(Listen to this post on my podcast here.)
My eleven-year-old daughter Hannah is spunky. She’s funny and adventurous…and talkative. She’s the kind of girl who loves to go places and meet people, and she begs to sign up for a dozen activities (not because she cares about the activities so much…but because she wants to hang out with friends)!
For the past nine summers, my girls have been a part of our local swim club. They look forward to it and absolutely love it. Six summers ago when Hannah was just five, she was bound and determined to be a part of the club. She worked and worked and completed several 50m races, so when we began swim club the next summer, I just knew it was going to a cinch for her to make it across the pool again.
But it wasn’t. Day after day, I would ask her if she was able to swim the full 50 meters yet. Day after day, her reply was no. Finally, after several meets where she didn’t get to swim, I decided to talk to her coaches and see what was up.
“Well, Hannah is hanging on the lane rope about five or six times in her 50m. We want her to touch it just a time or two. We find the little ones get pretty distracted, and Hannah is often swimming under the lane rope or talking with friends when she should be listening.”
When I asked Hannah about it, she told me she just couldn’t do it. It was too hard. It was too far. She got too tired.
I decided to investigate and see what was going on at practice, so the next morning (instead of just dropping them off like normal), I stayed to watch. Before she began, I said, “Hannah, I am going to be watching you. I’m going to be focused on you. You’ll hear me cheering you on. You’ll see me walking beside you. I KNOW you can do it.”
Pacing up and down the side of the pool, I watched in astonishment as that little-bitty girl swam FOUR 50m races without touching the rope or stopping at all. When practice was over, I asked her what was up.
“So…exactly how come you can swim so far today with touching the lane rope or stopping?!!”
Her words will ring in my mind as long as I live:
“You give me courage, Mom.”
At first, I thought maybe she was playing me a little bit, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized how true it was for her. She needed someone cheering her on. She needed eyes focused on her to give her courage. She needed to look up and see someone walking right beside her. She needed to know she wasn’t alone. Don’t we all need that?
I once heard a pastor say that the word encourage actually means to “pour courage” into someone. Now, I don’t know the background for that statement, but the visual has always stuck with me. It was made even more real in my life by this incident with my daughter. And her words have echoed in my mind for years.
“You give me courage, Mom.”
You see, encouragement doesn’t come naturally to me. I struggle with what Dr. Kevin Leman calls a critical eye–I tend to find flaws in myself and others, I focus on what needs fixing, and I miss opportunities to encourage and affirm my family because of it. So, I decided to do a big experiment this summer–an encouragement experiment.
I invite you to join me! What if we practice daily encouragement of our children and build them up–what could happen?