The big 1-1

Moving on up.  Age groups that is.  Sarah turns 11 today.  Sarah came into this world bright red and screaming.  She had this crazy patch of red fuzz on the top of her head.  She looked a little like a rooster.  She tells the story that she looked like a chicken.  I have to correct her.  Roosters are much cuter than chickens you know.  She aslo was my Sarah Bear and Kitty.  Sarah Bear is a required nickname if your name is Sarah.  Sarah is very cold natured and she is a cuddler.  She likes to have her back rubbed and I swear she purrs like a kitty.  There is an animal connection with her,  she has always said she wants to be a marine biologist.

The red hair disappeared shortly thereafter but Sarah will forever be my closet redhead.  She has spunk, determination and her competitive nature is fierce.  She will set the world on fire.  Maybe burn a bridge or two as well.  Most importantly, Sarah is a strong child.

Last year we lost our family pet the day before Sarah’s birthday.  It’s a day I will never forget.  Sarah was just a day shy of 10 but showed a level of maturity that I didn’t even possess.  She was very close to MoJo and when we decided it was time to give him some peace she made the decision to go with me.  Chris was out-of-town and we knew MoJo was in pain.  She and I sat and comforted MoJo until the end.  Although it was a very sad day for us, Sarah was my strength that day.  It will be years before she will ever understand how much her being there meant to me.  And how much respect I gained for her that day.  We butt heads because of her strong will but I hope she never loses it either.  It will serve her well in life.

We have a swim meet this weekend and Sarah will be swimming with 11-12’s since the meet starts on her birthday.  Most kids would be disappointed.  Sarah is thrilled.  Her best buddy on the swim team aged up a few weeks ago.  It is a tradition that the birthday kid brings donuts to practice.  Sarah’s coach had all the kids sing happy birthday to her and then he threw her in the pool.  She almost looked embarrassed, a year ago she would have thought this was the coolest thing ever.  I think secretly she thought it was this year too!

Swim fast Sarah.  We love you.
MoJo, we miss you.

Was I a Tiger Mom?

Shortly after posting about my run in with Sarah and her homework pass my mother sent me a text.  Was I a Tiger Mom?

My response was unapologetic.  No.

My mother was far from a Tiger Mom and is certainly not a Tiger Grandma.  As a matter of fact I have had to remind her not to text or play Words With Friends with my girls after 9 PM.  Not once but twice I have told her.  I caught Sarah texting at 10 PM last night with none other than Grandma!  She is skating on thin ice!  Grandma that is.  No isn’t in her vocabulary and her only goal in life is for everyone to be her friend.  Her parenting style wasn’t any different from her Grandparenting style.

I really do believe that nature plays a huge role in who we become as adults and nurture isn’t as important.  Personality is luck of the draw and that is pretty much determined and not to be changed at the moment of birth.  Our job as parents is to keep that little personality on the right track.

Parenting is something we have to figure out on our own.  Above all else, it has to be organic to us.  I have to raise my kids in a way that feels natural to me.  Some may chose a different path.  Regardless, we are all trying to raise amazing young adults.

I am not qualified to give parenting advice.  Nor are my writings intended to be taken as such.  I am simply speaking from the heart about things going on in my life and that of my families.  As far as parenting goes, I often hear people say “I have no idea what I am doing”.    I don’t feel that way at all.  I know exactly what I am doing.  I am just not sure it will work.

No mom, you weren’t a Tiger Mom.  You are a great mom though.  But no more texting after 9 PM.  Or I will make dad take your phone away.


Sarah called me a Tiger Mom yesterday.  It was intended as an insult.  It did not have the desired effect.  I took it as a compliment.

I asked if she had a lot of homework and she said “no very little”.  I will save the whole homework debate for another day, we have very little here in our schools and I like it that way.  The small amount they get I expect to be done and done well.

About 30 minutes later I asked Sarah if her homework was done.  To which she replied “no, I am not going to do it, I have a homework pass”.

You know where we are going with this right?  I made her do her homework.  She was pissed.  She spent more time arguing with me than the homework actually took.  I swear it took her 15 minutes tops.  Her argument?  I was being a Tiger Mom.  Mine?  A whopping 15 minutes of math problems won’t kill her.  I expect good grades, skipping homework equates to slacking off.

On the way to swim practice she continued the complaints.  I picked up a friend’s son who is 13.  She attempted to get him as an ally.  Her hopes were dashed.  His mother had never let him use a homework pass.

Here is where things get tricky.  She is a total Tiger Mom.  I mean look up Tiger Mom in the dictionary and you will find her.  V admits she is, her son does SAT prep on the weekends, goes to Chinese school after swim and she emails his teachers weekly.  His sister went to MIT full scholarship.  I am trying to figure out the bad part.

The reality is, I am not a total Tiger Mom.  I let my kids miss school for swim meets.  I don’t review their homework (I just want it done).  We don’t do SAT prep.  Yet.  I have one foot in the door to the cage perhaps.  Sarah has it all wrong.  What I am is a bitch.  I made her do her homework.

