I always joke that I am not doing my job as a parent if my kids don’t hate me at least once a week. It’s not a hard goal to achieve.
I have been reading a great book that was given to me in August. The Underwater Window. I have been waiting for the perfect time to pick it up. For several months now. I was on my way out the door for a long indoor soccer practice and as a last-minute decision, grabbed it. I am half way through it, I can’t put it down.
It is a great book and it has my wheels turning. In particular, I have been thinking about when all is said and done, which one of my three girls is going to hate me for making them swim. I hesitate the word make but in essence I suppose I make more of the choice than they do. I make them go to school, do homework, clean their rooms and eat nutritious food. If it were up to them I am sure they wouldn’t be quite so “passionate” about any of these endeavors.
Grace has been swimming since she was 6. She is 13. She took the sport on seriously a year ago when she shifted to a five-day a week, mandatory practice group. It was her choice to join this group and at any point if she wanted to be a less intense group we wouldn’t have a problem with it. I don’t think she will. She never asks to skip practice and never complains about it. I am sure there are days she would rather not go and Saturday mornings she would much prefer to sleep in. She has accepted that she is in a small group, that which the terms are not negotiable. She likes her coaches and her friends in the group, I suspect she would be lost without them. Grace swims for prestige. She likes to go to the big meets and wants the jackets to prove it.
Sarah’s group has a minimum of three, maximum of five practices. She usually does three, sometimes four on weeks where there isn’t a soccer practice. She grumbles often about going. She also grumbles about going to soccer. But given the option to quit either, she is steadfast in her refusal. I have come to the point where I expect the negotiations. I barely respond to them. Sarah is motivated by recent success and last night had the choice to skip. She opted to go because her friends were going. And then complained about it on the way there. Sarah swims for the social aspect of it.
The mini’s have a maximum of four practices a week. They like them to attend twice a week. Sophie has negotiated a 5th day with the group above hers – one she isn’t old enough to be in. She hangs tough with the middle of the pack in the more advanced group. Most of the practices are an hour with a lot of instruction at the wall. When she turns 9 in April she will advance two groups, the same that Sarah is in. I have already told her that we only want her in the pool three days a week, practice is intense and 1.5 hrs. She is already protesting that she needs to practice more. I am seeing signs that she is a little too concerned with her success. Can an 8-year-old be too driven? She is my numbers guy. Knows hers, her friends, and everyone elses times, along with all important qualifying times for when she is 9.
All child athletes do, but swimmers in particular, they give up a piece of their childhood. If they are lucky they will swim in college. They all dream of going all the way but the reality is most of them don’t. I don’t want my kids to regret the missed sleepovers, summers held hostage by the pool, and weekends spent at meets. I go out of my way to ensure that my kids have a fun life outside of swimming. We squeeze in two family vacations a year, host sleepovers every chance we get, take road trips and spend time as often as possible outside, more precisely not at a pool.
This moment will pass but every now and then I feel a twinge of guilt that they are in love with a sport that is more of a life than a hobby. I remind the girls often that they are not swimmers, they are kids who swim.
I went to parent teacher conferences the other day. Every parent wants to hear that their children are amazing. And mine were! But the reasons why surprised me. All three of my girls were described as focused, driven, hard workers and all three were pegged as true leaders. As a matter of fact I had not one but four of the teachers at the middle school tell me this about Grace. One who doesn’t even have her in class interrupted my conference with her math teacher to tell me what a great person she is and a natural leader.
The most interesting thing of all, every teacher was so impressed that the girls swim. Either they swam themselves (one a collegiate swimmer), their kids swam or they had swimmers as students in the past. Their messages were all variations of the same theme, that the swimmers they knew over the years were all amazing people. It is a tight community and an elite club. I was proud to be their mom.
Every parents worse fear is that they won’t raise children who are good people. I am no exception. I admit, I use swimming to help mold them into better people. I like the discipline, focus and determination that swimming provides. I think the physical exercise, emphasis on health and endorphin release is also a critical component in raising children. I’m just hoping that in the end they think it is all worth it. And they don’t hate me. At least for the swimming part. I wouldn’t be doing my job as a parent if they didn’t hate me from time to time.
Sarah went to bed mad at me tonight. Called me a Tiger Mom. Like it was an insult. Story to follow tomorrow.