he used good manners in this initial exchange. But, what was to follow was a moment of soul wrenching horror (at least for my wife).

“Yes?” the receptionist replied.  J.T. in all his innocence said, “Your fat.”

Now I have to admit that I cannot accurately describe what my wife felt at that very precise moment.  She has described it as that she was mortified and embarrassed.  I can imagine that if she had been able to curl up and stuff herself and J.T. inside of her purse and just sink into the ground out of sight and into oblivion could possibly be somewhat of a description of maybe how she was feeling at that moment.

Needless to say, she profusely apologized to the lady and wondered in horror what the next year was going to bring, because J.T. was going to have to come to school there!

I can imagine after concluding the business she had to take care of, which probably was very awkward from that point on, she took J.T. in tow and headed home.

The conversation with herself in her head must have gone something like this:

“The checklist. The Master Parenting Checklist. I need to check it to see if this was covered.  Ok, we taught him to be nice to others; to always try to treat people nicely.  But did he understand about saying things like this? Wait, would he have equated this as not “being nice.” Oh My God, we forgot to program and install this in his social filter!  THIS WAS NOT COVERED IN THE INSTRUCTIONS THAT CAME WITH THE KID!”

Full disclosure here: Dramatic license was used in the preceding paragraph :)

We had gone through similar things before, we had an older child.  She forgot one of the primary rules of parenting:  Kids will say the darnedest things and when you least expect it.  The next lesson in being polite and nice to people was then delivered to J.T. About saying nice things to people, and what is considered nice and not nice to say.  Also, the principle of if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

About one to two weeks later my wife found herself once again having to go into the school office to take care of some PTA business.  Now to the receptionist’s credit, she never appeared to be overly offended or treated my wife in any manner but friendly and professionally.  As my wife was standing there talking to her once again, those fateful words rang out again, “Excuse me.”

Have you ever had one of those moments when it seems like ice water just runs through your intestines and you are frozen with fear and trepidation to the point of not being able to react? That is how my wife has described how she felt at this very moment. “Excuse me.”  My wife’s thoughts must have been something along the lines of: “Oh no, what was going to come out of his mouth next? Can I stop him? Darn it, I forgot to muzzle him! Would it be inappropriate for me to try to grab him up and stuff him into my purse?”

“Excuse me.”

The receptionist looked down at him, “Yes, J.T.”

“Your pretty.”

Sigh of relief.  Mission accomplished. Disaster averted.  My wife’s dignity as a parent intact.

Husband’s reaction (in private of course):  LOL! I have to admit I found the story of the whole episode amusing in a way of being amazed, and reminded, of the truly innocent nature of kids and how they observe the world.

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It is OK to admit you are wrong,,,and to say “I’m sorry.”

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Sometimes as parents, we tend to believe that we know exactly what to say or advise our kids on; especially when they are younger.  Because of this, we are often blinded to the possible negative effect our words and actions may have on our kids despite the good intentions of our words and actions.  We meant well, we just didn’t have the approach right.

A case in point was over this past summer with my youngest son J.T.  During warmups at a dive meet J.T. was getting upset and a little whiny (at least I thought at the time) because he was having difficulties doing the inward tuck dive.  Now this is a dive he has done plenty of times before, competed with it, and scored well with it.

I began to tell him that he was psyching himself out, it was all in his head, that he had done this dive numerous times.  To just stop worrying and complaining and just to the dive.  He walked off to keep trying,  without success.

It was a just a little bit later that my wife, the wise person that she is, pointed out to me that my approach had caused him to mentally shut down and not listen to the directions that the coaches were trying to give him to help.  I had made it worse.

I felt bad.  I knew J.T. often responded this way when he was feeling frustrated about something.  I hadn’t noticed the signs of his mentally shutting down and doubting himself.

I had to swallow my big boy parent pride and called him over.  I explained to him that I was only trying to help, but that my approach was wrong and that maybe in that instance I didn’t know how to tell him what he needed to hear (Boy, that is a hard thing for a parent to say to their kid, because so many times our kids think we know everything – that is until they become teenagers, then parents don’t know anything :)

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After I told J.T. that I had been wrong, I apologized to him.  I told him that I was sorry and that all I really wanted him to do was to just try his best.  He smiled at me and said, “That’s OK dad. I forgive you.”  That was followed by a big hug that I think at that moment I needed more than him.

