For young children, the line between what they hope is true and what they know is true can blur. This is probably a gradual process for most, but for me it came all at once, with a painful splash.
When I turned 5, I began kindergarten and my mom enrolled in college. Among the benefits to me was better access to recreational classes, like swimming. I already loved the water, but lessons made it even better. The pool even had diving boards. One was low, and the other went up forever.
At some point I learned to dive, and began diving off the low board repeatedly. My mom would watch me to my delight, though it must have been boring watching the same moves over and over.
One day I ran to her and told her she’d missed a great dive. She asked if I’d gone off the high diving board. I don’t know what possessed me, but I said, “Yes”. I immediately wished I could take it back. She said something like, “Oh, I missed it.” I don’t know if she prompted me to “do it again”, or if it was my own idea. Either way, for some reason, I thought that if I simply did the deed, my lie would become a truth. And so off I went, wet feet splattering water everywhere, toward the high dive.
My mom must have thought that faced with that prospect of doing anything from that height, I’d own up to my lie. Years later she shared that she had watched me go, thinking that I’d turn around at any moment. She watched as I climbed up the ladder…and up…and up…and got to the diving board, and stood at its edge. And she thought I’d turn around. But I never turned around. I was doing this. I dove off.
That dive was the most painful of my life. I attempted to do a shallow dive, but my chest and legs hit at an angle that made it feel like more of a belly flop. It felt like death by a thousand slaps. I resurfaced quickly but the pain made it hard to catch my breath. Eventually I did catch my breath. I swam over to my mom and confessed that it was actually my first time off the high dive.
It was a good lesson. Sometimes it’s easy to think that if we say things and believe them hard enough, they’ll be true. But it’s good to have a reminder that it doesn’t really work that way.