Swimming pools are my worst nightmare. Public ones anyway. A cacophony of shrieks, shouts and screams. An echoing sensory overload nightmare for one of my children and a place of mainly slips, trips and falls for the other. Never a relaxing experience, usually one that ends in tears.
So our recent mini break was made all the more relaxing by the addition of, no, not a private pool, but the next best thing. A hot tub.
The girls loved it. Hazel learnt to hold on to the sides and step round it – this is a major achievement for someone who can barely stand, let alone go anywhere on her feet. M loved it too. Playing imaginary games with her mermaid dolls and plastic, grubby looking yellow ducks or inventing silly games. Admittedly, neither did much swimming, though M tried, achieving her width certificate in record time. Great fun. Until…
Two little ducks went out one day, over the hills and far away…..
You know the rest.
Quack Quack Quack.
Only one came back. Literally. When our backs were turned, the more adventurous of the two little plastic ducks went…
Over the edge.
And into an abyss. Well, into the gap between the hot tub and the log cabin. But it may as well have been an abyss. Dark. Deep. Impenetrable. No way back.
Tears. Of course. I empathised. I may have even cried some too – for good measure. To show I felt her pain. Ducky had gone and so we grieved.
Mummy you have to get it back.
Sorry, sweetheart. That’s impossible. She’s gone.
Daddy. You have to.
We’ll get another one. I promise her. It will be better. It won’t be grubby looking. New. Shiny. Perfect. She’ll soon forget about it. Move on. Life’s losses and all that.
It’s only a toy duck for duck’s sake. It’s not important. We can sort this.
Even now, I still underestimate my daughter’s powers of persuasion.
24 hours of intense protest and ducky has come swimming back. Nothing short of a miracle I might add. My husband going beyond the pale to reach down/under/bent double/contortionist style all for the sake of a sorry looking yellow duck.
Sometimes we forget what matters.
We dismiss. We minimise. We play down the value of others.
We think about ourselves a little too much. Or perhaps, too little. We underestimate what we are capable of doing, when push comes to shove. We don’t feel up to the task. We avoid difficulty and pain, sometimes selfishly, other times because we too, feel unworthy, unloved. Afraid.
We tell ourselves our comfort is paramount. Our lives are too short to spend on something that is too difficult or not important. Less than. Worth less. Worthless.
M didn’t. To her, that little duck meant the world. The thought of leaving it behind, saying goodbye, replacing it (as if!) not valuing it, well, that was beyond her reasoning.
Caring is what she knows. It’s inherent in her. And I love that she is wired to care.
Caring for people that the world tells us are worthless. We can deal with that, they say. At both ends of life, start and finish. Get rid. Move one. Get another one. It will be better than this one. Burdensome. Forget about it. It’s kinder that way. Best for everyone.
Except the duck. Whoever that ‘duck’ may be. An unwanted foetus, an elderly person with dementia or suffering with some other incurable disease, a disabled person, a lonely person. And, for the record, I’m not calling anyone a duck as such. Though I happen to think ducks are very wonderful creatures! That’s simply the toy she was playing with….M would have felt the same way had it been the mermaid that had disappeared. She does not discriminate between mermaids and ducks, they are equally loved.
I am thankful that my 6 year old is not as quick as I am to give up.
I live in hope that she and many others of her generation will want to explore – really explore – what caring for others should look like. They won’t simply accept the idea that because technology allows us to do something, we should. That just because we have a right we should use it. Rights are fought for – hard won battles to supposedly allow freedom of choice and dignity. Yet I often wonder what society would look like if we focused less on our rights and more on our responsibilities to each other. Maybe those same ‘rights’ wouldn’t even be needed, if we truly cared about each other’s welfare.
And M, at just 6 years old, gives me hope that she will always be willing to go the extra mile for whoever needs it and not just look for the ‘undo’ button. Perhaps she will look for ways to rescue, help and care for those in trouble. She will look for solutions. She will want to care. Want to rescue. Want to love. Want to speak life over others. She’s already doing it, and, according to her teachers, it’s not just with ducks.
Her persistence sometimes drives me to distraction.
I thank God that it does.