As a mom, I apparently have a few catchphrases.

I’ve only become wise to them since overhearing my daughter playing with her dolls. “Are you serious right now?” a pink-haired mermaid recently demanded of what was, I assume, a former mer-friend.

“You cannot be serious. ”Thankfully, others are more positive. “You can do it!” is a popular one. Whether 6-year-old Oliver and 4-year-old Hadley are holding a baseball bat, paintbrush or stalk of raw broccoli, my refrain is the same: “Just try it. Be brave!”

I talk a good game for someone who operates so often in a state of fight-flight-freeze—but that’s probably why I’m all about equipping Ollie and Hadley with the tools to slice through anxiety traps. I encourage them to try harder in areas where I have struggled. Maybe it will be different, I think; maybe I can make it different.

For them. For me.

Of all my quirks, my fear of deep water is one of the most challenging. I can’t get my face wet. I faked my way through years of swim lessons. Mix in some early-bloomer awkwardness around cute lifeguards and, well . . . it just didn’t happen.

My husband is a solid swimmer, and we agree on the importance of those skills. We’ve tried and failed to get Ollie comfortable in group lessons before. I searched for an instructor who could work with and encourage both kids this summer, nudging them beyond the point at which I once gave up.

Honestly? It was tough-going. Oliver, in particular, has struggled in ways that are all too familiar to me. And I’ve felt so guilty, watching history repeat itself.

How can I encourage my children to be courageous if I’m not?

And so, at age 36, I started splishing. I started splashing. I wore a bathing suit— outside, around other people. I went in the pool. I got into multiple pools! And with the literal support of my husband, I actually learned to back float. I also took my daughter down a waterslide while camping (!), much to her delight, and managed not to drop-kick a fellow camper when he sprayed me in the eyeballs with a water gun.

Most of that would have seemed ridiculous even six months ago, but pretending inspired a real-deal Brave Girl Summer. Taking their cues from me, the kids seem much more confident in the water . . . even if neither ever gives Katie Ledecky a run for the gold.

Now we’re here, with fall ushering summer out like the Thanksgiving guest trying to sneak out with all the leftover turkey. We don’t yet know what year two of pandemic fall will look like, but the anticipation of a pumpkin spice latte and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” is enough to get me through some uncertain times.

Coffee helps, too.

After all? Well, it’s nearly Brave Mom Fall.