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Pigs vs Aliens

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If you have spent any amount of time around young kids, you know that they can have imaginations that can run rampant.  As I father, I have to say that I have been amazed and entertained, a lot, by my younger son’s very vivid imagination.

When he was five, he had an imaginary pet pig.  Why he choose a pig, we have never known.  Needless to say, he named him aptly enough “Piggy”.

Piggy would follow him around the house and they would play in his room.  I was never sure,  but I think he even went to school with him a few times.

Piggy never caused any problems.  Heck,  he was easy to care for.  Until one day trouble came knocking because of Piggy.

One evening J.T. was in his room playing when all of a sudden, we heard a commotion, sounds of make believe combat coming from his room.  Suddenly, J.T. came flying out of his room acting like he had been thrown out.

“J.T. what’s going on?” We asked.

“The aliens are trying to steal Piggy!”  He explained. “I”ll save you Piggy!” he called out as he went head long back into his room to lay into the enemy trying to steal his pet pig.

The ruckus continued until finally J.T. emerged from his room to inform us that all was well with the world and he had driven off the aliens and saving his precious pet pig.

It is amazing to watch your kids grow up and see their creativity at work with their imaginations.  It is even more entertaining when it can bring a smile to your face or a laugh.

Oh, by the way, if you ever have need of rescue from aliens trying to steal your pet pig, just let us know. J.T. is an expert.

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Smell the simple

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Every spring since Cal was little we go out and look at the wild flowers. He happened to stop to smell one and my wife snapped this picture.  It is a reminder to just stop and enjoy the simple things in life that make us happy.  I know the saying goes, “Stop and smell the roses,” but roses take time and pampering to grow, they aren’t simple.

The simple things, the small things, just stopping to take a breath in a hectic world, are what helps us to relieve some of the day to day stress and gain an appreciation for what is really important in life.

So, as you go through your day, week, month and year, remember to take time to “Stop and smell the simple.”

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Courage, Leaps of Faith, and “Oh Crap! What Just Happened?”

highdive As parents there comes a time when our children do something that is quite unexpected (and outside what we thought of our kids) and leaves us dumbstruck momentarily as our brain tries to register what is was we just saw.  Then we are amazed.

Such was the case of how my youngest son, J.T, got started in competitive diving (I mentioned in a previous post that my sons dive with the promise of more stories to come; this is one of them).

In the past, we typically spent the summers involved in a summer swimming league.  Their last practice of the summer last year was held at one of the local school district pools so they could practice going off of the starting blocks prior to the Divisional Championships (which they won by the way).  I wish the pictures I’ll show here were from that day, but as we go along on this tale, I think you will understand why none exist of the moment.

The local club diving team was also there practicing and our swim coaches daughters also were on the diving team; so after the swim practice Coach told the swimmers that they could go off of the boards if they wanted to.  Naturally, my oldest Cal, was going to jump off of the boards with his friends (although he wouldn’t get involved in diving until this year). J.T is the more cautious of the two being only 8 yrs old at this time.  He had never been off of a diving board before, so wonder of wonders, he decides to go off of the 3m High Board – which he promptly comes over to tell his Mom and I about.  We just said, “Ok J.T. We’ll be watching.”

We figured he would get up there and jump off doing something silly.  He is a big ham at times.  But, he had been watching the dive team kids and the coaches daughters (one of them was around his age) doing the dives, flips, and twists off of the boards and had formulated a plan in his little mind that his mother and I knew nothing about as he ascended the latter.

As he got up onto the board, we were busy trying to get the camera adjusted to catch a snapshot and the other camera to take a video.  We thought he would walk up to the end of the board, stand there for a few seconds to get his courage worked up, wave at us and jump off.  Oh ho ho, how wrong we were.

