Swimming Against the Current: Parenting Lessons from a Backyard Lake

By Greg Baer M.D.

February 27, 2024


Behind my house is a man-made lake that was created by dredging and construction of an earthen dam on one side.

I carefully maintain the level of the water because if a lake gets too high, leaks begin to develop and can break the dam. Not a pretty picture.

When the water level is too high, I use an electric pump to begin moving water through a pipe that extends from below the lake surface all the way down to a nearby creek.

Then I disconnect the pump and allow the drainage to occur naturally by a principle called siphoning—as you would do in withdrawing gas from the tank in a car.

Swimming Against the Current

The suction at the lake end is quite strong, and one day I observed a small school of tiny fish all arranged in concentric circles around the opening to the lake side of the siphon. They were all oriented away from the suction, gently moving their fins to stay in the proper position.

I saw one fish become inattentive for only a second, moving its fin too slowly for a moment, and in a flash—poof!—it was sucked up the pipe. It disappeared faster than the eye could record.

Studies have demonstrated that fish are attracted to moving water, and often they remain stationary by swimming against the current. Why? It seems that there are multiple reasons:

  • The current naturally brings nutrients—smaller fish, plants, and more—to the fish as they swim against the current.
  • The fish benefit from the physical activity of their struggle. They develop muscles required to succeed either as predators or to avoid being prey themselves.
  • The movement aids fish digestion and metabolism.
  • They enhance their natural coloration.
  • Some fish breed only in moving water.

Who knew that fish benefit from swimming against the current? Maybe they even just enjoy it (I have not had the opportunity for personal interviews on that subject).

Swimming Against the Current Parenting Lesson

We human beings also need to swim against the current around us, which is dominated increasingly by mediascreensvictimhoodangerdrugsalcohol, and innumerable other undesirable and potentially addictive substances and behaviors.

None of these things listed above is “bad” of itself. We can use all of them for appropriate pain reduction or relaxation, but it is oh so easy for us to get too close, and—poof!!—we’re sucked away into the stream that can eventually be impossible to escape, just like my little fish in the lake.

I’m not recommending that we be afraid of the world around us. I AM recommending that we be more aware of the potential dangers of getting too close to influences that can suck us away before we can blink an eye.

And we can teach all this to our children.

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About the author 

Greg Baer, M.D.

I am the founder of The Real Love® Company, Inc, a non-profit organization. Following the sale of my successful ophthalmology practice I have dedicated the past 25 years to teaching people a remarkable process that replaces all of life's "crazy" with peace, confidence and meaning in various aspects of their personal lives, including parenting, marriages, the workplace and more.

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