Jacob Lund/ShutterstockIt’s May. My sixth grade year is winding down. Summer break is a few weeks away, and my best friend and I are waiting for my dad to pick us up after school on a steamy afternoon in Asheville, North Carolina. I’m yammering on about something when my friend’s eyes grow round as she looks over my shoulder. (Don’t miss these 33 things your child’s teacher won’t tell you.)
“Lindsay, is that your dad’s truck?” she asks, pointing to a black pick-up in the back of the queue.
“No, it has a Jet Ski behind it. We don’t have a Jet Ski,” I say, squinting through the sun.
“Linds, that’s definitely your dad’s truck! Look!” she yells, jumping up and down.
I can’t get to the truck fast enough, my 11-year-old self in shock that my father somehow has a Jet Ski. In tears, I pepper him with questions before he stops me and proudly explains that he traded in his old Volkswagen Beetle to get me this used watercraft. Just like that, my biggest dream—at the time—has come true.
Fast-forward to an hour later, and we’re at the family lake house. My dad and I are trying to figure out how to drive the thing, and we’re laughing hysterically as we get thrown countless times into the water. (Here are some tips on taking an affordable family vacation.)
I can still smell the fuel of that Jet Ski and see the sparkle in my dad’s eyes, so pleased that he had surprised his only daughter with the gift she wanted most. It wasn’t the first time my dad and I stayed out on the lake until sunset; so many of my best memories were on the water. I went swimming before I turned one, mastered kneeboarding by age seven, and I could drive a boat long before I was old enough to get behind the wheel of a car.
Thanks to the vacation home by the lake, I was fated to be a water baby. And while that Jet Ski was one of the happiest memories of my life, my parents gave me a much bigger gift by freeing me from feeling fear or uncertainty in deep water. Not only am I a confident swimmer, but I’m also the first to dive in after a sinking pair of sunglasses or set of keys, and I happily volunteer to be designated driver on boozy boat cruises. My most authentic self is dripping wet, hair knotted with water in the ocean, on a lake, or cannonballing into a pool. (Learn how this mom got over her fear of swimming from her eight-year-old son.)
Though I’m not quite ready to dive into parenthood, my future children will be in swim lessons before they can walk. Growing up confident in water is not just healthy, it’s a ticket to adventure. Want to go snorkeling in Indonesia? Cruise the Mediterranean with friends? Learn how to surf in Hawaii? Being comfortable around the sea makes it all possible.
I’m getting ready to embark on a year-long trip around the world (thanks to the amazing program RemoteYear). I’ll be in touch with my dad through FaceTime, and I can’t wait to share with him all my ocean-inspired adventures. When I see that sparkle in his eye, I’ll think of all he gave me: The Jet Ski, summers at the lake house, and an undying passion for open water.