Guess what?  She is going to need that homework pass.  She forgets something every single day of her life.  I give it a week tops before she actually needs it.  She will thank me then.  Well she should, but she won’t.  It’s all good.  I will go with the “Sticks and Stones” defense.  I’m a meanie.

Who is going to hate me tomorrow?

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.

Sign me up for 200 fly.

Grace was looking at events for an upcoming meet and chose five events that she knew she should have a good chance of making finals in.  She actually chose six but as luck would have it, four were on the same day and the meet had a 3 event per day max.

This always means going to plan B.  For Grace plan B is usually breaststroke.   Now that she is 13 the beloved why not event, 50 breast is no more.  It was between 100 breast and 200 fly.  She first chose the easier of the two, 100 breast.  Nothing is on the line for her in this race, the one or two times she swims it a year her goal is to get a personal best and to not drown.  I wanted her to do 200 fly and tried to convince her that since it was a timed final she would only have to swim it once.  She is also swimming 200 free and 200 back, two more events she would only swim once.

She also opted not to do 500 free this meet.  She doesn’t love the race although has a lot of room in it.

I had sent the meet registration to her coach before practice.  At practice her coach gave them a very challenging freestyle set and she did really well on it.

When we got home she thought about it and decided to give the 500 free another shot.  She had me email the coach and add it.  She then yelled up, sign me up for 200 fly!

I was thrilled that she was willing to take on some more challenging races.  Coach made the changes and emailed confirmation.

A few days later I was looking at the meet file for warm up times.  As I was reading it I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach.  I forgot Grace was now 13.  For the 13-14 session, the 200’s have prelims and finals.

I am debating on a good time to tell her this.  For now, I am keeping it to myself.  She will live – right?  She’s 13.  I am letting the coach break the news to her!  I am going to have to buy him a nice Christmas gift this year!

A day of thanks

I hope everyone is having a great time with their family and friends this Thanksgiving.  A rarity, I cooked.  What I discovered is that I am not very enthusiastic about preparing the meal BUT I am a very tidy cook.  We are definitely going out next year.

Pausing to reflect on the past year, I am grateful for many things.

My children have amazing Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles and cousins that love them and make their lives full of fun and joy.

We have amazing friends in our community.  Many of them share our enthusiasm for swimming and we have created a community of supporting each other as well as our own children.

Our community schools are amazing and our children are afforded great educations through them.  We have incredible teachers.

Finally, we have the greatest coaches – both in soccer and in swimming.  Not a day goes by that I don’t feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for the people who care about my children success as much as we do.

I am especially happy that we are a family who are all committed to exercise, fitness and wellness.  Something we often take for granted.   Today and every day I am thankful for all that I have.

And tomorrow I will not be adding to all that we have.  I would rather pay double than shop on Black Friday.

Enjoy your thanksgiving.


New word created by Sarah.

If I could somehow orchestrate that all three of my kids would always swim in meets together I would.  One session seems like the shortest meet ever.  Both Sarah and Sophie did amazing on the first day.  They both swam three events and dropped tons of time.  They were both thrilled with their results and were very happy!

Today as we drove to the meet things seemed to get tense.  Both were very quiet on the ride to the meet.  I decided to time tonight, I really wasn’t in the mood for the “I am a better parent and my kids are awesome” pissing match that goes on upstairs.  I actually had a friend who was at the first session sign me up.  I wanted to time that bad.  I was willing to fight for it.

Sarah swam two events before the 50 fly.  Sophie, seeded many seconds slower than Sarah, swam first.  She dropped 10 (TEN) seconds.  She came with in 3 seconds of the Junior Olympics time.  At the age of 8.  Needless to say, I was excited.  And freaking out.  Sarah was 4 heats later.  Sarah happened to be in my lane.  She swam with a purpose.  She was not about to be beat by her sister.  She didn’t just swim with a purpose, she swam as though she was out for blood.  Blood relative.

She hit the wall and looked up at me.  She said “DIDIBEATHER?”.  All one word.  Completely breathless.

At this point I want to bow down to the gods that created ONE SECOND.  Because she did in fact beat her baby sister by one second.  Sarah also swam faster than I ever thought she could.

I don’t believe in pitting swimmer against swimmer.  Certainly not sister vs sister.  But I won’t lie.  I am secretly pleased with the way the girls rose to the challenge of swimming against one another.  They both swam faster than expected.  In the end, it is a competition and a race.  Even if it means beating your sister.

I wouldn’t do it again for a while but we survived a sibling showdown of epic proportion.  We left a lot of time at that pool.  And they left friends.  Thanks to the one second swim gods.  And yes Sarah, you did beat her.  You also beat yourself.  It was beautiful.

Poor Sophie was done after that race.  She added a second on her 100 free and fell asleep in the bleachers waiting for me to finish timing.   It’s all good though.  My baby girls are swimmers.  Just like my baby Grace.

They both want tech suits now.  Let me know if you would like to sponsor a swimmer.  I can loan you one of them!