The very next day after being released from the hospital, she wanted to go swimming in the pool in our back yard. I said "No way!" and told my husband to drain the pool and fill it with dirt.
"Hold on. You can't let your fear inhibit her," he told me. "We can't teach her to be afraid and to just quit." I wasn't buying that for a minute, and again told him to drain it and cover it.
My daughter Jessica came to me and said, "It will be OK, mommy. Please let me swim." I was outnumbered, and after calling the doctor for her advice, reluctantly conceded. Within a couple of days, my husband taught Jessica how to swim. She was determined to master her fear.
She tried and tried, over and over, stroke after stroke until finally she swam by herself from one end of the pool to the other, back and forth, back and forth, her tiny body swam non-stop. She was an absolute waterdog, fearless, just like her dad. She loved swimming, still loves swimming, and hasn't stopped swimming since.
Jessica is 8 years old now, and swims for the Knightsen Aquaknights Swim Team. Last Wednesday was their end-of-the-season Award Night Ceremony. Jessica earned five medals for beating standard swim times. My husband and I couldn't have been prouder.
Kids are my weak spot, so I wiped away a tear or two for all the kids who received awards, whether I knew them or not. For me, there's nothing better than watching a child receiving acknowledgement for their outstanding achievements. Nothing.
One of the final awards of the night was announced by Coach Kristen Bailey. She described this little swimmer as having so much heart, of being an absolute team player who always roots her teammates on; a person who worked so hard to learn and master all four swim strokes. She said no matter how hard she practiced, and how tired she got, she always had a smile on her face and the words "I can't" never came out of her mouth. She announced the award for Most Inspirational swimmer to my daughter, Jessica Montez.
My husband and I couldn't have been prouder and couldn't have wished for her to receive a better award. Of course, hearing my daughter's name over the loudspeakers opened up the flood gates, and the subtle tears I shed for kids I didn't even know were nothing compared to the ones that fell after hearing Kristin announce Jessica's name.
A lot of friends and teammates congratulated her and me and my husband. "You must be so proud of her," they all said. They had no way of knowing just how proud we really are, or what this night, this award and this achievement really means to us.
As I look back on that night, my heart overflows with joy and pride as I recall the words Kristin's said: "The words 'I can't' never came out of her mouth." I guess God really does have big plans for her.
— Contributed by Bev Montez