Taming the Backyard Shark

Boy underwater, wearing eye goggles and smiling
Rubberball/Getty Images

Citing TV reports about shark attacks, my 11-year-old son dismissed my suggestion to take a moonlit swim. His fears were not allayed even when I pointed out that, statistically, the chance of a shark attack in our backyard pool was quite remote. 

No moonlit swim

He had recently watched a nature documentary titled something like Stealthy Killers of the Sea, which featured rather arresting footage of great white sharks consuming basically anything in the water that made the regrettable decision to splash, breathe or blink. 

"Son, you know, logically, there is no way a killer shark could manage to sneak into our pool, even if it stole a car to get here."

"I know, but I am just freaked out," he replied. "I'll get in the water as long as we turn on all the lights."

So we enjoyed an evening swim bathed in approximately the same wattage as a medium-sized municipal airport. Not exactly the moonlit swim I'd wanted, but at least we provided a helpful beacon to any stray aircraft that may have been trying to locate the western United States.

Flip on the floodlights

As he got older, my son decided to take up scuba diving. Considering his tenuous relationship with any body of water larger than a bathtub, that choice seemed about as fitting as an Amish farmer taking up NASCAR racing. Nonetheless, my son got his diving certification but restricted his dives to freshwater lakes where the most ominous swimming creature was the occasional turtle.

On a family vacation to Hawaii, how-ever, my son faced an epic decision. Swimming "the Cathedrals," the 60-foot natural pillars in awesomely clear Pacific waters, is on the wish list of every scuba diver. The main drawback to the Cathedrals is that they are not located in our backyard pool. To experience the dive of his life, he would have to enter waters teeming with all manner of sea life — including sharks. 

And he did it. His form may have been a smidge unorthodox — with lots of backward glances and sudden bursts of speed — but the point remains that he did it.

I was proud of my son. In a few short years, he had gone from fearing imagined swimming pool creatures to diving with real-life sharks in the open blue. It was a reminder that my son is a work in progress. And whenever he shows that he's still not quite the man I hope he'll become, I don't need to shame him or give him a lecture on statistics. Instead, I can just flip on the floodlights and take him for a high-wattage swim. 

This article first appeared in the Summer, 2011 issue of Thriving FamilyIf you enjoyed this article, read more like it in Focus on the Family’s marriage and parenting magazine. Get it delivered to your home by subscribing for a gift of any amount.

Copyright © 2011 by Dave Meurer. Used by permission.

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