“Catch me, mama!” he says. But he doesn’t really want to be caught. He wants to be seen. He wants me to stand nearby and witness his triumph as he cuts through the pool like a dolphin.
“Watch this jump!” and I watch; every jump he gets a little bolder. He is growing and learning so quickly. I catch my sister’s eye and she grins. Her three girls are nearby, already graduated to mermaid status and flying off the diving board into the deep end, swimming endlessly until they are too hungry or too tired to keep going.
My son is nearly four and every day is a new discovery, and the milestones seem much larger than they did when he was a baby. He is still my baby, though, and I wrap him in a fluffy towel when he emerges from the pool and I cradle him for just a moment until he wriggles free.
I wonder how much I can teach him about confidence by modeling it for him, or if he will learn confidence by getting more latitude from me and his father. I decide it is both.
He will watch me try new things and succeed, and he will see me fail. He will notice that we don’t say, “I can’t”.
I jumped too, just a few weeks ago. I resigned from my job of the past eight years, and leaped from the arms of a guaranteed paycheck and benefits of a full-time job to an uncertain future. It’s the Field of Dreams approach to a career path: build it, and it will come (or, at least, I hope so). After twenty years of working for mostly-large corporations, I’m diving into the pool of freelancers and project work.
Most importantly, to me, I get to spend more time with this small boy who needs me much less than he used to, but he still wants me around. I want to capture as many moments as I can while he still wants me to pretend to be a dinosaur with him. Or capture him in my arms and tickle him to hear him giggle. Or pick him up when he says, “Pick you up, Mama.” I don’t have the heart to correct his grammar, just yet.
There will be minimal business travel, and no airline status. There will be scarcely any hotel points to use, and my American Express will be still.
Lately, there is a lot of talk about opting in and opting out. Lean in. Lean out. It’s not just a matter of either/or; it’s a spectrum of choices we have available to us. Working in an office or for a large company isn’t the only way you can achieve your dreams, and I have already found that closing this door, even without knowing what was on the other side, has already opened so many others.
I’m leaning in, yes, I am. I’m leaning into my family right now. I’m leaning into the brisk wind of seconds, minutes, and years passing by, as they swoosh past me and my baby boy turns into a preschooler. I’m leaning into more freedom and more flexibility and less certainty. I’m leaning into the experience of friends and family who are encouraging me and giving me advice and telling me that I can do it.
I leaned so far that I had to jump.
When I landed, I was confused and nervous.
Did I do the right thing?
Should I have waited a little longer?
Can I do this?
I have even heard a ridiculous voice whispering uncertainties about whether or not I am mom enough. I tell it to shut up.
It’s time to make my own schedule and figure out how to maximize my time while my son is in preschool and be efficient.
I’m going to fall, most likely. I’m going to fail, at times.
And that's OK.
By the end of the first day of vacation, my son doesn’t ask me to catch him. He leaps into the pool by himself over and over, into the water, swimming to the steps, and back. He and his cousins chase each other to the side of the pool and race to the side to jump again, as I watch.
He doesn’t need me to catch him, right now. Not in the pool. But when he does need me to catch him in other ways, I’m right here, trying not to crowd him. And I hope he can see that I’m jumping in right next to him, finding my way to the surface.