Swimming in the Deep End, available at: ForYourMarriage.org


Happily Even After

Swimming in the Deep End


August 9, 2010

by Josh Noem

On our recent road trip home to South Dakota for my grandfather’s funeral, we stopped at a hotel in Missoula, Montana. We picked a hotel (I won’t say which one) that a franchise guidebook indicated had a pool. After driving for 10 hours with three small children, we arrived at 9 p.m. to find it did not.

The kids were disappointed, but we filled the tub and let Simon and Lucy splash and play a bit. Oscar got to watch some TV. After voicing our complaint, the staff discounted our room, which we appreciated. The next morning, Stacey and I noticed that the hotel next door had a small outdoor pool. We could see it from the window in our room.

Before packing everyone in the car for another 10-hour drive, I decided to take the kids next door to the pool and let them burn some energy and have some fun. On the way over, Oscar noted the sign that said that the pool was for that hotel’s guests only. I told him that we’ll be okay and will only be there for a little while.

We were the only ones in the pool, but after about 30 minutes, an employee came out and asked us if we were staying with them. I said we were staying at the hotel next door and she told us we had to leave. We got out, gathered our things and went back to our room and began our long drive.

Stacey and I and Oscar had a long conversation in the car about what happened. Our conversation made me realize that Oscar closely observes my decisions, and the rationale I use and give for my decisions. He is at a stage in his development where he is discerning his moral compass. It is a gift for a parent to have influence on this stage of development. Knowing that Oscar is watching closer than ever, this gift is calling me to greater integrity and intentionality in how I live.

I realized that my own decision for using the pool was based on muddled thinking. I gave myself several half-hearted excuses to do something that I wanted for our family: we weren’t hurting anyone; we were going to use it for less than an hour; we weren’t costing the hotel anything; the kids needed some playtime before a long day in the car; we had stopped there expecting to be able to swim; etc. I found there to be a lot of grey in this situation, and in the grey areas I saw an opportunity for our kids and I took it.

When Oscar asked why we were asked to leave, and why we had decided to go in the first place (given that it was the pool of a different hotel), I stepped back and found all of my reasons disingenuous. I imagined Oscar in any number of “grey” situations as a teen and applied all of the rationales above and panicked. For example, there are things I don’t want him to do, even if he’s not hurting anyone else. Any one of these rationales used by itself would lead to a problematic moral compass.

At the bottom of it all, I decided to use the pool because after evaluating the risk, the worst thing that could happen is that we would be asked to leave. I could bear the risk of a small amount of embarrassment in return for kid time in the pool with 10 hours in the car ahead of us. This rationale is still not one I would like Oscar to use exclusively, and I also realize that strictly speaking, there is no good rationale for breaking a perfectly fair rule.

We shared all this with Oscar and asked him what he thought we should have done. He wasn’t sure. I’m still not sure myself what was the right thing to do. There were good reasons to use the pool and there would be good reasons to not use the pool. There are poor reasons to use the pool and poor reasons to not use the pool.

One thing I did learn, though: I’ll be much more careful in how I make similar decisions in the future, and I will strive for greater personal integrity and honesty, knowing that God isn’t the only one watching me.

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What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

What I Learned in the Ice Bucket Challenge

The “ice bucket challenge” is flooding the internet, and I knew it was just a matter of time until it reached me. I could see it closing in through our circles of friends and family. It arrived this week when my sister challenged me to participate.

 

I’ve been pondering what my response would be to this challenge. The basic premise is that a person either donates $100 to support research to fight ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease), or donates $10 and dumps a bucket of ice water over their head to raise awareness. The participant then “calls out” others by publicly asking for their participation within 24 hours.

 

The whole phenomenon began early this past spring with a social media-based charity fundraising challenge to jump into freezing cold water. The ALS Association commandeered the bandwagon this summer when it morphed into a much safer ice bucket dump, and has raised more than $50 million, not to mention the public awareness of the disease from these viral videos.

 

(A little investigation reveals that the ALS Association supports research that uses embryonic stem cells, which is problematic. Many people are responding to the challenge by donating to institutions that fight disease with research that uses adult stem cells, such as the John Paul II Medical Research Institute: http://www.jp2mri.org.)

 

Lou Gehrig, the best first baseman to play baseball, was forced to retire at age 36 when he was struck with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The disease causes the deterioration of motor neurons, which control voluntary and involuntary muscle movement throughout the body. Muscle atrophy from the illness leads to paralysis and death.

 

Ice Bucket Challenge videos are captivating because it is fun to see how people we know react to the cold water dousing. It is also attractive to witness and be a part of a social movement that supports a worthy cause.

One reason for the success of the campaign is the public pressure it creates to follow through. Our whole family had been called out, and I felt like our whole circle of extended family and friends were watching to see if we’d participate—many of them completed the challenge, after all.

 

Something in me bristled at submitting to public pressure, and I wanted to be sure that our kids came away from this experience with the strength to follow their own convictions, whatever they are. The whole point, after all, is awareness and support for an important cause, so I talked with them about ALS, described the disease and the campaign, and encouraged them to respond to the challenge in a thoughtful way.

 

I laid out their options: They could just ignore it (a perfectly fine response that Stacey opted for—she’s not one to be pressured into anything). They could follow through and participate with a dousing and donation to raise awareness for ALS. Or they could use the opportunity to support or raise awareness about another cause they feel strongly about.

 

At bottom, the Ice Bucket Challenge earns the undivided attention of people in one’s social network who are watching for the payoff: a freezing-cold soaking. This is a privileged platform for our voice to be heard, so it should not be taken lightly. What a great opportunity to help our children learn about social action.

 

What did we end up doing? Watch here and see:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TslKGhg8f2g&list=UUmn5ZlSNS–S4oO6cQHQ7Zg

 

 


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