Crazy Swim mom

I am running out of excuses…

A few times a year the kids have to miss school for swim meets, some are three and four days long, especially the big championship meets.  Up until recently we have been pretty honest but lately it has backfired.

I got lucky this weekend, in so much as two of my kids were extremely ill.  Fevers and vomit stop most people dead in their tracks and the questions are minimal.  I very much would have preferred lying, illness during a swim meet, especially a big one is no fun.

There are times when I have been honest.  There have been times were I have danced around the truth (college visit or out of town obligation).  And I have lied.  For those times were I simply need to spring them early appointment has always worked.  I’m sure to schedule all Doctors appointments after school so I can save those up for swim meets.  The last few times though I feel like I have gotten the evil eye.  It happens 3-4 times a year at most.

Our high school gave a few parents trouble today and said a swim meet was not an excused absence. While their peers were sitting in Spanish or study hall, those kids were getting Junior Nationals cuts.  And failing exams because they weren’t allowed to take them.  They had informed their teachers in advance they would be out and had tried to make the work up before missing school and the teachers said to wait.  As far as I know none of the teachers actually cared, it was the attendance office.

I hate lying – especially when it comes to my kids but I’m starting to find it necessary.  I would love to hear your thoughts.  I know there are people who refuse to take their kids out of school for meets.  Some who lie.  Some tell the truth.  Some schools are supportive and some not.  So what works for you?  What doesn’t?  What is your threshold for telling the truth?

It couldn’t end soon enough.

This past weekend was sure to be crazy.  NCAP hosts the Tom Dolan Invitational, a very fast qualifying meet that brings people in from all over the country.  This would be Grace’s second weekend at University of Maryland, a solid one hour drive from our house.  Having just spent the entire previous weekend there, I let Chris have this one.

RMSC hosts their own qualifying meet, The Holiday Invitational.  This is a much smaller qualifying meet but quite fast as well.  The upside of this meet is that many of the kids end up making finals, something that is all but impossible at TDI.  The downside also happens to be that many of the kids make finals.  Sophie was seeded such that she had a shot at finals in all 6 of her events.  Sarah, having just aged up would likely make finals in two events.  This meet was a fifteen minute commute from the house.  I was committed to getting the kids back and forth to this meeting, knowing it would be some long days.  In the end, it is important to note that I PICKED this meet as my responsibility.

Holiday Invitational started Friday.  Sarah had a ride to warm ups so I could get Grace off to school and take a quick shower before spending 12 plus hours at the pool.  I had just finished drying off when I got a phone call from Sarah.  I could not understand a word she was saying but knew it had something to do with come get me.  And now.  At the same time I was getting texts from coaches, Sarah is not well.  I raced to the pool and picked her up.  She curled up in a ball, shivering in the passenger seat.  By 9:30 she had been diagnosed with the flu and was loaded up with drugs.  Great.

I got her situated at home with fluids and took Sophie to her session.  She swam 50 fly and 200 IM, making finals in both.  Her fly was fantastic, IM a little rough.  Same held true in finals.

Sarah was curious what Saturday would hold.  I told her we would wake up Saturday and decided.  I was not holding my breath (all the while, holding my breath anytime I was near her and scrubbing down after leaving her room).  I woke her up Saturday.  Well tried.  She did not swim.  At this point she had missed all of her best events.

Sophie was swimming 200 fly and 2oo free.  If you are wondering who puts their ten year old in 200 fly and 200 free on the same day, yes you are correct, I am an idiot.  Never mind that she had swam 50 fly and 200 IM twice the day before.  Both her swims were bad enough to earn her a night away from the pool.  Which was great because when she came upstairs she looked like she had been hit by a truck.  She put herself in bed at 6:30.  Meanwhile, Sarah had been resurrected from the dead and was begging for Chipotle.

