lessons from a 3-year-old in a pink tutu about moving at your own pace

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~Henry David Thoreau

A few weeks ago, I watched with curiosity as one of my youngest cousins, who just turned 3, seemed to suddenly become completely terrified of going into the pool that my family was visiting for the day.

She hung from her father’s neck with white knuckles, alarmed and flinching at every little splash of water that reached her brow.

She was panicked.

So questions began popping up like, “…is she afraid of water? Has she had a bad experience in a pool before? Does she not like to get her face wet? Maybe she thinks she won’t be able to swim?” And so on, and so on.

This is the start of any typical psychological diagnosis that we wager when we’re on the outside, looking in — on someone that’s not ourselves. We ponder, we gossip, we question. We formulate scenarios and hypothesize motivations. We try to make sense of what they are doing… so that we can be “OK” with it.

All the while, the kid just ignored it all.

Forty minutes later, most of the family had gathered on the steps of the pool — some sitting on its edge and others just slightly submerged in shallow waters by its steps.

Then, all of a sudden, baby Kendal, in her pink tutu bathing suit, stood up from the edge of the pool where she was sitting, held onto the stainless steel railing with her tiny hand, and took a step down into the pool. Knee deep.

Less than 30 seconds after that, she took another step down.

Over her waist, now. Then, because that metal railing was coming to an end, she asked for my hand… and took another step down into the pool.

She was in.

All by herself. Smiling. Laughing. Swimming around. No fear of the water. Not afraid to get her face wet. Not because she thought she couldn’t swim.

Kendal just needed to move at her own pace — by her own decision, when she felt ready, comfortable, and ambitious enough to step into deeper waters than she had ever been familiar with in her few years of life.

Ain’t it the same for you and me?

Sure, there’ll be hesitation, worries and fears. But that’s nothing to be embarrassed about. That’s a part of moving at your own pace, and no one else’s.

And no matter what they say, when the time is right, you step, and step, and step — and you’re in.

Flickr photo credit: jangkwee

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