This is a submission in our monthly contest. October’s theme is Determination. For the fourth time my five-year-old came up sputtering and coughing. The other people in our community pool were starting to look at me with what I can only call “judgy” eyes. “Sweetie,” I admonished her in a whispered hiss, “ don’t breathe when you go under okay? Just hold your breath like we talked about.” Her big blue eyes looked up at me and she smiled. A drop of water rolled off her nose an instant before she pinched it shut, puffed out her cheeks and stuck her face back under the water. Sure enough, not two seconds later, she surfaced, sounding like she was coughing up both lungs. The lady in the lawn chair nearest us lowered her shades to give me a “why are you drowning your child?” glare. But it wasn’t my doing. My child was determined. She has a kind of steely resolve built in her soul. And it serves her well. She was born with a birth defect called spina bifida. She has had seven surgeries and she has worked in physical and occupational therapy since she was a few months old. Along the way she picked up the message that if she wants something, she just needs to do her best, work hard, and eventually she will get there, even if she needs a little accommodation to do it. She will be able to do what she works hard for. And my girl is one hard worker. Her first physical therapist said she would never sit up unassisted, never crawl. She disagreed with his assessments on pretty much everything. She worked for what she wanted. We got her a new PT who helped her reach the goals she wanted. She not only sat unassisted as a baby. But she four-point crawled as a tot. She walked now with braces and a walker. She plays T-ball. She makes honor roll in her kindergarten class. She is unafraid of anything. When they brought the giant snake to class on critter day, she was the first one to raise her hand to hold it. She always has a smile and loves greeting her many friends with a hug. She knows that when you fall down or make a mistake you try again and do your best. Though generally, determination is a commendable trait … Unfortunately, at this point in her life my darling daughter’s determination makes her think that if she just keeps practicing, like at PT or reading, she can do anything. Including breathing underwater. And she doesn’t believe me when I tell her “no.” The biological differences between humans and fish seem to escape her, though I’ve tried explaining. Her solution was that I should buy her a mermaid tail. She’s seen them for sale on TV and she’s seen mermaids also. I tried explaining that mermaids were not real and that the ones she had seen were playing dress up. She thinks I’m trying to scam her. She has even tried to convince ME to try and breathe underwater. “Mommy YOU do it!” “Mommies can’t breathe under water either. No adults can.” “You should practice with me.” And all I can do is facepalm. Because on one had I have to admire her spirit. She never lets it be said that she can’t. On the other hand, the sooner they cover biology in school, the safer she will be. Her father is certain she will win in the end. As soon as she gets old enough, she will take a SCUBA course and breathe underwater just like she wants to. Where there is a will, there is a way!