By Sunday Sarah was back to her usual self.  She swam one event, did pretty good for a kid coming off the flu and most importantly picked up her bag tag and t-shirt.  In other words, she came, she saw, she picked up her swag.  At this point Sophie was looking pretty rough.  I give her credit, she decided not to get the flu that Sarah had but some completely different virus, complete with a persistent cough and inability to breathe.  But she wanted to swim.  Kids were dropping like flies from the meet, everyone was sick, yet I made the decision to take her, she wanted to swim.  Again, she did not look good in the pool.  She also didn’t swim slow enough though and made finals in 100 fly.

I took her home, fed her and drugged her up.  After warm ups, she disappeared.  I’m pretty sure she was curled up in a ball under the bleachers sleeping on a bed of crumbled up nachos and sticky Gatorade spills.

At this point, mommy guilt crept in.  I couldn’t help but think “what kind of person brings a sick ten year old to finals”.  I was absolutely convinced I should have scratched her.  Now, before you get all excited thinking she swam her little heart out, let me stop you.  She didn’t.  It was sad, pathetic and awful.

She came upstairs, dark circles around her eyes, exhausted and smiling.  I had to ask “what did your coach say”?

He said “Sophie, I am proud of you, you could have scratched and you didn’t.  You came and you tried your hardest and you didn’t give up.  You showed a lot of commitment.  Now go home.”

All of my self doubt went away.  Until we walked in the door and she went straight to the bathroom and puked her guts out.  I’m either mother of the year or the worst mother ever.  But there are absolutely no words to describe how happy I am that this weekend is over.

I would love to tell you how Grace did but she wisely stayed so far away from us.  I’m not even sure she still lives here.


The stage is set…

Grace swam this past weekend at the University of Maryland pool.  It is her first trials and finals meet as a newly minted 15 and up.  She has three qualifying times for the Tom Dolan Invitational next weekend – Turkey Claus is considered the companion meet for TDI, they can’t swim any events at TC that they have a TDI qualifying time in.

It’s almost impossible to make finals at TDI, kids come from all over the country to compete in this meet. It is often described as the fastest age group meet in the country.  When you look at the top seeds and where they are coming from it is clear to see people who come to this meet mean business.  The kids who swim TC though are hopeful they will make finals.  Grace was slightly optimistic.  Sort of.  Truth be told, we didn’t plan to be there for finals.

She swam 500 free and was .17 off her seed time.  She wasn’t happy with the swim.  On the way home she apologized to me – she said she felt as though she were wasting all of my time and money.  I asked her if she was happy swimming. She said she was and I assured her that I was too.  I also realized that “she is happy” really just means “we are coping”.

Friday she swam 200 free and it was ugly.  Her 100 fly was okay.  I was timing and she actually came and talked to me.. this is a new development.  She even let me hug her and kiss her on the head.  It was a blessing she didn’t make finals.  We were tired and she was developing a nice cough and head cold.

Saturday she didn’t swim the meet – she had a high school meet and she had the qualifying times two of the events so breaststroke was the only option an easy pass.  She swam her high school meet, got first in her races with a half hearted attempted and a very congested head.  By Saturday night she was exhausted.  For the first time ever, we contemplated skipping the Sunday sessions in favor of getting some rest.  Warm ups were at 6 AM and we had an hour commute to the pool.  Rather than decide Saturday night, we went to bed early, setting the alarms and got some much needed sleep.

In the end, she opted to go to the meet.  She swam 200 IM (right at her seed) and 100 free (off by about half a second).  She was seeded 22nd for finals in 100 free and we were confident we had the evening off.

I took Grace to lunch and since the meet was officially over and she decided to splurge and have a huge plate of nachos, complete with guacamole and sour cream.  During our conversation she mentioned that the pool – University of Maryland – was known for being a fast pool and that everyone seems to get best times at the pool.  Except her.  I had already noticed that, at the meet in the summer.  Sarah had the worst meet of her life there and Sophie just did ok at the pool.  It’s a big stage, the biggest they swim in.  My kids don’t get intimidated or nervous swimming in big events, this pool just seemed cursed.

