Last week, I watched my daughter giggle as she made her way down the water slide at our public pool. She was floating on a mat that was pushed along by a stream of water until she was dropped, amidst laughter and delight, into the deep end of the pool. Ever the geek, I could not help but think of the concepts of “stocks” and “flows” in economics. Stocks are compared to the amount of water in the pool at any one time, while flows are the rate of change of that water, how much water is pumped into the pool minus the amount of water leaving the pool. In economics, these concepts are most often used to describe levels and changes in levels in the money supply, which of course did not matter to my daughter as she went down the slide over and over.
My daughter discovered the water slide in the middle of August. I was surprised it took her so long to start sliding, since she is quite the “sensory seeker”. I sometimes think that children like her were the reason they invented the pay one price admissions policies at some amusement parks and carnivals, as she will ride a ride only to get off and stand back in line to ride it again. I think it was the idea of going into the deep end of the pool scared her for a while, but that fear was definitely overcome this summer when she decided to start using the water slide. Since the water slide is in the deep end of the pool, that meant that I spent most of my time in the deep end, too. I trust that the time I spent treading water there will help offset the effect of the many ice cream cones that I also ate this summer.
Once she found the water slide, it was only a small step to decide to use the diving board. The first few attempts at the (rather substantial) low diving board were met with her turning around and climbing back down. However, in less than a week, she overcame her fear and was jumping off the board, often in an attempt to land in the water at the same time as other jumpers who jumped from a higher board. Once, I watched as she, too, attempted to jump off the high board, only to, once again, turn around and climb back down. The lump in my throat was small compared to those that I know will be there when she someday decides to drive and date, both milestones that I know will come and which will bring even more situations where I know my ability to protect her will again be limited.
As the summer ends, I realize that this was a very special collection of weeks as I watched her grow at least a few inches and gain confidence and self-control. This was the summer that she joined the bike parade in our neighborhood with a decorated bike that was driven down the middle of the street with escorts from a police car and a fire truck. This was a summer of transition as she moved from one school to another, only to join friends from her pre-school days who will be in her new homeroom. This was the summer that friends who had moved away moved back, as they spent late evenings running around catching lightning bugs, delighting in each other’s re-found company. And the growing bellies of several friends and relatives convinced me this summer that I soon need to give her a more detailed explanation of where babies really come from.
This was a summer that I had entered with great plans. I wanted to read the “Little House” series with her, chapter by chapter. Instead, she found some books that friends had given us. While certainly not classics, at least they encourage her to read and to work on comprehension from one chapter to another. I had wanted to teach her to multiply better, but instead was content with watching my very shy daughter learn to stand in line at the snack bar and choose how to spend her Tooth Fairy money without my assistance.
When I look back on this summer, I will remember a season in which my daughter grew by leaps and bounds, both physically and socially. I will remember magical days at the pool, a heat wave that would not end and barbecues almost every weekend. I hope that everyone had similarly satisfying times this summer, and that we all look forward to a new and productive semester. In the end, I hope that everyone got a taste these past few months of not just enjoying the deep waters of a pool, but also the deep waters of life.
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Chemical, Paper and Biomedical Engineering: Assistant or Associate Professor in Biomedical/Bioengineering