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  • After a few weeks of swimming lessons at Miss Patty's house, I was getting bolder and braver. At 4 years old, I couldn't stand even in the shallow end, but I could always hold on to the edge. Besides, I was surrounded by moms and Miss Patty. Buoyed by confidence, I started swimming away from the edge, certain I could make it from side to side, as long as Miss Patty was there next to me.

    One day, when Miss Patty went inside to answer the telephone, I knew it was time to show Mom what I could do. I could swim on my own! And I really wanted to impress her. I shouted to her so she wouldn't miss this sure-to-be-epic performance. I swam out from the edge, but panicked a bit and tried to stand. That was a mistake. My feet were solidly on the pool bottom, which meant the water was a few inches over my tiny frame. I panicked more and tried to jump up to catch my breath. As my head broke through the water's surface, I gasped for air and saw my mother sitting calmly, not one bit of concern. I jumped again and tried to yell for help. The other moms leaned towards the edge of their seats as my Mom again sat motionless. I jumped one more time, trying to wave my arms to signal Mom that this had all gone horribly wrong.

    Miss Patty came running over just as I sank back under the water and pulled me up and out of the pool to safety. I sat crying, next to my Mom, wrapped in a towel. Miss Patty admonished me for going too far, too fast.

    I looked up to my Mom and asked, "Why didn't you help me?"
    "I thought you'd learn to swim, you know, if you had to. Sink or swim, they say."

    It was a long time before I went back in the water. And for the record, I did eventually learn to swim, not because I had to, but because I wanted to.
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