We had the pool to ourselves.
That can happen when you take your kids to the pool in late August. By that point, most parents have been burned out from nearly three months of daily sunscreen application, goggle adjustments and the frustration over wrestling shorts and shirts on to overtired children.
Is there anything harder than trying to clothe a wet child with dry clothing?
But I was committed to eking out one last experience at the pool before the start of school.
The water was cooler than normal.
My 5-year-olds hardly noticed. They jumped right in. They splashed, laughed, kicked and flipped. The water was their delight.
My 2-year-old wanted to get in, but not without Mommy.
More than he liked the water, he just hated to be left out. He needed a firm grip on my arm when any part of him was in the pool.
For him, the water was mostly scary.
I’m a baby when it comes to anything less than tepid water. I’ll get in only if I have to. So when my 2-year-old not-yet-swimmer got in, I knew I must as well. I don’t love the water, but I’m also not scared of it. I simply find it uncomfortably cold. It’s not my favorite.
Two 5-year-olds, a 2-year-old and a mom. We had the place to ourselves, and we all jumped in for very different reasons.
The other day, I didn’t see eye to eye with someone I care about. It wasn’t for ill will. It wasn’t out of stubbornness. We weren’t arguing, upset or even angry at one another. It truly felt like we were living on different pages when it came to the issue we discussed.
I wondered: How could we have come to such different conclusions on this same topic? How do I feel this way and he feels that way and we absolutely can’t seem to understand the other’s stance?
I thought about my last trip to the pool. It gave me a clue as to how that could happen.
There we were, four of us lined up on the edge of glassy water. We all stared at the same thing, but it meant something drastically different to each of us.
Two saw the equivalent of a playground.
One saw something that threatened to swallow him up.
And I saw a minor inconvenience.
Same place. Same pool. But we saw very, very different things.
It’s easy to take one look around the world — or simply on the internet — and wonder at how another’s view or voice could differ so drastically from your own. I’ve done it. I’ve read or heard others’ opinions and wondered how in the world they could come to the place they did.
Maybe it’s because their experience in life up until now has been one that was completely different from my own. The water has been something entirely other to them than it has been to me.
Perhaps we’ve both jumped into the same place, but upon landing, we’ve learned different things. Felt different things. Seen different things.
At the end of the conversation with the person I cared about but couldn’t understand, here is what we came to: We don’t need to mutually understand in order to mutually respect. We don’t need to perfectly align in order to love.
At some point in the near future, you’ll probably find yourself scratching your head at someone else’s ways. At the least, you’ll probably be confused at how different their views are from your own.
I hope in those times we can remember: Their waters have been different.
And we don’t need to see it the same in order to respect and to love.