My youngest daughter is learning to swim.

It’s still tricky, because she is not even close to being tall enough to stand with her head above the water. We watch her closely, hovering, and always one of us is close enough to reach her if she gets into trouble.

At the beginning of the summer, she would “swim” from my husband to me. She’d push off his knees and reach out to me, wrapping her arms around my neck.

Within the last two weeks, though, she ‘s learned to swim, really swim. She can cross the pool by herself, in her own stroke, a funny mix of side-stroke and dog paddle, her head tilted backward so her chin is above the water. She doesn’t love goggles so she squints to avoid getting water in her eyes.

Sometimes, instead of making progress forward, she starts to spin in the water, around and around; she’s treading water, staying afloat, but she’s not going anywhere.

Other times, she leans forward, grabbing at the water, pulling herself forward, it seems, by the sheer force of her will.

I watch her, and I admire the look of determination on her face.

When she gets tired, she leans her head back and rests in a sort of backfloat. I say sort backfloat because her tummy and legs are submerged; only her head and shoulders are above the water. By rolling to her back, though, she catches her breath. When she rolls over, she’s ready to swim again, fighting —again— for every inch.

When she reaches her destination, she reaches out her hand to grasp the slippery side of the pool, grinning, triumphant.

I imagine that by summer’s end she will be confident in the water, swimming with sure strokes. I imagine that my vigilance will wane, that I’ll trust her burgeoning skills in the water and let her venture farther and farther away.

I imagine that I may even forget her look of determination.

I want to remember, so I write about it here, because as I watch her I realize that she teaches me how to get where I want to go.

She teaches me that getting where you want to go requires extreme focus (she won’t let me cheer her on, because she says she goes faster when my voice is not distracting her).

She teaches me that it’s okay if you need to rest along the way.

She teaches me that new tasks get easier with practice.

She teaches me that once you decide where you want to go, you can get there, even if it takes every ounce of your energy.

She teaches me that it’s okay to spin in circles as long as you find your way forward again.

She shows me what determination looks like.

Tell me something! What does determination look like for  you? What keeps you moving toward your goals?

photo credit melanie lauren ☮