As were getting the cameras up into position, he all of a sudden walked towards the end of the board, and kept on going. He jumped off of the board and proceeded to do a one and a quarter somersault.  Notice I said one and a quarter. He full frontal body face planted on the surface of the water landing with a resounding smack that echoed across the pool.

Both my wife and I were dumbstruck; stunned into immobility. “Oh crap! What just happened?” I said.  All I could do at that moment was sit there stunned.  I watched J.T. swim to the side of the pool and crawl out.  He was red from the top of his forehead to his waistline.  Still, it wasn’t registering.

It wasn’t until I heard the dive team coach call out to our swim team, “Hey, bring that young man over here!” Then I snapped out of it.  I said, “I better go see if he is alright.”

Well, he went over to meet the dive team coach with me catching up to see if he was alright and to see what the coach wanted.  Turns out, the coach was impressed and wanted to let J.T. try some things out.  He wanted to see if he had the knack for diving.  Well, the rest is history.  J.T. started diving and the coach, he was also the Head Coach for one of the local universities.  If he saw something in J.T. I would be remiss in my duties as a father to not encourage him and let him attempt to pursue if he wanted.

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Now today, J.T. is doing things that I never thought he would.  While he has had some difficulties with a couple of dives (a later story again), he has stuck to it.  His outlook is,,if I can get good enough, that means free college.

I can’t say as I can find any flaw in that logic.

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Being a Hero – And Don ‘t Let Them Down

retirement  I came to a profound understanding of exactly what being a father means when my oldest son was 8 yrs old and in 3rd grade. For the majority of his life, he knew his Dad being in uniform. Yes, that is a picture of me at my Change of Responsibility ceremony that had to be conducted before my retirement.  The reason I posted the picture is so you could perhaps see how my son saw me at that early age.  But, the event that brought about this profound understanding occurred a few years before my retirement.

I was stationed away from my family at the time in 2006.  This was to be my last tour before retirement and we had bought a house at my previous duty station.  My wife, being the strong military wife that she was for all those years, said, “You go do what you have to do. We’ll be here when you get back.” My oldest had started school, had friends, and my youngest was just shy of 2 when I changed duty stations.  It was a long year and a half.

But in the summer of 2006, I got a little package in the mail from my family.  We talked almost daily on the telephone and via computer in the evenings, so this was a nice surprise.  Now before I tell you what was in the package, I have to set the stage.

That year at my son’s school the local pro-basketball team was sponsoring a “Who Is Your Hero” project.  The kids had to fill out a little form, describe their hero and draw a picture of them. Now the stage is set.

I opened up the little package and inside with some other things was a single sheet of paper with the words “My Hero Is” at the top.  I started to read my son’s 3rd grade handwriting with tears in my eyes.  Here is what it said:

“My hero is my daddy.  He is my hero because he loves me and plays with me. He also is in the Army and protects us and our country.”  The drawing he made was of me in my dress blue uniform.

Wow! Out of all of the cartoon superheros and sports figures that most kids tend to look up to, my son had chosen me as his Hero.  Not only that, even at that young age, he got it. He understood it. What it means to be a soldier and expressed a love not only for his dad and what his dad did, but also expressed a young love of country.

The enormity of this hit me; the responsibility of being a father and being a good father to set the example for him.  I had a high standard to try to live up to.  Hero status can be a fragile thing.  It can easily be lost if the hero acts in ways contrary to the values that the person looking to them as a hero has.  I vowed then and there, that I would never do anything that would make my son ashamed of me, or think badly of me in my personal behaviors.  He became my “Jiminy Cricket” in a way.

I hope that I have been able to hold up the responsibility of the mantle of “Hero” for my son.  I think I have done a good job.  If you were to ask him today who his hero is, he would say, “My Dad.”

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Boys, Potty Humor, and Why We Can’t Help Ourselves!

I read a post today in a fellow bloggers site, The Hilarity of Parenting, about relationships and being comfortable enough to fart. It was funny and it reminded me of a story about this topic from a kids perspective. Now, you have to remember, the only female in our household is my wife, and I have to admit at times (especially when it comes to somethings humorous) I am a 10-yr old who just has happened to have lived over 40 years.