As Grace was polishing off her final chip we received a message from her coach.  Grace had made finals in 100 free, clearly many kids had decided to take their best times and call it a day.  I won’t lie, we both made the “really?” face.  And then I took her home for a nap.

You may have already guessed where this very long tale goes but after four days of mediocre swimming, a terrible cold, a strong desire for this meet to just end, a pile of laundry, a house not decorated for the holidays and one of the worst meals ever before finals Grace went back to that pool and dropped time in 100 free for the first time in a YEAR.  She dropped .23 which at her age and speed is monumental.  Grace went to bed last night tired, sick and the happiest I have seen her in a long time.  “We are happy” now has new meaning.  It means “we are ready”.  If it takes another year we are ready.  It’s a rough age group.  It’s all about hope.

Hey you

Yes, you. The one playing words with friends on your phone. Did you notice it just got really quiet in here? That is because the meet just stopped. No one puked in the pool. A DQ isn’t being debated. They aren’t even fixing the touch pad. Those of us on deck aren’t looking for some random person in the spectator seating area. We are looking for you. They have stopped the meet because you are too self important to come down and help us time.

At yesterday’s meet the boys and girls sessions were both stopped due to lack of timers. The kids who were warmed up and ready to swim sat on the cold pool deck. We stood on our tired feet. Out other kids got picked up from school by friends and neighbors. Thirty minutes passed. You may have even started a new game or played a 100 point word.

I try hard not to judge other people but I don’t even try to stop myself from judging people who refuse to come help out. By the time we got to 400 IM I timed lane 1, was head timer and results runner. It’s sad that people aren’t willing to come help out.

A few months ago one of my kids asked me if I timed at all the meets “to look good”. I can’t help but chuckle, I roll out of bed for swim meets, cute I am not but I don’t think that is what she meant. At the time I answered her honestly, I time because it’s the right thing to do. The truth is, I time because that is where all the normal people hang out.

See you on deck. I’m head timer today at our high school meet!

I should have listened…

When the girls were young I hated it when people would say “they grow up quick”.  When you have a 1, 3 and a 5 year old you almost hope they are right.  And then a decade passes.  In the blink of an eye.

Sarah became a teenager yesterday.  I’m still alive today so having two teenagers in the house can’t be that bad.  So far, so good.

Speaking of good, Sarah can look back on the past year and GOOD would be a ridiculous understatement.  She had a phenomenal  year.  Even that might be an understatement.  She went from being a solid, middle of the road swimmer to one with a AAAA cut in one year.  She worked hard.  It was well deserved.  But even more importantly, she wanted it.  Sarah is unique.  She believes she is going to win.  At everything.  She is highly competitive and has more drive than anyone I have ever met.  In the last year she has also matured and grown in confidence as a result of her swimming.  She doesn’t always succeed but she gives every race her all.  She learns a lot from the failures.  She can be strong headed but I wouldn’t change her for the world.

She is a poster child for every 12 year old who doesn’t think they measure up.  She took every small victory as a success, practiced hard and completely believed in herself.  The hard work always pays off in the end.

I’m not worried about having two teenagers in the house.  But I do know that as Sarah gets older, dropping time will get harder.  I don’t worry about her though, she has enough fire in her to get through it.  I’m very proud of her.  Happy Birthday Sarah.  Welcome to 13-14.  I’m on the 6 month countdown to saying good bye to 9-10 forever.  I won’t lie, I won’t miss that one bit.  Too much drama.

But it’s a slow pool

This weekend is the redemption meet. Both Sarah and Sophie were looking to settle a few scores. They had both fallen short on personal goals at the last meet and both went to their coaches asking to change meet entries trying to settle the score. Both were granted permission.

