When my girls were little and took swimming lessons, the first thing their swim instructor taught them was water safety and survival skills. When the girls learned to swim the length of the pool, Coach Syd had them wear jeans to a lesson instead of their swimsuits. Knowing that most water accidents happen fully clothed, on “jeans day,” he pushed them in the pool, and they were to use their new skills to get to “shore.”

When jeans are soaking wet, they are heavier than a boxed fruit cake. When jeans are soaking wet and you have to swim the length of a pool, they are heavier than a boxed fruit cake soaked in rum. They pull you down, and you wear out quickly.

Coach Syd taught them to swim for a while, and when they were getting too tired, they were to flip over on their backs and float to take a break. When they got their breath, they were to flip back over and swim again. They had to repeat this pattern until they were safe on the side of the pool. Thankfully, they learned how to swim, passed the “jeans test” and went on to join our swim club’s swim team.

Sometimes you have to stop and rest.

Sometimes you have to stop and rest.

My middle ginger, Mary Catherine, was around 6 years old when she was in her first swim meet. She was crazy-proud of her red and black swim team suit and new goggles and was ready to get a ribbon. Thankfully, in swimming, everyone gets a ribbon! She was on the block and ready to go. The starting gun was fired and MC jumped in the pool to swim her freestyle race.

Parents of young kids temporarily lose all sense of self-awareness and social appropriateness when their kids compete. The cheers, screams and whistles could have made a group of teen girls at a T Swiffy concert look melancholy. I was in there with the best of them … cheering like a fool.

Mary Catherine was about halfway down her lane. She started getting tired, and her pace slowed down. Right there in the middle of the Sequoia pool, MC flipped to her back and started floating. She looked like she was about to call the tiki bar for a virgin daiquiri and float on the lazy river. Everyone started looking around wondering what the heck she was doing. I knew exactly what was happening. She was taking that much-needed rest that Coach Syd taught her about. After all, swim meets are exhausting! While the rest of the kids were getting their time stats and ribbons, MC was floating like a boss. I was pleased as punch that the money for swimming lessons was well spent.

I have been thinking about Mary Catherine taking that break in the middle of the race. That was actually pretty darn smart, if you ask me. We live in a society that worships achievement and success. We think that it’s all about winning and being strong. Fear keeps us paralyzed, so we stay in the race. We fear what others will think of us. We fear letting others down. We are afraid we will look weak if we ask for help. We keep at it … thinking that applause will bring us life. We have bought into the lie that recognition and achievement will take away anxiety or pain. We don’t stop to rest.

What happens if you fail at something? Sometimes it is how we define failure. Is it really failing when you forget to take the class party favors to your kid’s school, or are you just worried about what the other moms will think of you? Is it failing to not work out all week, or are you just fearful of gaining weight? Is it failing to let others know that you are struggling in your marriage … or is it freedom because you find out that you are not alone. Who made all these rules that we think we must follow to achieve? Most of the time, it is this critic in your head that tells you that you aren’t doing enough. There are times that we really do mess up big time. All of us do. Our mistakes and failures don’t have to define us, though. We can allow them to paralyze us … or we can use them to grow. Did Mary Catherine fail at the swim meet, or did she realize that she was in danger from being too worn out in the water and do what she needed to do to take care of herself?

When are you going to flip over and take a rest to get your breath again? Funny that I can’t remember the times that Mary Catherine won her swim meets … but I will never forget when she decided that she needed a break. In my book, that’s winning.

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Amy McBride is a proud Nashville native. She’s a domestic goddess, storyteller, blogger, Sonic drink aficionado and one-of-a-kind spirit that bubbles over with authenticity, humor and fun. Read more by her at musiccitymcbride.com.