This story, which I think proves a scientific fact about males, happened when my oldest son was 5 yrs old and my youngest son was only about 3 or 4 months old.

We were sitting in the living room and my wife was feeding our youngest. My oldest was laying on the floor and I was sitting there watching T.V. Well, my son decided that he wanted to do some “back farts.” You know how this works, when you lay on a solid surface and press your back down, then arch it suddenly to break the suction seal and it makes a fart sound.  He found this hilarious and I have to admit I did to. We both started laughing.

My wife said, “I just don’t understand it. Why do you guys find potty humor and farting so funny? I don’t get it.”

I replied, “Honey, we can’t help ourselves.  Boys are hardwired to find farting funny. It’s genetics.”

Her reply at this sage observation was “Oh, bullcrap. You are just making an excuse for being immature.” That is when it happened.  The proof.  That scientifically, observable fact that proved what I was saying was true. Boys are genetically programmed, just the fact of being male, to find potty humor and bodily functions funny.

As she was holding our youngest (he had just finished his bottle) all of a sudden,  he farted. Now granted, it wasn’t the window shaking blast that an adult male can conjure up or the mildly loud “poot” that a 5-yr old can work up, but it was a definite sqeeker that had some volume. Loud enough to be heard through his diaper. Which come to think of it, if you allow for scale, it would probably have been a window rattler (Ok, that was my 10-yr old coming out.  I couldn’t resist; remember its all genetics).

As we looked at him, all of a sudden he broke out into a grin and chuckled that typical baby laugh. THIS PROVED MY POINT! Even at such a young age, we males find potty humor and body functions such as farts funny.  My wife even had to laugh.

 

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Kids gain from encouragement – and return back to us

As parents, we are always encouraging our children to do their best or to give something a try.  We hope they get encouraged, but sometimes they learn a lesson that maybe we didn’t intend; to be encouraging to others.

My sons started learning how to do competitive diving. My youngest son was the first to start (another story for latter) and my oldest son decided to give it a try as well.  Needless to say, in an attempt to be a good dad and to participate with my sons, I also started diving (really another story for latter).

The main pool where we practice at has only a 1m board (low board) and a 3m board (high board). At two other facilities we dive at there are the platforms: 5m, 7m, and 10m (which is like a 3-story building).  We were at the facility with only boards for this story.

Now, it had been YEARS, a lot of years, like back when I was a kid years, that I had been up on a diving board.  Yes, when we are younger our sense of doing something that could possibly get us hurt doesn’t exist; but man does it ever develop as you get older.

I had mainly been sticking to the 1m board, but finally decided to venture up onto the high board. Did I mention that it had been a REALLY LONG TIME since I had been up on diving boards?

I did a couple of front entries from up there, which is basically standing at the end of the board, bending at the waist and then falling forward into a dive.  I thought, ok, this isn’t that bad; some of the trepidation was wearing off and I started to “think” younger. As I was back to the ladder to climb back up to the 3m board, my youngest son asked me what I was going to do. I told him I think I was going to try a front tuck dive.

As I got up onto the board, I decided that I would just do a standing spring jump into the front tuck dive. I wasn’t confident enough yet to actually do the approach, jump up into the air, land on the board and get a bigger spring.

As I was standing there contemplating my possible fate, all of a sudden I heard my younger son’s voice calling out from below, “Dad, hey Dad!” I looked down and he was standing on the 1m board getting ready to do his next dive. He looked up and me and flashed me a thumbs up sign, “You can do it Dad!”

Right then, at that very moment, I felt a sense of amazement and pride. Here I was, the guy who had been giving him encouragement and support getting it returned in kind; something we never expect to receive from our kids.  I also felt a sense of pride as well knowing that he had learned the lesson of being encouraging to others.  I had seen him be encouraging to his fellow classmates, which also let me know that he had learned that life lesson, but it didn’t hit home for me until I myself was on the receiving end of the encouragement.

I learned that even at my age, we still need encouragement at times and it can come from the least expected places.  Also, sometimes even somebody who is way younger and a child can provide that uplift that we need – without us even realizing we needed it.

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