Sophie had problems keeping her goggles on and dropped then on her dive at a big meet last month. She was devastated and wanted a chance to redeem herself. She swam it without any real completion last night, dropped time and got the AAA cut. She also swam a really impressive backstroke. I think she has a stroke that can rival her fly. Today she swam 200 fly with the 11-12’s. She only had a long course time in it and wanted the short course JO cut. She crushed it, along with many twelve year olds. Not too shabby for a 10 year old! I know you are dying to know…yes, her goggles stayed put. She had them secure under her cap!! Baby is coming back tonight for 100 back and 50 fly and I’m optimistic she will do well.

Sarah had her eye on one prize. Before aging up she wanted to get the AAAA cut in 50 breast. This was her last chance to swim it. She had to negotiate with her coaches, she swam 400 IM yesterday. She did a great job in it. She had debated wearing her kneeskin for the 50 breast but in the end decided to wear her regular competition suit. She rarely speaks to me at meets, usually just for money. She called me before her race and said “I’m nervous”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her I was nervous too.

She is a confident swimmer. Sarah always believes she is going to win. I love her drive. I knew the moment she got on the block that she was going to do it. And she did. She took off .66 and got the time by .33!!! She won the heat by a full 2 secondsI. I was so happy for her. She ages up next week and will never swim the race again. What a great way to leave 11-12 behind. Watch out 13-14 here she comes. I am really happy for her.

All that, in a really slow pool, no one to race, and no fancy kneeskin. Sometimes just wanting it really bad is enough!!! I’m a proud momma.

Enjoy the process…

I absolutely love SwimSwam.  I follow them on facebook and I’m constantly sharing their articles or they are being shared with me.  My all time favorite swim mom sent this one to me this morning and I thought it was just spot on.

Enjoy the Process

My kids love reading SwimSwam and are particularly excited when an article is posted about a friend, or about a meet they were at.  It’s really a great site, filled with lots of inspiration.  If you haven’t checked them out you are definitely missing out.

Sarah’s claim to fame – her photo was featured during our 14&U JO Champs!

69A6852 320x480 Maryland 14&U Junior Olympic Championships: Faces Around the Deck Photo Vault

Redemption swims. Times two.

Both Sarah and Sophie are looking for redemption next weekend.  We had to go to the coaches not once BUT twice asking for special favors.

Because Sarah turns 13 in a few weeks her coaches had told her no more 50’s (other than free) – she needs to focus on the longer races.  At the last meet she swam her final 50 breast.  She did awesome and got a fantastic time in it.  She missed the AAAA cut by a few tenths.  She actually did much better than she expected and instead of being content she decided she wanted to go for that cut.  She decided to negotiate with her coach, she told him she would swim 200 fly and 400 IM at the meet in November IF he would allow her to swim the 50 breast.  She presented a logical explanation, that she really wanted to try for the quad A and that she realized that it wouldn’t change anything if she got it but that she really wanted to take a shot at it.  Because she was willing to swim two races that would be very challenging for her in exchange for the opportunity, he allowed her to sign up for it.  She must have presented her case well, he also took her out of 200 fly because 50 breast was immediately following the fly and he wanted her to be physically and mentally ready to go!  In, other words, he set her up to succeed.

Sophie was not signed up for 100 fly, her signature event, at the next meet.  She swam it a few weeks ago at the NAG’s meet and was pretty pumped about the race.  Her goal was to drop 3 seconds in the race.  Instead she dropped her goggles on the dive, and swam her seed time.  She was embarrassed and upset.  She also was not signed up for this race at the November meet because she swims it so often.  I offered Starbucks to cheer her up but while at Starbucks she begged me to email her coach asking him if she could drop something and be added to 100 fly.  I told her no but she was relentless so I finally agreed to ask the coach.  He agreed to let her, said it was fine – she could improve her seed for the December champs meet.

