I know what you’re thinking, “Breaststroke!? Really, breaststroke!? Isn’t that the easiest stroke?” Yes, it is a very simple stroke, but in competitive swimming it was extremely difficult for me. Even today when swimming laps I will be passing everyone on freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly, but when I switch to breaststroke, suddenly I’m the one being lapped. My body just refuses to work quickly and powerfully in that motion.
In competitive swimming I began to get frustrated that I couldn’t keep up with my teammates in such a simple stroke, but soon my coach started having me swim the long distance races. My practices then changed as well and instead of not measuring up in breaststroke, I began to excel in swimming a long way. I loved swimming distance. It made me feel strong and capable and gave me lots of time to sing in my head, “just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…”
Soon I was coaching swimming and began to pinpoint kids getting frustrated because they weren’t good at breaststroke, or because they weren’t as fast in another stroke, but as we began to tailor their workouts to their strengths you’d see the joy come back. I would remember those early swim practices where I just wanted to quit. How often do we get focused on and bogged down by the things we’re not as good at and just want to quit? We start to focus fully on our shortcomings and work so hard to try to overcome them we forget to flourish in what we’re skilled at.
I could have spent my whole swimming career trying to excel in breaststroke, but it would have certainly been a very short one because I would have been so frustrated. In addition, since my body doesn’t really work that way all the work would have probably been for nothing and I would have never discovered my skill in swimming distance. I learned as long as I’m focused on what I’m not good at, I can’t find my true calling.
The lesson is that we were all created uniquely and with distinct talents, and the typical molds of society and schooling can greatly frustrate and restrain us. I know that’s one of the things you love about home schooling. We get to help our children through these obstacles and when they begin to find that calling we then also get the opportunity to give them space and encouragement to go the distance. We get to tailor their lessons to be most beneficial to them, not only in what they’re learning, but also in their personal lives. It’s a lesson we can easily forget as we come across those things that are weaknesses, but remember what makes us great are the things that make us unique.