I was “that mom” twice this month.  I’m really not apologetic either.  Swimming is and individual sport that is completely goal driven.  Sarah is going into this meet knowing this is her last shot and if she gets her goal it will get her nothing in life or swimming other than the accomplishment itself.  If she misses she walks away knowing she gave it her all.  Sophie was pissed at herself for losing her goggles and wants a chance to execute a perfect race.  I can’t help them accomplish either of these goals, at this point it is all on them.  Neither are nervous or worried about this weekends meet.  They are prepared to do their best and whatever happens – happens.

The meet is at a slow pool.  I really don’t like it when kids show up for non-championship meets in kneeskins.  My girls do where the speedo fastskins for meets but it has become the norm around here to where a kneeskin for regular non-qualifying meets.  I liken it to where a prom dress to school.  Every day.  It just isn’t necessary.  My kids approach every meet as it is important as the next but I also believe in dressing the part.  Sarah asked to wear her kneeskin for the 50 breast.  I told her it was fine so long as she changed after the race.  Go ahead judge me.  I can take it.  It won’t be the first time.  And I can promise you it won’t be the last.

The Grand Canyon

We visited The Grand Canyon a few years ago.  It was absolutely magnificent.  We arrived at night, there was a full moon over the canyon and it was breathtaking.  The kids were young at the time.  They looked at the canyon, looked at me and said “does our hotel have a pool?”  Just another moment where I thought to myself “I can’t wait until you girls have kids!:”

At the time I couldn’t connect The Grand Canyon to a pool,  My perspective has shifted.

We often hear about plateaus in swimming.  Parents of younger children find it impossible to believe that it can happen to their own child.  Some nod their head, pretending that they understand.  Some will politely disagree.  Others are downright arrogant in their denial.  But in the end, for the vast majority of swimmers it is just that – denial – because it is going to happen.

The first several years of swimming it is just like being at The Grand Canyon.  It’s absolutely beautiful at the top  – it is also beauty in the pool.  No one wants to get too close to the edge so kids look down from afar – in the pool time drops are huge and all but guaranteed .  As they get older they become curious about what is down there.  They start to get closer and closer to the edge, daring themselves to look down – same thing happens in the pool, time drops continue but the increments get smaller.  And then you reach a certain age and it is like running to the edge and jumping  to the bottom of the canyon.  Only to look up and have a voice say “I will see you at the top”.  And in a hushed tone “good luck”.

I, like all other parents thought Grace would drop time forever.  I thought people were crazy when they insisted this wasn’t the case.  I’ll go so far as to say I thought kids who added time at 14 and 15 just weren’t working that hard.  Or their heads weren’t in the game.  It had to be something they were doing.  And we were doing every thing right.  So it wouldn’t happen to us.

I just looked back on many of my posts from a year ago this time.  Grace’s toes were literally curled around the edge of the canyon.  She came out of the Holiday Champs meets with great times, dangerously close to sectionals cuts.  I was certain it would happen the next meet.  Or the one right after that.  And when it didn’t happen I chalked it up to the training program.  It would have to wait until Spring Champs, when she was tapered.  It’s easy to guess what happened.  She didn’t drop time then either.  Maybe the taper didn’t work.  Perhaps the $400 suit I bought her was too big.  Or cursed.  Maybe she didn’t practice enough.  And so she moved up a group.  It didn’t matter, I told myself.  She is a better long course swimmer than short.  This summer would be her time to shine.  Yeah, no…not then either.  We were running out of excuses.  She wasn’t happy with the group she was with and we changed teams.

At this point pessimism was on my side.  I knew she wouldn’t get those sectional cuts at the first meet.  She had too much change over the last year and it was going to take some time.  She also had some technical issues that need ironed out.  Again, more excuses with no magic solution.

The truth of the matter, she hasn’t dropped time but for a few races here and there in over a year.  And while it totally sucks it is also the norm.  It gets easier over time.

As a parent, I spent a lot of time at the bottom of the canyon.  I cried, I made excuses, drank wine, cried more, consulted with friends, coaches and friends who are coaches.  I read, researched and cried some more.  And in the end, I still don’t have any answers.  I don’t know how this happens, how to make it better, how to prevent it and most importantly how to make it go away.  It’s really hard.  No joke, it just sucks.

Grace had a rough year.  She cried.  Wanted to quit.  Got pissed.  Hated me for making her do it.  Changed teams.  And then she became happy again.

The single most important thing that keeps her going is that she is happy.  She likes being a swimmer.  I think the kids talk a lot more than the parents about these plateaus because she is okay with it.  She would love to drop time in a few key races.  I pray to the swim gods nightly about it.  But she doesn’t dwell on it.  She works hard in practice, loves her coach and has great friends – she has climbed about half way back up the canyon at this point.  I am getting better too.  I watch her swim now with a sense of calm that I haven’t had in a long time.  I left the last meet smiling and happy.  And so did Grace.  I’m slowly becoming optimistic.

I’m asked from time to time for advice on how to deal with it.  I really wish I had an answer because I have to go through this two more times.  I can’t pend the next years stressed like I spent the last year.  I can tell you what worked.  Talking to Grace when she wanted to talk.  Not talking to her when she didn’t.  Giving her the freedom to quit if she wanted to, all the while hoping she wouldn’t.  I quit harping on results in races or goal times.  And I became a professional timer so as to avoid the annoying chatter of well meaning parents.  My other two kids are doing really well and I did insist that Grace act happy for them.  This became a non-negotiable.  Changing teams made Grace happy.  Ask me in 6 months if it made her a better swimmer.

The one bit of advice I would give to parents with younger kids?  Don’t believe your child is special and immune from these plateaus.  There are a few swimmers Sarah’s age (13) who have their toes curled around the edge of the canyon but their parents (and the swimmers) are certain they are going to the Olympics.  They very well may but only if they can survive the coming years.  I have seen some pretty arrogant swimmers fall hard.  They are usually the ones who don’t get up.

Only time will tell what will happen to any of my girls in the sport of swimming.  I would kill for a crystal ball but for now all I have to go on are my special prayers to the swim gods.  Parents, make sure your kids are happy.  It is the single thing that has gotten us through thus far.  I also decided to breathe.  This is one of those times we are reminded “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”.

If you have seen an actual plateau, they are beautiful.  Just like The Grand Canyon.  It’s hard to find the beauty in swimming.  But it’s there.  We just have to look a little harder for it.

Grace has a meet this weekend.  And I’m just going to breathe.

(Sophie at three decided to throw a tantrum at the Grand Canyon- like all good three year olds do).

sophie gc

The Plateau

I really love readers comments, I have talked about this before but it is really hard to have an authentic conversation on the pool deck.  Parents tend to act like everything is sunshine and roses all the time.   It isn’t.  I’m a pretty open book, in real life and online.  The more I open up, the more I find people around me do too.  One reader dug up and old post of mine:

 Trials and Finals

Her comment prompted me to go back and reread the original post along with several others I wrote around that same time.  I had a rush of thoughts and emotions.  I like to reply right away but I also felt that this deserved a little more attention than a line or two.  Her comments are below and my thoughts are flowing.  I’ll follow this up shortly.

I stumbled upon your blog while looking for guidance on what to do when your child (who has been struggling with swimming confidence issues) hits a plateau this season. It’s been a huge challenge coming from being one of the top swimmers to not improving times (in some events it’s been over a year) even after 4 meets so far this season. She cries after she sees her times and I don’t know what to do other than tell her to just keep trying. This has been even more disheartening knowing that she practices hard every night. She now has this mental challenge that she can’t do it when she gets to the meet. We have been working with the coaches to help her through this, but what a struggle this has been. I’ve asked if she wants a new sport? A break from swimming period? New team? She replies no to everything. If anyone has advice on what to do to get my 13 year old through this I would greatly appreciate it.
I love this blog- everything you write is absolutely the truth and the life us swim moms (and dads) endure.

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